Jealousy doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, you know. Sometimes, jealousy can do your relationship a lot of good, and serve it well; it can truly improve your relationship for the better.
You will feel jealous at some point. It often shows up in a romantic or partner relationship, but can also happen with friendships, in families, or work relationships.
Many times, when you feel jealous, you jump to the conclusion that something is wrong, or the other person is “cheating on you.” That could be, but looking at jealousy a bit deeper may surprise you.
Ask yourself, “What is jealousy?”
First, it is an emotion, but what is an emotion? The word “emotion” comes from Latin and means, “the energy that moves you.” Good enough, but precisely how does jealousy move you?
Every emotion has at least four components.
1. It has an underlying story or message.
For jealousy, the story is something like: “You may be in danger of losing a connection or relationship you care about.” That does not mean you will lose the relationship, but you have a sense the possibility exists.
2. Every emotion has an impulse or “a way of reacting.”
For jealousy, that impulse is generally to protect or hold onto the relationship. You may not, but it’s usually what you feel like doing. This can result in trying to manipulate or control the other person. Most of you have tried this and found that it doesn’t get you what you want.
3. Every emotion has a purpose.
Jealousy exists to call your attention to the quality of your relationship. It challenges you to ask yourself if you are taking care of the relationship, are you putting enough focus and energy into it, or what might you be missing? Once you understand the purpose of emotion, you can think about effective ways to respond rather than merely reacting.
4. Every emotion includes the body.
What physical experience occurs when you experience jealousy? Being able to identify what is going on in your body when you are experiencing emotions is a critical step in understanding, and effectively engaging with your emotions.
At the most basic level, do you notice that your body is opening or closing when you’re experiencing jealousy? Are you contracting or expanding? You would claim that jealously contracts the body.
If you are contracted, you are less able to engage effectively with yourself or others than if you are relaxed and open. You might also notice tightness in your belly or shoulders, and an increase in your heart rate and breath rate. Your breath might also be more shallow.
“Yes, I notice these things. So what?” you might say. For sure, a valid question.
In noticing them, it gives you greater choice as to what to do next. For example, let me take three long slow deep breaths before I say anything, or let me lean back in my chair and take stock of the situation — simple actions to give you greater flexibility in how you move with your emotions.
When you couple the awareness of your body, with the other three elements of story, purpose, and impulse, you are much better informed about what is possible in the situation and better able to act more effectively.
If you have evidence of betrayal, your jealousy is more than a gut feeling. If you ignore the evidence, you’ll probably do so from denial or being naive. You might look the other way out of fear or doubt. In that situation, restoration of the relationship may be out of your hands.
However, if you simply have a sense that something isn’t quite right, or you don’t feel the same depth of connection with the other person, or perhaps there seems to be a gap that didn’t exist before: Jealousy may be offering you a solution.