Most of us have felt it at one time or another. It could be a mild annoyance or like a fire inside you, consuming you and making you feel like you might explode. Although it is a common emotional reaction when a person is feeling threatened, jealousy is one of biggest relationship destroyers out there.

Jealousy can range from feeling bothered that that your husband is admiring another woman or that your wife is looking at another man, to imagining things that aren’t actually there. Either way jealousy will have a negative effect on your relationship.

What Is Jealousy?

Although feeling jealous is something most can relate to, the feeling is often confused with envy. Envy and jealousy are quite different, however. Envy is a reaction to lacking something and wanting what someone else has. You might be envious of someone’s good looks, or their beautiful home, etc.

Jealousy on the other hand is the feeling that someone might try to take what is yours. For example, your husband becomes close friends with an attractive co-worker, and you may feel jealous of — and threatened by — their relationship.

At its most mild jealousy is considered an instinctual reaction that makes us want to protect what we feel is ours. Unlike simply being protective though, jealous feelings can balloon quickly into destructive behavior and cause us to act in ways that are selfish and controlling. It can even cause us to assume things are happening that are not, like seeing a friendly exchange as the sign of an affair, or working late as hiding a secret addiction.

Instinctual or not, jealousy is not productive. People who struggle with controlling, jealous feelings are often struggling with deeper issues as well. Uncontrolled jealous behavior is typically a symptom of one or more of the following:

  • Insecurity
  • Fear
  • Low self-esteem

Understanding the root of the behavior can help you work toward controlling it. Any of those three, or combination of them, will not only allow feeling jealous to manifest in destructive behavior, but will also create other problems in a person’s life.

What Jealousy Does to Your Relationship

Jealous behavior can be extremely harmful to a relationship. At best the jealous partner is needy and constantly looking for reassurance that they are the only one and that no one is a threat to replace them. At its worst jealously can manifest in controlling and distrustful behavior, and even physical or emotional abuse.

A jealous partner may try to control the actions of their partner, checking up on their whereabouts or monitoring their calls, texts or emails. This behavior sets up a pattern of distrust that is unhealthy and will eventually cause a relationship to collapse.

The foundation of any healthy and happy relationship is trust and respect. A person struggling with jealousy is unable to trust the person they are with or show respect for them as an individual or their boundaries.

Overtime this behavior will destroy the feelings of love and affection that once existed. It will also likely cause repeated arguing and a need for one partner to prove themselves and their loyalty over and over again. This can be exhausting and prevent a relationship from growing and establishing a solid foundation.

How Can You Control It

Jealous behavior can be tough to control. The underlying issues rarely go away on their own. If jealousy is a pattern of behavior that is repeated in relationship after relationship it may take the intervention of a professional therapist to help reign it in and provide tools to cope with the causes that are driving it.

Getting past jealousy in a relationship requires building trust. One partner must trust the other enough to know that, regardless of the circumstance, the love and respect they share will prevent outside influences from threatening their relationship. This can be difficult if one partner is insecure and struggles with trusting overall.

If you have found that jealousy is a problem in your relationship, whether it is you that are jealous or your partner, it can be painful for both of you. Getting beyond it will take patience, communication and changing of beliefs. If it working together on overcoming jealous feelings and behaviors isn’t working don’t discount seeking help.