How Do I Deal With an Overly Jealous Partner?
Much of the advice on this page is drawn from work of Bowlby, Ainsworth, Shaver, and Hazan’s work on attachment theory (see romantic attachments).
Being involved with an overly jealous romantic partner can be extremely difficult. An insecure partner can be intrusive, invasive, irritating, and annoying.
And if you want to deal with an insecure lover effectively, it helps to understand the nature of the problem.
Chronic jealousy is often caused by being anxious about love and intimacy that is, having an anxious-ambivalent style of attachment (see attachment styles). Such individuals are constantly worried that their romantic partners do not love them and that their partners will eventually abandon them.
Ironically, extremely jealous individuals often behave in ways which make their fears come true.
Ineffective Ways of Dealing with a Jealous Partner
Most people handle an overly jealous partner in ways which makes the problem worse.
When a partner is jealous they often behave in ways that are controlling, manipulative, invasive and overly needy (see overcoming jealousy). When partners behave this way, the natural response is to pull back, withdraw, and reassert one’s autonomy and independence, which in turn usually involves some secrecy and deception (see overly inquisitive and protect privacy).
For instance, if a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, calls ten times a day checking to see what you might be up to, the natural response is to avoid such calls, return them less frequently, and become secretive and evasive when answering such questions.
Again, it's normal to try to hide things from partners who are overly inquisitive or who deal poorly to the truth (see react poorly).
The problem with using secrecy and withdrawal to deal with a jealous partner is that such responses only create more anxiety on the part of the individual who is already suspicious and jealous. As a result, jealous individuals act in ways which are even more disruptive (i.e., more phone calls, snooping, invasive questions, pouting, and so forth).
Very quickly, the following pattern becomes the norm: jealous individuals become more jealous while their partners begin to hide and conceal more of their activities, thoughts, and feelings. Over time this pattern of behavior can become a source of conflict—pulling many couples even farther apart. And if this pattern is not broken, partners often turn to someone outside of their relationship for love and understanding.
How to Deal with a Jealous Lover
A better way to deal with an insecure and overly suspicious partner is to deal with his or her fears and anxieties directly.
Talk to a Partner about their Fears and Anxieties
It helps to let a jealous partner know that he or she can talk to you about his or her feelings; that you will listen to a partner’s fears and anxieties and try to understand where he or she is coming from.
Try not to dismiss or discount a jealous partner’s feelings (i.e., “Not that again… You're crazy… Where is this coming from?”). Discounting a spouse’s feelings only makes that person feel more misunderstood, and it doesn't help solve the problem.
On the other hand, there are many benefits to be gained if you can get a jealous lover to talk about his or her feelings and make sure that he or she feels understood (see talk about problems).
People who are able to talk about their feelings and problems in a supportive environment often move beyond such feelings and worries more effectively.
Be Available and Responsive
It's also important to be available and responsive to a jealous partner’s needs (see romantic attachments). If you are there when you partner or lover needs you (i.e., you answer the phone), this will help to calm your partner down.
If you consistently demonstrate to an insecure partner that you can be counted on, over time he or she will become more trusting and less suspicious. This is not easy to do, because it takes a lot of energy and often you will have to resist the urge to withdraw from an overly demanding husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.
Reassure a Jealous Partner
It also helps to consistently remind an overly jealous partner that you love him or her, that you will be there, and that you will work through problems together.
Finally, it helps to keep in mind that while it's possible to help an insecure lover become more secure, such changes do not happen over night. It helps to think about dealing with such problems in terms of months and perhaps years. And in many cases, counseling is often needed (see counseling resources).
You can also take a look at people who are having a difficult time dealing with their partner’s jealousy (see partner’s jealousy).
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