Jealousy PART 2 – Working Through Jealousy and Fear

Listen to the entire blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read part 2 below!

In part 1 of this blog, we met Jessica and Christopher who are struggling with jealousy in their relationship. What can they do to work through the emotions of jealousy and fear?

As a relationship moves through different stages, jealousy changes. During the earlier stages of a relationship, there is little investment, so jealousy is minimal. During the middle part of a relationship, like in Jessica and Christopher’s case, when the honeymoon period is over but they haven’t yet figured out as a couple how to move to a more mature love stage, jealousy is greater because they are invested in the relationship but there is also uncertainty. Once they have moved to the next stage and have learned to reassure each other of their commitment when fears and emotions are triggered, jealousy will naturally decrease.

We all have different ideas about what commitment means. If we believe that our partner is truly committed to us and the relationship, we are less likely to experience jealousy. Communication about what constitutes commitment helps us to understand our partner more.

It takes two to have jealousy problems. In order to build security and clear out jealousy there are some guidelines.

  1. Don’t provoke a jealous response in your partner by flirting with others or by keeping secrets from your partner. When you play jealousy games, you both lose because it increases the fear between you instead of building trust.
  2. Don’t check on or spy on your partner. It does not eliminate your uncertainty and worry. You can never be 100% certain what another person might do one day. Instead of being able to enjoy your love in the present moment, you live every day in the misery of jealousy and fear.
  3. Don’t get involved with somebody who is already attached to somebody else. You might think that you are sophisticated enough and can handle a triangle situation by compartmentalizing, but in my experience as a relationship coach, most of us have a hard time doing this in the long run. We are programmed by our biology to form exclusive attachments.
  4. If you are in a committed and exclusive relationship, reassure your partner of your commitment. Show empathy with their fear of loss and show them through gestures and words that they are the most important person to you. You might feel controlled or smothered by their jealousy, but retreating only increases their fear and creates a vicious cycle. If you can on the other hand take a step towards your partner and reassure her or him of your priorities, your love and your lasting commitment, you have changed the jealousy dance. What is good for your partner, is also good for you.

In our session, both Christopher and Jessica learned to understand what predisposed Jessica through her past history and the present situation to be jealous.

  1. Her father died when she was 8. She learned the belief that “people you love leave you”.
  2. Her mother remarried quickly and had two more children with her step-father. Jessica felt replaced.
  3. Her high school boyfriend cheated on her. She learned the belief that “men can’t be trusted to be faithful”.

  1. Christopher had expressed to Jessica that he does not want a fourth child because he already has three daughters. Even though Jessica never particularly wanted children, she has had second thoughts for a while. The bond Christopher has with his ex-wife through the children made Jessica feel excluded and short changed by life.

In several individual sessions with Jessica, she managed to clear out many of her limiting beliefs and fears. She also got to know the jealous part in her that was trying to protect her from getting hurt again. She connected with her younger selves which carried the pain of her past experiences to clear those burdens out. She became able to express her jealousy by speaking for that jealous part rather than going ballistic because she was being high-jacked by that part.

In further couples sessions, Christopher learned to do what felt counter intuitive to him. Instead of retreating when Jessica expresses jealousy, he learned to reassure her. He lets her know that she is still the most beautiful woman he knows even if he looks at other women. He also changed how he interacted with others: He is now merely friendly instead of flirting with other women. Most importantly, he was able to share with Jessica that he accommodates his ex-wife out of fear to see his daughters less. They managed to work out how they can show up as a team with his ex-spouse. Jessica’s doubts about children disappeared as her relationship with Christopher grew closer and as she felt more secure and safe.

 

To work through jealousy and other relationship issues,

please contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

Jealousy PART 1 – “It’s ridiculous how jealous she is!”

Listen to the blog article as an extended version on my podcast, or read it below!

The body language of the couple in front of me indicates a complete disconnect. Christopher has his arms crossed and has turned away, while his partner Jessica has tears rolling down her cheeks. Her body is bent over in shame. She looks down. “I don’t know what is wrong with me”, she says with a small voice. “I get so jealous when he looks at another woman and I get really mad when he flirts with somebody else. And then there is his ex-wife…” Her body language gets defensive. “It makes me absolutely ballistic that he accommodates her every whim.” Christopher reacts, “She is even jealous of my daughters”. He adds with contempt, “that is just ridiculous!”

Is it ridiculous? Let’s see if we can understand jealousy better, based on our evolutionary heritage and Jessica’s past experiences.

What is this emotion that we call jealousy?

Jealousy is the fear that a special relationship we have, with a romantic partner, family member or close friend, is threatened. We fear that our partner, family member or friend will form a closer relationship with someone else and that we will be excluded or abandoned. Jealousy is not envy. Envy occurs when we believe that someone has achieved an advantage and we resent their success or happiness. We interpret their success as our failure. Envy is about comparing ourselves to others. Jealousy is about a threat to a relationship in which we are deeply invested.

