Hailey Magee
Hailey Magee

Dear Hailey,

I live in Queen Anne with my partner, Tara. We’ve been dating for about two years. I trust her wholeheartedly and I know she’s committed to me, but I feel horribly jealous of her friendship with a man I’ll call James.

Tara has never cheated on me (or any of her previous partners, for that matter.) Our relationship is healthy and stable; she’s very loving and gives me no reason to mistrust her. But sometimes when she texts James or hangs out with him, I’m overcome with jealousy. Even seeing that she’s liked one of James’ photos on social media can send me into a frenzy. 

I know my jealousy isn’t Tara’s fault, so I’m always careful to bring it up calmly and kindly.

When I mention that I’m feeling jealous, she’s quick to reassure me that her friendship with James is totally platonic. We’ve talked about it a few times now, but my jealousy festers on. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything Tara could say to make it subside, aside from terminating her friendship with James altogether — and I would never ask her to do that. 

Long-term, I’m afraid that my jealousy could impact our relationship. Most of all, I don’t want to feel this way: jealous, weak, and powerless. I want to actively support her friendships with folks of all genders, not be possessive or restrictive. 

How do I deal with this?

Signed, 

Little Green Monster

 

Dear Little Green,

Let me start by saying: You’re not alone in this struggle. Far from it! Even the most open-minded, laidback, trusting partners struggle with jealousy from time to time. It’s a natural, human emotion.

As I’m sure you know, there’s a strong biological basis for jealousy, as well as a culture’s worth of messaging that tells us that once we’re in love, our partner “belongs to us.” (Even if we don’t believe it consciously, we’ve been exposed to those messages since birth. They stick around!) Even polyamorous folks, many of whom commit to loving freely and openly, feel jealousy from time to time. 

Additionally, struggling with anxiety, OCD, codependency, or an anxious attachment style can increase the likelihood that someone will be hyper-sensitive to real or imagined threats to their relationships.

My point being: Jealousy is natural. It sounds like you trust Tara, you’ve already sought her reassurance, and you feel that your jealousy is unfounded.

If that’s the case, I agree that resolving this issue is ultimately your “work” to do. The good news is that there are concrete steps you can take to soothe the painful emotion, recenter, and maintain the health and stability of your relationship.

Next time you see Tara texting James and feel that unwanted gut-punch of jealousy, try following these eight steps:

1. Instead of trying to escape the feeling, validate it: “I am jealous and jealousy is a completely normal emotion.”

2. Determine your own motivation to change. Consider, “Am I willing to change? How will letting go of jealousy benefit me?”

3. Accept that you can’t control whether you feel jealousy, but you can control whether you act out on it. Take solace in the fact that you can keep your relationship with Tara safe and healthy by managing your reactions to your feelings. You’ve got this!

4. Emotionally regulate by going out to exercise, taking a deep breath, meditating, journaling it out, or taking a “time out” from Tara. Physical movement can be one of the best ways to release unwanted negative energy. As the saying goes, move a muscle, change a thought.

5. Assuage emotional judgements such as “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I need to get rid of unpleasant emotions immediately.” Not only are they untrue, but they’ll exacerbate your feelings of self-judgment. 

6. Reality-check yourself when you catch yourself taking things personally. Thoughts like “If Tara texts James, she must care less about me” are logical fallacies. They pit James’ relationship with Tara against yours, when in reality, it’s not.

7. Reality-check yourself when you make judgements of yourself, e.g. “I’m not sexy enough” or “I’m not smart enough.” Tara is in a relationship with you for a reason. She has chosen you to be her partner, and that alone is testament of her affection.

8. Redirect your attention to yourself by refocusing on your independent goals, activities, and friendships. When all else fails, redirecting your attention is a surefire way to get re-centered and re-focused. 

The key to this process is not acting out on your jealousy. Take solace in the fact that, while you can’t control your feelings, you can control your reactions. You have the power to keep your relationship with Tara stable and healthy.

The more you practice managing your jealousy, the less potent it will become. With time, that jealousy will be no more than a tiny pest. 

Sending you strength on the journey ahead!

With care,

Hailey

P.S.: Do you feel like you’re the only one facing a particular challenge or struggle? Or perhaps you have a question you’d like to see answered in the column? Email me at hailey@haileymagee.com for the chance to have it included here.