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The Jekyll and Hyde of Jealousy

How can you think about jealousy differently?

A jealous partner often has pain stemming from their attachment to you and their fear that they will lose you. Listen for what is behind the anxiety and anger. What is triggering the strong reaction? It could be hearing about a former lover, being around attractive people, or showing an interest in talking to someone. It could be a reminder of past infidelity or any breach in trust, even one that didn't involve you.


What's behind jealousy? Insecurity and lack of trust. What's underneath that? Unworthiness and shame. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could treat ourselves with kindness and understanding? In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown examines what gets in the way of accepting ourselves as we are. After years of studying our struggles with shame, the fear of being seen, and the desire to fit in, Brown discovered that among the trove of data there were men and women who had learned to embrace their imperfections and vulnerability. So what set these people apart from the rest? Their capacity to love themselves: not simply when they were having a good hair day or had just landed a promotion, but every day, including the bad and the ugly. By practicing self-compassion, we can look upon our imperfections and others with a sense of openness and allowance rather than shame and judgement. This is resilience. Resilient individuals have several things in common: they’re resourceful and good problem-solvers; they’re more likely to seek help; they believe in their ability to do something to help manage their feelings and to cope; and they have available social support upon which they rely. You might be surprised to learn that gratitude is a practice. It might entail keeping a gratitude journal, doing a daily gratitude meditation, or giving back to your community. Regularly exercising your gratitude muscle is strongly linked to joy. Happiness is linked to external circumstances while joyfulness is associated with spirit and gratitude, and neither is constant. We need both, Brown says. Along with gratitude, we need to embrace calm instead of holding tight to remaining uptight . Rather than letting insecurity define us, we can derive meaning from how we respond to stress. Brown defines calm as, “creating perspective and mindfulness while managing emotional reactivity.” While it can be difficult to release the shame and unworthiness that underpin jealousy, it’s also freeing. It is only through acknowledging and accepting ours and others imperfections that we can find connection. If you love someone who is jealous, think about what you would be willing to change to help your partner feel more trust in you, but don't live apologetically, as if you have done something "wrong" just because they are struggling. You can’t be controlled by accusations.


If you are jealous, think about what internal and external work is needed to increase your trust in your partner. A commitment involves examining what you are willing to do to maintain that commitment. Is there a way you think about your partner (or yourself) that needs to change?

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