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J ealousy. Jealousy can be defined as the vigilant maintaining or guarding of something. Normal jealousy is a pang that comes on in an instant, one which we can usually dismiss on our own. Unhealthy jealous behavior happens when we indulge that feeling and act impulsively from a place of suspicion and insecurity. People that are prone to intense jealousy or possessiveness often harbor feelings of inadequacy or inferiority and have a tendency to compare themselves to others. Jealousy, at its core, is a byproduct of fear, fear of not being good enough, fear of loss.


Does my boss think more of the other junior associate than of me? Why did my best friend invite her to the movies, but not me? Maybe we fear that someone else is going to take away a connection we have with someone else, says Stern, who is also a d psychoanalyst who has treated individuals and couples for 30 years.

When it's ok to be jealous in a relationship

But, unchecked, consuming jealousy can be toxic and destroy relationships. From an evolutionary perspective, the purpose of jealousy has always been to motivate us into action to help secure our survival and the survival of our offspring, Baland Jalala neuroscientist at Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine, says. Jalal co-authored a paper reviewing the current understanding of the evolutionary basis of jealousy and envy that was published in in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Our friends and our mates help us survive, reproduce, and do what we want to do in our day-to-day lives. It can be useful if you recognize the feeling and respond in a way that helps you address a problem or something you are struggling with in a relationshipStern says. Jealousy becomes toxic for relationships, however, if left unchecked, Freeman adds. Trust is a key component of any healthy, successful relationship.

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Jealousy breeds suspicion, doubt, and mistrust, which can snowball into pretty intense emotions and behaviors, he says. We may become preoccupied with the fear of betrayal. It happens because the emotion centers of the brain the ones that make us feel jealous are wired separately from the reasoning centers of the brain, Jalal explains.

7 ways to handle a jealous boyfriend

And that means our emotions can override rationality and logic. At one point in our evolutionary history, being triggered by jealousy in an extreme way may have been important for our survival.

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But today, that type of aggressive response is a sort of maladaptive one, Jalal notes. What should you do to better address twinges of jealousy in a productive way when they do show up?

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Here are a few steps to try. Does it really warrant you being jealous of the person your best friend invited instead of you? Jealousy gets triggered because you feel your relationship might be at risk.

Jealousy in a relationship: when it's okay and when it's not

Rather than assuming someone else is instigating that threat, stay in your own relationship, Stern says. Focusing on your relationship with that person helps you address whatever might be wrong, rather than cycling into a downward spiral of blame and hurt feelings. The things that you tell yourself will often drive the emotions you feel. Jealous fears about a partner often have roots in negative views about ourselvesFreeman notes. Do you get jealous of a partner spending time socializing with others because you actually think your relationship is in jeopardy? Or are you insecure about not having your own hobbies outside of the relationship like he does?

10 ways to deal with a jealous boyfriend

Resting all of your self-worth on one relationship can breed insecurity, Freeman says. Make sure you have interests and activities outside of your relationship. All relationships benefit from mutually agreed upon rules when it comes to trust and faithfulness. Opening that conversation, especially when you feel distance or feel someone pulling away, can be very helpful. If you are going to talk about it, what you say and how you say it matters, Stern says.

Before you start the conversation, think about what you want from it, she says. But sometimes someone constantly checking up or being overly suspicious can itself cue mistrust. Has this person given you a reason to mistrust them?

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Remember, jealousy activates us. Thoughtful conversations about why someone in a relationship is feeling jealous and what might help mitigate those jealous pangs can be helpful.

What your jealous feelings are telling you (and what you should do about them)

Heated conversations where someone is accusing someone else of neglecting the other person can spiral really quickly, Stern says. Want more tips like these?

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IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser. Share this —. Follow better. Jealousy is hard-wired in all of us. Explainers What is gaslighting? And how do you know if it's happening to you? How to create a life based on what you care about May 7, Decide if your jealousy is being driven by your own insecurities Jealous fears about a partner often have roots in negative views about ourselvesFreeman notes.

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