Jealousy is not a single emotion, but a mix of anger, anxiety, fear of loss, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, sadness and great vulnerability. These powerful emotions go hand in hand with certain fearful thoughts, e.g. “I am being replaced. I don’t measure up. He/she loves another person more. He/she will leave me”. These thoughts and emotions usually trigger previous relationship experiences, often all the way back to childhood. We might be triggered into feeling the same way as when our younger sibling came along and received all the attention, or when we had another painful experience of a relationship changing or ending.

Jealous feelings are normal and not a problem. They can become problematic when we act on those feelings of fear, when we ask pointed questions, interrogate, follow the other person, spy on them, check their GPS, read their email or text messages on their phone and obsess about a potential dishonesty, betrayal or infidelity.

Jealousy is a primal emotion just like our fight or flight response. Evolution helps us to understand why jealousy can be so powerful and all consuming. There are two evolutionary theories that explain the terrifying fear behind jealousy. Parental Investment Theory and the Theory of the Competition for Limited Resources explain that we are more likely to protect and support individuals who share our genes, like biological children, siblings or parents. Both men and women can experience sexual jealousy and attachment jealousy but a man is more likely to feel jealous over perceived sexual infidelity because of the biological need to protect and continue his own genes. A woman is more likely to experience jealousy over perceived emotional closeness between her partner and another woman because that could mean that resources and protection will be provided to someone else.

Robert L. Leahy points out in his book “The Jealousy Cure” that historically, jealousy was viewed differently than today. It was a central aspect of Greek mythology and literature. In Medieval Europe, it was viewed as a necessary, even positive, emotion that was linked to honour. Only in the 19th century did jealousy come to be increasingly viewed as interfering with domestic harmony. The Victorian period emphasized the need to control our powerful emotions. Today, jealousy is an emotion we are expected to be ashamed of and feel we need to hide. We believe that jealousy is a sign that there is something wrong with the jealous person. Jealousy has become a symbol of inability to trust and lack of self-confidence.

Jealousy does not only show up in romantic partnerships, but also in families. Today, 35% of all households in North America include stepchildren. When there is a new partner, children often experience feelings of betrayal, anger, anxiety and resentment. Stepparents can also experience competition with their step children. To deny those feelings only creates inner conflicts and passive-aggressive interactions. There is no shame in jealousy and it can be worked through and cleared out either in individual sessions or through couples coaching, or both.

Jealousy even shows up at work. Job security in today’s day and age is constantly in question. It can depend on whom the boss favours and who gets socially included or excluded. The fear to lose one’s job can fuel jealousy with work colleagues.

Social media gives us all opportunities to feel that we have been excluded or rejected. We might perceive that others seem to enjoy friendships, relationships and families that we don’t have. Not being invited to an event or not being tagged can become an experience of exclusion. Or we view others seemingly happy private lives, romantic declarations or trips to exotic destinations with jealousy or envy. We don’t realize in those moments of jealousy that Facebook or Instagram are anything but a full reflection of reality.

Just know that you are not alone if you are experiencing jealousy. Anyone can be provoked to feel jealous because evolution built jealousy into our human nature. Whether jealousy is a problem depends on how much jealous feelings overwhelm and preoccupy you, and if you act on them and if that interferes with your relationships. Feelings of jealousy can be balanced out by working on your past experiences and beliefs about relationships.

If you experienced a traumatic separation, divorce, sickness or death in your family of origin, you might have learned the belief that people you love and rely on will leave. Your learned attachment style also has an influence on the relationship beliefs you have learned. If you have experienced that you can rely on your primary caretaker to always come back and adequately take care of your needs, it is more likely that you have learned to trust that others are reliable and caring. If you have learned as an infant that your primary caretaker cannot be relied on, does not care or does not respond in an appropriate time or manner, it is more likely that you expect—and recreate—the same in your adult relationships. If you have learned an insecure attachment style, you are more likely to be jealous.

Your comfort level with closeness is also related to how jealous you feel. If you don’t feel comfortable with closeness, you are less likely to be jealous. You won’t rely on the relationship as much as somebody who needs closeness or is comfortable with it.

If you answer to one or more of these questions with yes, you are probably more likely to be afraid of loss and therefore more jealous.

  1. Did one of your parents leave or were there threats of a separation or divorce?
  2. Did you worry as a child or teenager that one or both of your parents might leave you, disown you, replace you, or that they might get sick or die?
  3. Did your childhood include infidelity by one or both of your parents?
  4. Did you family move a lot so that you did not experience longer lasting friendships with other kids?
  5. Were you ever in a relationship with a narcissistic or dishonest person?
  6. Did someone you dated or were married to let you down, even cheated on you?

 

You can read how Christopher and Jessica have changed their situation,

in Jealousy PART 2 – Working Through Jealousy and Fear.

 

Contact me for

individual coaching sessions or couples’ sessions.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

 

I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!

The book “The Jealousy Cure” by Robert L. Leahy is available from Amazon.

