Understanding and Managing Jealousy in Relationships


Are you a jealous person? This is not a trick question: if you have a shred of self-awareness, you know how much of that green-eyed monster occupies your soul and can own up to it.

For instance, I am one of the most jealous people ever to walk this Earth. I’m not proud of it, it’s just a fact. If my dog pays more attention to someone else than me? Jealous. When I introduce a friend to another friend, do they become super close? Jealous. And when I’m in a romantic situation with someone and their eyes wander or I suspect something sus is going on? Defcon 1, seething with jealousy-jealous.

Do I wish with all of my heart that I could control it and not be like this? Absolutely. But it takes on a life of its own, and there is no tamping it down. This is why we need to talk about understanding and managing jealousy in relationships. While I understand it (c’mon, I’m in therapy), I could use some tips on managing this ugly trait. And maybe you could, too!

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What is Jealousy?

Oh, jealousy, you are such a complex and multifaceted emotion, often emerging in the most random, unexpected moments.

Like when you are strolling down the street, sharing laughs with your significant other, when suddenly, a pang of discomfort shoots through your body. It might be triggered by a fleeting glance from a hot stranger or the mention of a colleague whose humor your partner gets a kick out of.

This hot surge of emotions can include anger, fear, possessiveness, or sadness. Though the ways we experience romantic jealousy vary, they all share the ringing of an internal warning.

Jealousy is frequently mistaken for envy. Envy arises from coveting what others possess, such as a more successful career, a better physique, or a nicer home.

Jealousy, in contrast, is the fear of losing what you already have or the perception that a valued relationship is being threatened.

This instinctive reaction has roots in various sources. Notably, jealousy appears in infants as young as six months, indicating a biological aspect, but cultural influences also play a significant role.

Furthermore, the complex history of possession in relationships adds to these emotions. The crucial point is that feeling jealous is entirely natural. It’s how we handle these emotions that counts. Recognizing jealousy as just another part of our emotional range and not glorifying or dismissing it, is crucial to harnessing it for good instead of evil.

Typically, jealousy manifests as outward conflict, but its roots are usually internal, stemming from feelings of insecurity, a sense of scarcity, or fear, often shaped by past experiences. Perhaps childhood experiences, such as witnessing your parents’ troubled relationship, left you with lingering trust issues. Or, maybe past romantic betrayals have left a mark. Regardless of individual circumstances, everyone has their vulnerabilities, even in relationships where jealousy is acknowledged and sometimes anticipated.

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Don’t Give Jealousy the Time it Wants

Unfortunately, no universal remedy exists for jealousy (can you get on that, science?), but it’s wise to recognize that when jealousy rears its head, our best selves often are not at the wheel—they are in the backseat throwing a tantrum.

At times, a deep breath and a moment to let the emotions calm down is all that’s needed. Other times, belting out a song in the car can help you get rid of these feelings by scream-singing them right out of your body. And occasionally, you might feel the urge to share your inner turmoil with your partner—but tread carefully here.

Acknowledging and expressing our emotions is really important, yet projecting them onto our partner or allowing our insecurities to undermine the relationship without a reality check is neither practical nor empowering.

Relying entirely on your partner’s actions or responses to dictate your happiness, instead of collaboratively establishing fair boundaries, sets a precarious foundation for the relationship.

So if you absolutely have to involve your partner, as shouting Alanis Morrisette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ didn’t tame the monster, try to do it via light-hearted approaches!

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Don’t Make Ultimatums

If and when it’s time for change, you need to do the problem-solving together—never make ultimatums.

Jealousy calls for a change in romantic relationships when it begins restricting your or your partner’s behaviors or when it leads to unhealthy and repetitive behavior patterns.

For instance, texting is often a contentious issue. A partner’s request to avoid texting someone specific might signal trouble, and if that restriction encompasses an entire gender, woo boy, there could be deeper issues of control at play.

People often consent to unrealistic relationship rules to appease their partners, but this is merely a temporary fix that fails to address the root feelings.

