Whether you're in a long-term, committed relationship, or are just weeks into a new fling, chances are you may have felt a slight twinge of jealousy at some point. You spot your partner checking out someone cute, and suddenly you're on high alert, questioning why they'd ever want to look at someone else. You're sitting right in front of them — and you're fabulous.
But while you might blame your partner for your jealous reaction by claiming that they made you feel jealous, here's a reality check: Oftentimes, these feelings have more to do with you than your S.O.'s behavior."If someone is actively trying to make you jealous, then that's one thing," says Rachel Sussman, LCSW, a New York-based relationship therapist. "But if you're dating someone, and they're talking to people or going out with people other than you, and that makes you jealous, you have to ask yourself why you're feeling this way." And "they made me" isn't a good one — you've got to dig deeper.
"Jealousy tends to be caused by one of two things," says Brandy Engler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist based out of LA. "It could be you're afraid of losing someone, which could point to some abandonment issues you need to work through. But usually, it's ego-related." Engler explains that the idea that you're so unique and so special that your partner would not even think of hanging out with or looking at another person is what drives this jealousy. "There's this assumption that if your partner loves you and is happy with you, then they'd never notice other men or women," she says. "That is, of course, unrealistic. The world is full of attractive and interesting people that you yourself have likely noticed, too. So it's natural your partner will."
"There's this assumption that if your partner loves you and is happy with you, then they'd never notice other men or women. That is, of course, unrealistic."
Brandy Engler, PsyD
Engler says to remember that just because your partner notices other people, that doesn't necessarily mean they're going to cheat on you — you just have to trust that. "Healthy relationships are based on trust," Sussman says. "A lot of people will say, 'Well, I'm not a trusting person.' And that tells me that they have to work on that before they're in a relationship.'" This is also true if your feelings of jealousy are related to something your partner did in the past — like cheating. If your trust was rocked by that, and it's making these feelings bubble up, then you need to figure out how to get back to a trusting place.
Luckily, it is possible to work through that insecurity with individual and/or couples therapy. But Engler also says that the feeling of jealousy tends to disappear with age. "As people get older, they usually realize that there are amazing people in the world, and that doesn't take away from who they are," Engler says. "Over time, you learn to be less threatened by focusing on what's unique about your connection with your partner and why that's special, because that's why you're together. You're not together because you yourself are unique and special."
Engler says that there are daily practices you could try to rid yourself of your jealous feelings. "A tip I give to clients is to walk around and notice people who you have envy for," she says. "Instead of feeling envy, try practicing being happy for them. There's something in that practice that takes you out of your sense of superiority, and when you feel good for everyone, you feel rested in yourself."
It can definitely be hard — especially when social media allows us to compare ourselves to everyone — but a little practice can go a long way in helping you move past these jealous feelings. And the less jealousy there is in your partnership, the happier you'll both be.