Are you the jealous type? Do you always need to know where your partner is, with
whom she has been hanging out? Do find yourself carefully listening to your girlfriend’s phone
conversations, even discreetly checking her inbox?
The good news is: jealousy is not a bad emotion. Emotions are neither good nor bad —
for as long as they don’t translate to negative behavior. In fact, it may be argued that jealousy is
Mother Nature’s way of protecting a valued relationship against anything that can threaten its
stability. Managed correctly, jealousy need not be the destructive force that drives men to
battery and homicide.
The key is in being able to communicate your jealousy to your partner effectively. Below
are a few tips on how to tell her that you’re jealous:
To Talk or Not to Talk, That is the Question
First off, should you open up about your jealousy or should you keep your feelings a
closely guarded secret?
In general, direct but sensitive communication is always healthy. It’s better that your
partner knows exactly what’s eating you up instead of having to guess what’s behind your
irritability, strict rules and neediness. Don’t buy the macho crap on how admitting jealousy is
tantamount to broadcasting insecurity and neediness. If your jealousy is already driving you
crazy — and sending your relationship to an untimely demise — then it’s best to get things out
in the open. Cliché as it may sounds; it’s a stronger individual who can confront these truths.
There’s only one exception to this rule: communicating jealousy to your girlfriend is ill-advised during the beginning stages of a relationship. There are many reasons for this. For one, courtship or the getting-to-know-you stage of dating is the time when you want to put your best put forward — the last thing you want is to brand yourself as potentially neurotic when you’re still trying to win your girl’s affections.
Second, it’s premature possessiveness. Jealousy is an indirect way of communicating that you desire exclusivity, and in the early stages of a relationship, exclusivity may not yet be part of the deal. And lastly, intimate disclosures are best left to the period when partners are already at ease with each other’s vulnerability.
But if you do decide to keep things to yourself — maybe you’re confident that you can manage everything on your own, or perhaps your partner has a tendency to belittle your confessions (though if this is the case, are you sure you’re with the right person?) — the least you can do is find other functional ways of releasing your jealousy. Perhaps physical exercise or ventilating to a friend can help. If you think your girlfriend is perceptive enough, then you can use non-verbal ways of expressing jealousy, such as making a joke about the time she spends with another guy. Careful though that you don’t step on a landmine.
Dispose yourself. As with all things, adequate preparation is winning half the battle.
Don’t rush into a confrontation. No matter how well-meaning you are, communicating while
your emotions are on a high will make you say something you’ll later regret. Instead, calm
yourself down; there are many stress management techniques you can use to tame the ol’
fight-or-flight instinct. Face the fact that talking about your jealousy may involve swallowing
pride. And if you can invest the time, list down what you’re feeling and what triggered those
feelings. Rehearse what you’re going to say; get feedback from a trusted friend regarding your
words and voice intonation. All this may feel like overkill, but they can set the stage for a
Own your jealousy. Whenever you’re communicating a feeling, you should make the
message all about you. Own your feeling; say “I am jealous” instead of “You make me jealous.”
Accept that fact that your feeling may or may not have basis in reality, but it’s affecting you
considerably. Avoid blame or accusation; it’s not a witchhunt. And be realistic about your
expectations on how your partner will react; don’t assume gratitude or apology. You’re seeking
help, not demanding obedience.
Share why jealousy is a big deal for you. Your partner can better empathize with you if
she knows where you’re coming from. For all you know, your partner is dismissive of your
feelings because she’s not aware that you came from a family where infidelity is a big issue, or
you were cuckolded by an ex. Share your background with jealousy. Make her understand. Of
course this step assumes that you’re willing to go through the journey of understanding your
Stick to the observable. If you know that your jealousy is irrational, then simply say so.
“I know I have no reason to feel jealous, I just am. Can you please acknowledge this?” But if
your jealousy is being triggered by something concrete, then make it a point to share only
objective information. For example, instead of saying “It upsets me when you flirt with Joe”, say
“It upsets me when you talk to Joe for more than an hour.” The latter is observable, measurable
and more importantly, changeable.
Tell her how she can help. Negotiate if you have to. The whole point of communication
is for change to happen. Do you need security? In what way can your partner make you feel more secure?
Do you need her to stop a particular behavior? Or maybe you just need to be listened to — this is alright as well. Present a proposal that would work best for the relationship. If jealousy is an excessive, long-term problem for you, you may need your partner’s assistance in keeping your “delusions” in check.
Listen. Lastly, make sure that you attend to her side of the story. You may be
misinterpreting things and jumping to conclusions. Or your partner may be genuinely surprised
that you felt jealous all this time! By making sure what you have is a conversation, instead of a
dictation, you can make your jealousy on opportunity for growth.
What Doesn’t Help
Whether you do decide to express your feelings of jealousy or not, know that there are
things that you can do to make matters worse. Jealousy can make or break a relationship — you
want to be mentally present enough not rock the boat more than you have to.
When communicating jealousy to your partner, avoid declarations of possession (You’re
mine and no one else’s!), violent comments (If you ever do this to me again, I swear I will hit
something.), derogatory comments against your partner or the guy you’re jealous of (“Do you
think you will find happiness with a two-faced guitar player?), and emotional manipulation (If
you really love me, you will stop talking to this man.) All these will just make your partner feel
attacked and insulted. It will also transport your jealousy from healthy to creepy.
Similarly, avoid dealing with your jealousy by increasing restrictions (From now on you
should be home by 6pm!), surveillance of your partner’s daily habits, or even buying your
partner expensive gifts to justify your right to be upset. Feelings are not facts — don’t let
jealousy make you lose your head!