Rather than imposing hard limits or ultimatums, talk to each other about your emotions and needs—communicate! Together, come up with a few ways to address them. Could you establish a routine for daily check-in messages? Maybe implement a no-phone time in the evenings? 

Finding the perfect balance may not always be possible, but you can work as a team to reach a place where both feel heard and more secure in the relationship.

And if the situation feels too overwhelming to tackle alone, getting help from an unbiased, professional third party, like a therapist, is always a smart move!

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Test Out Compersion

I had no idea what compersion was until writing this, and you may not either, so here is the official definition as explained by What is Compersion:

“Compersion is our wholehearted participation in the happiness of others. It is the sympathetic joy we feel for somebody else, even when their positive experience does not involve or benefit us directly. Thus, compersion can be thought of as the opposite of jealousy and possessiveness.”

So it’s basically considered jealousy’s opposite and is commonly associated with non-monogamous relationships. It essentially involves feeling joyful, not threatened, when your partner engages romantically with others (that’s a hard no from me, but no judgment!).

While this might sound challenging or straight-up weird, the concept isn’t limited to non-monogamous relationships—celebrating your partner’s successes and deriving joy from their happiness may not completely get rid of your jealousy, but you might find it lessens the emotional sting.

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Acknowledge Your Insecurities

It’s important to honestly recognize your insecurities, understand their origins, acknowledge how you might be perpetuating them, and consider how you can change them.

This self-exploration can be achieved through journaling, meditation, or talking to a mental health professional—they can help you pinpoint the core of your jealousy and help you address and possibly overcome it.

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Discuss Your Feelings with Your Romantic Partner

Communicating openly with your partner about any feelings of jealousy you’re experiencing can help! It allows them to understand your perspective and possibly adapt their actions to improve your sense of security in the relationship.

Asking others about their experiences with jealousy and their coping strategies can help normalize your feelings and reduce any associated shame.

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Say Bye Bye to Judgment

Jealousy often carries a negative stigma, but it’s not inherently bad. Try to view jealousy without judgment, as it can be a signal pointing to unhealed aspects of ourselves. The defensive actions we take to avoid jealousy are often what cause discomfort, not the emotion itself.

Recognize that jealousy is a natural human emotion, with each person experiencing it in their unique context. Approach your jealousy with compassionate curiosity instead of criticism.

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Do Self-Therapy

For jealousy stemming from toxic past relationships or trauma, certain coping exercises can be beneficial. These may include:

  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or tapping.
  • Repeating positive affirmations.
  • Exposure therapy, such as facing jealousy-inducing situations.
  • Grounding exercises.
  • Trust-building exercises.

A therapist specializing in relationships can provide more tailored tools.

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Educate Yourself About the Root of Jealousy

Jealousy often masks deeper emotions, like fear of not being enough or losing someone’s attention. 

Other potential sources include:

  • Ongoing interactions with a partner’s exes
  • Doubts about a partner’s commitment
  • Desiring what others have
  • Environmental influences from a jealousy-heavy upbringing
  • Tendencies towards competition
  • Self-projection issues
  • Insecurity in self-relationships
  • Loss of parents

Understanding these sources can provide good insights into personal jealousy and how to manage it!


While jealousy often stems from internal issues we need to address, it’s not always solely about us. Sometimes, people might intentionally or unintentionally incite jealousy in us to feel a sense of superiority in their own lives.

Understanding more about yourself can illuminate the origins of your jealousy and how to deal with it according to your specific needs. To reduce jealousy in various relationships, such as romantic, friendly, or professional, there are several strategies to explore:

  • Acknowledge and understand your insecurities.
  • Communicate openly with your partner about your feelings.
  • Get insights from others on how they handle jealousy.
  • Rid yourself of judgmental thoughts.
  • Employ grounding techniques, tapping, or other self-help exercises.
  • Educate yourself about jealousy, its triggers, and how to overcome it.

If jealousy significantly disrupts your romantic relationships or overall quality of life, consulting a therapist can really help! Learning to manage jealousy healthily will require time and effort, but you can get there, and it’s well worth it!

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.