How to control the green-eyed monster
By Dr. Scott Haltzman
Question: Why do I get so jealous when my partner talks to other people?
Answer: When you first connected with your partner and looked into their eyes, it felt like he or she was the only person in the room. As you get deeper into your relationship and call yourselves a couple, the realization hits you: You and your partner are not alone on this planet. There are others! Are they a threat?
When we are in a committed relationship, we assume the connection we have with each other will be strong enough to fend off outside threats. In some ways, this you-belong-to-me-and-I-belong-to-you mentality is sweet; it's the stuff of pop songs and poetry. But sometimes the intensity of that connection is too strong.
When one partner sees everyone whom his or her partner comes into contact with as a potential threat, it is a sign that jealousy has taken hold. Shakespeare called it "the green-eyed monster," and once it gets a hold of your relationship, it sinks its teeth in and can rip it apart.
What causes jealousy?
If you've got strong feelings of jealousy, it's probably a sign that you don't have enough trust in your partner that he or she is being faithful to you. That lack of trust may be prompted by one of four factors.
1) You may feel insecure about your self-worth. In these cases, either you've been raised to believe, or some part of your inner self feels, that you just don't measure up. Because you don't love yourself, you can't believe that others would love you, so you live in fear that your partner's "true" feelings will be revealed and she will leave.
2) You're prone to cheating on your partner -- maybe even have done so. Knowing what you're capable of, you project that behavior onto your partner
3) You and your partner haven't yet figured out how to establish safe boundaries within the relationship. Having a tight bond is about building walls around your love with windows that allow others to be part of it -- not doors where competing lovers can walk right in and disrupt your home. Because you don't know what's permissible within the relationship and what's not, you're constantly on your toes.
4) Your mate is cheating on you. Cheating doesn't have to include sex; it often has to do with making emotional connections to others outside the relationship. If your partner is sharing things about your private life with attractive members of the opposite sex, it robs a sense of intimacy from your relationship and leaves you feeling vulnerable.
Knowing the factors that lead to jealousy is an important first step to getting things fixed. Put your focus on building trust. If you've got some growing up to do, therapy may help. Both of you have to learn how to set boundaries in the relationship. That requires respecting your mate's definition of limits of outside relationships from the start.
Over time, as trust builds, you and your partner can redefine what feels safe for the relationship. After all, when you've got a great relationship, you want to share it with the world.