Relationships are challenging enough without adding jealousy to the mix. When one is jealous, she worries that her significant other might find someone else more alluring and fear that she will be replaced, says Robert L. Leahy, a psychologist and author of “Jealousy is a Killer: How to Break Free from Your Jealous Feelings” and cited on Psychology Today. Jealousy is normal to an extent in all relationships, but if left uncontrolled, it can destroy your relationship. Taking steps to understand and control your jealousy will help you have a happy, healthier relationship with your boyfriend.
The perception of a threat, your boyfriend’s past relationships, can cause feelings of jealousy. Jealousy stems from feeling insecure, says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a relationship expert for AARP and author of “Are You the Jealous Type?” Realize that your boyfriend’s past relationships are just that, his past. He is not actively doing something to evoke jealousy. It is your reaction to his past that is the issue. Don’t compare yourself to your boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends and his relationship with them. Obsessing over whether his ex is prettier than you, a better cook or has a better job idealizes her and leads to feelings of inadequacy. Recognizing idealization and bringing back human qualities to the person can help reduce feelings of insecurity, says Patricia O’Laughlin, a licensed therapist and author of “7 Tips on How to Manage Jealousy” on her website, Patricia O’Laughlin Psychotherapy.
Jealousy can stem from low self-esteem, says ChildLine. Focus on your self-worth independent of your relationship. Recognize and focus on your positive attributes, strengths and what you have to offer. For example, you may be honest, caring, generous and musically inclined. It may help to make a list and revisit it from time to time. Improve your confidence and self-esteem by focusing on current skills or developing new skills. Focus on yourself instead of obsessing about your boyfriend’s past.
Focus on the Positive
Jealousy focuses on the negative. Continuous jealous behavior, such as accusations, seeking assurance and pouting jeopardizes your relationship, says Leahy. Jealousy can lead to feelings of anger, sadness and possessiveness. Having these feelings does not mean that you have to act on them. Focus on the present. Remind yourself that your boyfriend is with you, not his ex. Focus on the positive aspects of your relationship and acknowledge what your boyfriend likes about you. It may be helpful to make a list and refer to it when you start to feel jealous.
Consider the value of your boyfriend’s previous relationships. They have made him into the person he is today. Don’t let your feelings of jealousy build up and jeopardize your relationship. Having jealous thoughts is not the same thing as reality, says Leahy. Discuss your feelings with your boyfriend and determine what will make you feel more secure. For example, you may ask him not to share certain aspects of his past relationships. Seeking therapy may be beneficial in helping you discover the root of your jealousy and ways to deal with it.
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Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.