Jealousy in any relationship is normal, but jealousy in marriage that becomes too intense can pose many problems. Normal jealousy can remind you that you still care for your partner, but toxic jealousy, or jealousy that causes harm, can make you controlling, unlikable, and angry. So, how do you know the difference and how can you overcome jealousy?
To determine if what you are feeling is normal jealousy, think about how your feelings of jealousy impact you and your partner. Are they harmless feelings, or do they cross a line into controlling behavior that causes one or both of you distress?
If you want to address your feelings of jealousy, you have come to the right place. Here is a complete guide to what is (and is not) healthy and how to overcome and correct unhealthy feelings and behaviors.
Overcoming Jealousy In Marriage
Understanding that there is healthy and harmful jealousy in marriage is key to understand how to overcome it. According to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D, some jealousy in marriage reminds you that “your mate is attractive and that you're lucky, it can stimulate you to be nicer and friendlier."
When you think that another person finds your partner attractive and wants to pursue them, being a little jealous is not only normal, but healthy. The problem, though, is when your feelings of jealousy become too strong and they make you act in ways you normally would not. For example, toxic jealousy may cause you to snoop through your partner’s belongings, follow them to work or while they are running errands, or lead you to control their actions.
If you are experiencing bad jealousy, you may be searching for ways to overcome those harmful feelings and ways to stop any hurtful actions you may be displaying because of them. There are many ways to overcome jealousy in marriage, but the first step is to admit you have a jealousy issue and to determine where it is coming from.
Irrational Jealousy In Marriage
Again, healthy jealousy is normal, but toxic, or irrational jealousy, is not. One thing that leads to irrational jealousy in marriage is an inability to properly communicate, which happens to be the number one cause of divorce. If you wish to keep your marriage intact, correcting your irrational jealousy is important.
What types of behaviors do you show when you are acting irrationally jealous? Do you verbally or physically abuse your spouse? Whatever your behavior may be, write it down so that you can see what your irrational behavior is doing to your marriage.
Next, seek out better communication with your spouse. You may think you know how your behavior is hurting them, but you may be surprised by what they have to say. If you want to know the full impact of our irrational jealousy so that you can correct it, asking the person it harms the most is where you need to start.
After you have identified your harmful behaviors, it is important to identify the cause of them. There are many causes of jealousy in marriage, and identifying what sets off your irrational jealousy is imperative to getting proper help.
Causes of Jealousy In Marriage
Jealousy in marriage can be caused by any number of small things, but they all boil down to three main causes:
When you project, you are assuming your partner is feeling attracted to another person, when you are the one that is attracted to someone else. You are projecting your feelings onto them and turning the narrative around to make them the “bad guy.”
When you are feeling protective, it is because you notice that your spouse may be crossing boundaries with other people. This is a type of jealousy aimed to protect your relationship, and yourself, from trouble.
When you are feeling jealous out of competition, it is because you feel like you may be competing with someone else for your spouse’s attention. This could be a friend, co-worker, or even a job, but the feeling is the same- you are not getting the attention they are giving elsewhere and it makes you jealous.
Effects of Jealousy In a Marriage
Jealousy in marriage can wreak havoc on the person on the receiving end, but it can also cause harm to the person who is irrationally jealous. Jealousy can do a lot to a person, individually:
- Cause fear
- Cause low self-esteem
- Cause insecurity
- Cause anger
If you are feeling these things, it will take a toll on your marriage. Jealousy in marriage can:
- Cause distrust
- Cause fights
- Cause physical and emotional abuse
- Lead to divorce
In short- unchecked jealousy in a marriage destroys not only the marriage, but damages the mind and hearts of those in the marriage.
How to Stop Jealousy In a Marriage
Many studies have shown that childhood trauma leads to irrational and harmful jealousy in adults. If you can’t pinpoint a reason to feel jealous, maybe there is none and it is something that needs professional help. Many times, this type of jealousy is “projection,” and you will be projecting the pain you felt in childhood onto your partner.
If you are experiencing irrational jealousy and wish to get help, seeing a therapist (both individually and with your spouse) is a great step. You can also choose to actively work on the things that lead to your jealous feelings and behaviors with your spouse’s help and by building a better relationship with stronger communication.
