Slaying the Green-Eyed Monster: Is Your Jealousy Legit—Or Are You Overreacting?

iStock 1318934931

Pretty much anyone who’s ever been in a relationship will have been jealous at one time or another. No one’s proud of it, sure—but we’re all human.

Jealousy doesn’t have to be insurmountable. You just need to learn how to recognize, acknowledge, and work through it—both within yourself and with your partner. It’s only when you let it fester that real problems can take root.

There’s an age range when you’re most vulnerable to jealousy

Jealousy can trigger a cascade of negative emotions: suspicion, insecurity, humiliation, rage, self-loathing. This has the potential to not only jeopardize your relationship, but even end it entirely. What’s more, research suggests that people between the ages of 15 and 25 experience jealousy in its most severe form, and are most likely to break up as a result. The scientists from the University of Denver hypothesized that jealous instincts would decline in intensity and frequency as people matured and experienced relationships of increasing lengths. Interestingly though, they were only partly correct:

Jealousy decreased with age, but increased with [relationship] length, further underscoring the distinct contribution of the two variables.

This may be because a longer relationship equates to more effort and emotion having been invested in it. Therefore, this could represent a greater potential loss as time goes on. That being said, we do also generally become savvier in partner choice as we age– better able to identify and weed out those who look like they might cause us jealousy down the line. And of course we learn how to better navigate romance and our own accompanying emotions as we get older.

But no matter where you are in life or how long you’ve been in a relationship, jealousy that goes unchecked and disregarded is a recipe for trouble. Sometimes it’s the dynamic of the relationship that needs putting under the microscope. Sometimes your partner is genuinely in the wrong. Sometimes it might be you who needs to take a look in the mirror and honestly assess your feelings’ origins—even if it means facing up to your own insecurity.

Remember, though: Feeling jealous doesn’t make you the bad guy. Oftentimes it’s a natural and valid response to what you perceive in your relationship, contextualized by past experiences in both life and love. Knowing how to handle it is crucial and it’s always worth taking a step back from the situation. There are things you can do to keep calm and rational during this emotionally volatile situation.

Consider where your jealousy is really stemming from…

Understanding the root causes of your jealousy is paramount in solving whether your feelings are justified or you’re overreacting. In the moment, it’s easy to forget that the negative thoughts aren’t necessarily real, or even grounded in reality. Try to stay objective. And while you don’t want to overburden your partner and strain the relationship by continually seeking reassurance, checking in with them openly about how you’re feeling can serve to bring the two of you closer together.

…but if your feelings are legitimate, don’t vilify them

There’s no doubt about it: Jealousy can be the singlest most destructive force in a relationship if left unaddressed. However, as noted by director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy Robert L. Leahy in Psychology Today:

jealousy may actually reflect your higher values of commitment, monogamy, love, honesty, and sincerity.

So as long as you don’t allow your emotions to run rampant and get the better of you, those negative feelings may actually help clarify your intentions for and expectations in the relationship.

Distinguish between jealous feelings and jealous actions

It doesn’t always follow that you have to act jealous just because you feel jealous. As Leahy notes in Psychology Today:

It’s important to realize that your relationship is more likely to be jeopardized by your jealous behavior, such as continual accusations, reassurance seeking, pouting, and acting out. Stop and say to yourself, ‘I know I’m feeling jealous—but I don’t have to act on it.’

Examine your assumptions about relationships in general

Through no fault of our own—call it one too many movies, perhaps—a lot of us hold unrealistic or even unfounded expectations about what it really means to be in a relationship. One common misconception is that our partner should never feel attracted to anyone else. (What should means in this context is open to interpretation.) Another one: Our partner shouldn’t spend too much (or even any) time with friends of the sex they’re attracted to.

When reality contradicts these assumptions of ours, it makes sense that we experience jealousy or even suspect infidelity. It’s therefore well worth your time to take a long hard look at your own assumptions about relationships, consider how they match-up with reality, and then work out whether the difference in expectation versus reality is okay after all or actually something to be concerned about.

You can work through jealousy—either as a team or on your own

Jealousy is a perfectly reasonable emotion in many situations. It may stem from our partner having crossed a boundary in the relationship, be that flirting with, continually contacting, or spending lots of time with someone else. On the other hand, your jealousy may stem from something inside you, while in reality your partner is behaving reasonably, loves you, and is happy in the relationship. Either way, sometimes it’s useful to speak about your worries with a neutral third party. That’s where we can help.

Maclynn International is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, California, and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles, but our matchmakers are also romance experts in their own right. If you need to talk to someone during a troubled time in your relationship, we’re here to listen and guide. Or if you’re single and looking to meet that special someone—well, you couldn’t have come to a better place! Get in touch today, and let’s help you meet the one person you won’t be able to keep your eyes off on that momentous first date.