Create Emotional Safety and an Increased Sense of Self-Worth
Almost everyone in a relationship experiences some degree of jealousy at one time or another. Normally, it is fleeting and quickly replaced by a sense of greater security, but sometimes jealousy sets in and disrupts life and happiness. It can affect any personal relationship, from your romantic relationship with your partner to your relationship with your kids. Understand the dynamics typically behind jealousy to practice compassion toward yourself and others, as well as to get the extra help you may need to get past this bump in the road.
When Your Child Is Jealous
Children get jealous for many different reasons and in different relationships. They can be jealous when a new romantic partner enters your life, if a sibling gets something and they do not, or if their best friend makes a new friend and begins to leave them out of activities. While every child experiences some degree of jealousy, children with attachment issues or self-worth issues are most vulnerable to strong feelings of jealousy. Use an illustrated emotions poster to show your children that you value them by listening to why they are upset and helping them name their emotions. Validate and accept their emotions, even if you interpret events differently. Once they have finished sharing, offer different ways of thinking about things. Remind them that they are valuable no matter what others do and help them engage in activities that give them a greater sense of self-worth. Reassure your child about all of the good you see in them and perhaps start a list together of their strongest character traits and accomplishments. Your child can look at this list when jealousy and insecurity feel overwhelming. If your child's jealousy persists despite your most loving efforts, consider taking her to a play therapist to help her get to the cause of the issue and equip her with the lifelong tools required to develop a positive sense of self and have healthy relationships.
When Your Partner Is Jealous
Your romantic partner could be jealous for many reasons. If you have struggled with infidelity in the past, it could be part of the issue. It takes time to rebuild trust. When your relationship has been secure, other dynamics could make your partner more susceptible to jealousy, such as alcohol abuse, low sense of self-worth, an insecure attachment style or a tendency toward control. Be responsible for your side of the street through being reliable, trustworthy and keeping your word. Reassure your partner that he is valuable to you and that you care, but remember that you are only responsible for yourself and cannot change how another person is thinking and feeling. Be available to serve as a listening ear and encourage him to seek professional help for alcohol abuse or any past trauma that could be causing low self-worth, fear of abandonment or a sense of personal powerlessness. Neurofeedback practitioners who specialize in developmental trauma can be helpful in addressing issues that arise from an anxious attachment style that causes or contributes to feelings of jealousy in a relationship. If your partner's jealousy causes violent, controlling behavior or makes you fear for your safety, reach out for help right away to create a safety plan and move forward in a healthy way.
When You Are Jealous
Jealousy is an intense emotion that can make you feel as if life as you know it is spinning out of control. Perhaps you caught a glimpse of the gorgeous new woman in your husband's office. Maybe he has been getting texts late at night. Remember that even if your partner has cheated, it is more about him than you, and that if you are occasionally jealous of your children, you are probably still a really good mom. Whatever the cause, jealousy is likely to bring up your fears, insecurities, worries about abandonment and a sense of unworthiness and put them in the spotlight. Take this opportunity to focus more on yourself than on the other person. Give yourself permission to feel your emotions, journal them out and remind yourself that they will pass. Breathe deeply and practice self-care like doing yoga, meditating, or enjoying a peaceful walk or a long soak in the tub. Remind yourself of all of your good qualities and accomplishments. Find a nonjudgmental friend to confide in. Sometimes, great relief comes in simply experiencing validation. See a therapist if a sense of low self-worth, desperation or depression settles in for longer than a week or two, or right away if you are struggling with addiction, self-harm or thinking of suicide. A good therapist can help you sort out your emotions, make clear-headed decisions and refer you to other specialists who can support you through this trying time.
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- British Journal of Psychiatry: Jealousy: A Community Study
- Child Development: Emotion Regulation in Context: The Jealousy Complex Between Young Siblings and its Relations with Child and Family Characteristics
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Social-Comparison Jealousy: A Developmental and Motivational Study
- Psychology Today: What's Really Behind Jealousy, and What to Do About It
- Psychology Today: Jealousy
- Biofeedback: Arousal and Identity: Thoughts on Neurofeedback in Treatment of Developmental Trauma
- Journal of Traumatic Stress: Clinical Applications of the Attachment Framework: Relational Treatment of Complex Trauma
- Journal of Marital and Family Therapy: Play Therapy: A Paradigm for Work with Families
Anne Kinsey is a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and missionary, residing in rural North Carolina. She is the founder of Love Powered Life, a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating loving community for trafficking survivors and their families. Anne has enjoyed writing for publications like Working Mother, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, Bizfluent and Career Trend. She resides in rural North Carolina with her husband, three children and a house full of furry friends.