As said above, pinpointing the cause of your jealousy and discussing it with your spouse will help you to determine if your jealousy is warranted or not, or if you have taken things too far. This is the second step in overcoming jealousy in marriage. The first, of course, is determining (and admitting) that your jealousy is a problem.
How Do I Deal With a Jealous Wife?
Jealousy in marriage may come from either side, and while it is easy to discuss the steps to take if you are the one that is jealous, it is not always so easy to know what to do if you are on the receiving end of irrational jealousy. Furthermore, women and men may both show irrational jealousy in different ways, and therefore need to work on it in different manners. Some ways women feel jealousy include:
- Thinking that emotional cheating is worse than physical cheating
- Feeling undesirable and because of physical cheating; challenges femininity
- Feeling like they are going to be abandoned.
If your wife is jealous, which of these is she feeling? And how do those feelings relate to projection, protection, and competition?
Consider that your wife is feeling insecure about her ability to nurture and it is because of protection. She thinks you will be happier with your female friend, and she wants to protect your relationship. To overcome that, you should work on making your wife feel loved and focusing more attention on her, and less on your friend.
Is your wife projecting feelings of abandonment onto you? Maybe she says you are going to leave her, but in reality, she has a backup plan to leave you. In this situation, therapy would be a useful tool to help your marriage and find out why she has a contingency plan.
No matter what your wife is feeling, or why, her feelings should be considered and not brushed aside. They are valid, and need to be addressed. This is where building better communication is essential in maintaining a strong and happy relationship.
How Do I Deal With An Insecure Husband Who Is Jealous?
Just like women get jealous in marriage, so do men. However, they don’t always get jealous over the same things as women. When men feel jealous, it is usually related to these beliefs:
- Sexual cheating is worse than emotional cheating
- His performance is not up to par if his partner cheats; challenges masculinity
- He isn’t providing enough for his partner, outside of sex
When a man’s core masculinity (strong, sexual, provider) is threatened, jealousy rears its head. Of course, these may not always be rational.
Is your husband projecting his thoughts that you cheated on him because he cheated? If so, it needs to be addressed that he cheated and that he is projecting his actions onto you.
Perhaps no one has cheated, but your husband thinks he can’t provide for you the way your ex-boyfriend can and he is afraid you will leave him for your ex. This would be jealousy from not being able to provide and feeling protective. In this scenario, discussing your wants, needs, and expectations will go a long way to helping your husband not feel jealous.
Jealousy in marriage among men can be harder to address, because most men are taught to not show vulnerability. However, discussing your husband’s feelings and learning how you can help him is key to resolving his jealousy issues. This, again, is where good communication is the best foundation for any relationship.
Healthy Jealousy in Marriage
As discussed, healthy jealousy in marriage does exist and it can be helpful. Did you forget to compliment your wife’s new haircut, but got jealous when her male co-worker did? That type of jealousy wakes you up and makes you remember that your wife is beautiful and needs you to tell her so.
There is a fine line between irrational jealousy and healthy jealousy, though. If you instantly think your wife is cheating on you because another man complimented her, you have crossed a line into irrational jealousy and should examine why you felt this way. You must own your feelings of jealousy and work to understand why and how they happened in order to keep them from going too far.
How can I control my jealousy? If you are becoming jealous, ask yourself:
- What happened to make me jealous?
- Why does this make me jealous?
- Is this a real problem, or one I have made up?
- How can I talk to my partner about this?
Once you have answered these questions, you should be able to logically work out why you were jealous and how to overcome it.
How do I rebuild trust? Like communication, having trust is essential to a marriage. To rebuild trust, start slow. You should start by acknowledging what your jealousy did to your relationship, then list out ways you are actively working on not being jealous. After that, you simply have to let time do the healing.
Can I feel jealous and not act on it? Absolutely! That is the difference between feeling healthy jealousy and exhibiting toxic jealousy. You can have feelings of jealousy without them destroying you or your marriage. If you find you have them, often, though, you should speak to your partner or seek professional help so that these recurring feelings can be sorted out into something healthier.