When you’re in a long-term relationship with a person you love, it can be strange when the pangs of jealousy suddenly surface. Seeing your partner flirt with someone else or subtly check someone out on the street can be jarring and unnerving.
Other times, you’re jealous for seemingly no reason. Your partner’s phone lights up and it’s a woman’s name or you notice the way another person checks them out.
Suddenly your quiet sense of comfort can feel rocky and uncertain.
Then you catch yourself (most of the time) and realize how ridiculous you’re being.
And yet, the feelings are there. Are they normal? Is the reemergence of jealousy in a long-term relationship a sign of trouble or could it be, as therapist and author Esther Perel writes, a thing that rekindles the spark?
We asked a clinical sexologist for help on the subject of jealousy and whether it has a place in healthy partnerships.
Jealousy is a normal human emotion.
Despite what you want to believe about perfect relationships, where no one ever feels insecure or uncomfortable, you’re not going to experience that in real life. The truth is, we all get jealous sometimes. We’re human.
“Jealousy is a normal experience that happens throughout relationships,” Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist, tells BRIDES. “Imagine jealousy on a scale of 1 to 10, sometimes you may experiencing it intensely towards a 10 and other times it may be less intense around a 1.”
There are times when you’re so jealous your partner, for instance, even glances at an attractive person, you think you might die. And other times, you may experience jealousy in a milder form. Either way: “Accept that you will experience jealousy at different times in a relationship,” Overstreet adds.
TBH, your partner might not even be the one who provokes the feelings.
No, being jealous isn't always a sign of trouble in the relationship. Overstreet assures us that it is completely normal. In fact, your partner might not even do anything to provoke jealous feelings, but you might feel them anyway.
“You can experience jealousy even if you completely trust your partner, because it isn't always based on their actions,” says Overstreet. “It can surface when you perceive behavior that is occurring in the relationship that may feel threatening to the stability of the relationship.”
(The key word being perceive.)
Or course, that's not to say you should also let yourself be gaslit into believing there isn't something else questionable going on. Sometimes, you should trust your gut.
It’s really an internal thing.
It’s really about you and your feelings. If you’re feeling jealous regularly, you might want to look inside yourself, rather than at your partner. “Often it is a reflection of how you feel about yourself or the relationship. It can be a sign of trouble in the relationship if it is impacting your behavior or causing negativity between you and your partner,” Overstreet tells us.
Acknowledge your feelings
If you’re feeling jealous, don’t push the feelings away or diminish them. It’s OK to feel your feelings. “Recognize what you are experiencing as jealousy,” Overstreet explains. “Avoid denial of your feelings by giving yourself permission to acknowledge them. It's okay that you feel jealous, now figure out how you will deal with it.”
When you’re feeling jealous remind yourself that this a normal feeling, and take time to understand and recognize why these feelings are tossing and turning inside of you.
Talk about it with your partner.
This is not to say that you should blame your partner for something they did or didn’t do. If you’re in a trusting, loving, committed relationship, your partner isn’t likely isn’t consciously behaving in a way to purposely anger or hurt you.
Talk to them about how you’re feeling so they can help you and calm you. Let them know this is about you and your feelings. “Talk with your partner about your feeling jealousy by using 'I' statements which will decrease their defensiveness,” Overstreet tells us.
If your partner IS doing something to intentionally (or unintentionally) upset you, let them know. “If there is an action or behavior that your partner is doing that is leading you to these feelings be direct about it,” Overstreet explains. “Don't expect your partner to read your mind. Don't test them by seeing if they will come to you and check on you about what you are experiencing. It's your feelings, therefore, it's your responsibility to speak up.”
If your partner is not receptive to these conversations and instead tries to invalidate your feelings or attempts to make you feel “crazy,” it might be time to consider a couple’s counselor to work through some of the deeper issues plaguing your relationship.