You Are My Valued Tor-Mentor

In my last article called “Relationship Dance” we met Sue and John, who were caught up in a dynamic of one of them retreating and the other one pursuing. There are other patterns we fall into as a couple.

Karen and Frank came in because they agreed that Frank’s anger and jealousy was destroying their relationship. Their dance was that, whenever he was stressed and upset, she tried to rationalize with him. She wanted to show him that there was no reason to feel stressed. However, the more she rationalized, the more he felt judged and not heard, and the angrier he usually became.

A similar dynamic was going on in regards to Frank feeling jealous of Karen’s relationship with her two adult sons from her first marriage. Karen was dismissive of his insecurities and told him that her sons would always be more important than he was. The more jealous and angry he became, the more Karen wanted to avoid him and not even come home but rather stay the night at one of her sons’ homes when she visited them.

Both partners show up in this dance taken over by their protective parts. Frank’s protectors are jealousy and anger. Karen’s protectors are the rational part, a dismissive part and a part that wants her to hide or run.

We have learned to exile our sensitive and vulnerable child parts. Those parts in us are often love-starved and carry limiting beliefs about relationships. We enter intimate partnerships and hope to get the love those exiles crave from our partner. Because our vulnerable child parts are clingy, needy or feel inadequate, our partner often ends up feeling overburdened or not good enough. Due to the fact that we are disconnected from our own vulnerable inner children, we end up judging each other for having exiled parts and protective behaviours.

Internal Family Systems work, or short IFS, offers a solution to this seemingly impossible cycle. We all have a source of love within us referred to as “Self”. This is our compassionate core essence. From Self, we can retrieve our exiled wounded child parts and become the primary caretaker for them. When we take good care of our own parts and they trust us, they don’t have to take over. The exiled children don’t have to desperately bond into our partner. Our protective parts, like the controlling one, or the angry one, or the retreating one, can also relax, instead of dominating the interactions. That makes it easier for our partner to be the secondary caretaker of our vulnerable inner children.

In our sessions, Karen was able to witness how the angry and jealous protectors were revealing some very vulnerable younger parts inside of Frank. When Frank was 5, his dad died, and when he was 8, his mother surprisingly remarried while Frank was staying at his grandparents. When he came home, everything had changed. The little boy experienced a tremendous amount of grief over first losing his dad and then losing the close connection with his mother. He never grew to like the step-father, who he felt was an intruder. When his mom remarried, he felt betrayed and abandoned. He had learned that the people he loves will leave him and betray him.

Using IFS, he was able to re-parent himself and assist his younger selves to let go of the beliefs and emotions they were carrying. After releasing these burdens, his protectors were able to relax. His jealousy as well as his anger were greatly reduced. Karen gained more empathy for him and helped him to work through any remaining jealousy issues. She made sure that she included him in talks and activities with her sons and their families. She started reassuring Frank on a regular basis with words of affirmation that his feelings were as important as her sons’ and that she had no intention of abandoning him.

Karen did her own parts work to discover that underneath her rational part was a younger self that felt overburdened by taking care of her bi-polar mother. Just as Frank’s protectors were triggered by Karen, Karen was triggered by Frank reacting “irrationally” and “unpredictably” just like her mother. The rational voice had become her survival strategy to cope with being the emotional caretaker of a parent. At the same time, she felt resentment about needing to be the caretaker and transferred that to Frank. The retreating protector of hers would also kick in and would instruct her “to run away”, just like she did when she was 16 and moved in with her uncle and aunt.

Karen reparented her vulnerable younger exiled parts as well. Frank began to understand how Karen’s responses had nothing to do with him but everything to do with her childhood experiences. He learned to calmly let her know in different situations that he appreciated her being rational but that he needed her to non-judgmentally acknowledge his feelings.

Our relationships are without doubt our greatest teachers. When our partner pushes our buttons, we are given an opportunity to heal. Schwartz talks about our partner being our “tor-mentor”. Our partner mentors us by giving us an experience of pain and bringing the old attachment wounds to the surface.

“…our partner can be an invaluable tor-mentor—that is, a person who mentors us by tormenting us. It is very difficult to find all our basement children when we’re not in an intimate relationship because often we only become aware of them when they are triggered by an intimate partner. Inevitably, our partner will act like an early caretaker who hurt us, and we will have an extreme reaction—and attachment re-injury. If we follow the trail of emotion to its inner source, we will find yet another exile in need of our love.” (Richard Schwartz, You Are the One You Have Been Waiting For)

 

Join me on Sunday, August 12 for a workshop in Mississauga from 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. You will learn how to work with your parts, especially the critical inner voices and transform them, how to parent your inner child parts and heal them, and how to acquire the ability to lead more and more from Self. For more information or to register, please call me.

If you are curious about finding out more about working with your parts contact me for a free phone consultation. I offer sessions for individuals and couples.

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you reading my blog. If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field in the left sidebar. Thank you for your support!