how to communicate with spouse

5 Myths about Jealousy

Last night I had a strange dream. I watched my wife speed away on a motorcycle with Johnny Depp. She clung to him so tightly it was obvious they were having an affair. In that instant I felt a combination of jealousy and admiration of her choice in Johnny Depp. Really, who could blame her?

3:30 am. Wide awake. I spent the next two hours thinking about the phenomenon of jealousy. Such are my nights.

Sluggishly, I dragged myself out of bed this morning and decided to put my night’s “work” to more productive use. I hope you find the result helpful .

Myth 1:   Jealousy is bad. Jealousy is natural, part of the human condition and our DNA. To feel no sense of jealousy, no fear of losing our beloved means we don’t care. This garden variety of jealousy isn’t what hurts relationships. What does is its evil twin— excessive and obsessive jealousy.

When we feel jealous, we need to take a moment (or a few deep breaths) to consider rationally whether a threat to our relationship actually exists. Or did our jealousy trigger our wild imagination and fear of loss? At times like this it’s helpful to ask ourselves the question: Where’s the evidence? Does the partner in question have a history of flirtation or infidelity? Is the threat of loss real or are we being overly possessive?

Myth 2:   Jealousy is a major turnoff. Individual reactions to a jealous partner vary widely so it is hard to generalize. That being said, a little jealousy can shake-up the complacency often found in long term relationships and serve as a reminder that no one can/should be taken for granted. Smug complacency can be far more toxic than a smidge of jealousy. A little jealousy can be a turn-on. It’s affirming to see your partner through an admirer’s eyes. It is nice that others find our partner attractive

Myth 3:   Jealous people are insecure. In an extremely primal way, jealousy touches on our fear of loss. People who are aware of their jealousy may be more in touch with their own emotionality. They may be keenly appreciative of the importance of their love relationship and partner to them. After all, we live in a world of constant change, a world where stability and permanence are illusions. Our partner is a tangible jewel.

Myth 4:   Jealousy leads to controlling or violent behavior. Jealousy per se doesn’t lead to bad behavior. What does is how the jealousy expresses itself. We don’t need to act on all of our thoughts or feelings. Human beings have the intellect to make choices and reign in emotion. In cases where a person has difficulty managing him or her self and becomes controlling and/or violent other strategies are necessary. Professional help may be required.

Myth 5:   It’s a mistake to share feelings of jealousy with your partner. It reveals too much vulnerability/weakness. True love thrives on vulnerability and authenticity. By talking about your feelings of jealousy, you are saying, I care about you and would be greatly pained to lose such a precious part of my life.

So the next time the green-eyed monster inhabits your body take a few deep breaths and rationally look at the evidence. If there is none and you’ve let your imagination run amuck, be grateful of how precious your partner is to you. Then make sure you tell your beloved what you love and value most about them.

Jerry Duberstein, Ph.D. is the co-author with Mary Ellen Goggin (his wife) of the book, Relationship Transformation: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too .  You can learn more about their Intensive Couples Retreats and read more blogs on their website free & connected.

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Jerry is a patient, warm-hearted therapist dedicated to guiding couples to breakthroughs. He has counseled individuals and couples for over 40 years, in a variety of settings. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology at Saybrook Institute in San Francisco and a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Antioch New England University. Jerry co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Mary Ellen Goggin — and they were married by chapter 3. Jerry brings a great depth and breadth of expertise to his work, and distills nuanced theories into actionable simplicity. He loves The New Yorker, dew-laden fairways, and dusty delta blues. His revolution: changing the world, one couple at a time. Read more about the retreats