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Friday, June 1, 2018

How Your Jealousy Drives Your Partner Away

In previous posts, I have indicated that it is not abnormal to have feelings of jealousy and to sometimes feel anxious and angry with your partner. Yes, it may bother you that your partner mentions a previous lover or seems extra friendly while talking with an attractive person. We have seen how your jealousy can trigger thoughts such as
mind-reading (“He finds her attractive”), personalizing (“I am losing it — I am no longer attractive”), or fortune-telling (“She will leave me for someone else”). It’s understandable that if these thoughts prove to be true, you would feel anxious and angry. But there are adaptive ways of dealing with your feelings — and maladaptive ways. Look at some typical things that you might find yourself doing, and ask yourself: “Will this give me the security that I want?”
  • Interrogating your partner. This happens when you put your partner on trial and inquire about every detail that you can imagine: “What did they say? What did you say? Who else was there? Did you find them attractive?” It’s possible that “incriminating evidence” will be disclosed, and then you will be vindicated in your role as prosecutor. But it is also possible that this will backfire. If you are interrogating your partner, it is also likely you are alienating the person you want to be close to.
  • Checking for information on social media, text messages, and email. In this case, you are trolling your partner, looking for clues. One man who was dating a woman he loved would check her out on social media and get upset when a “friend” would comment on her postings. When he did this checking, it increased his jealousy and led him to interrogate his partner even more. This added to their conflict and created more uncertainty in the relationship.
  • Following your partner. In some cases, you might find yourself following your partner to the health club, work, or social events. Now, it is possible that your partner is cheating, but if this is not the case, and you don’t have overwhelming evidence, this kind of stalking will surely alienate them, which will add to your insecurity and jealousy. People don’t like being stalked.
  • Withdrawing to see if they are still interested. Sometimes you may think that pouting and withholding and withdrawing will “send a message.” If your partner really loved you, then they would check out what is wrong and try to make you feel better. Maybe. But maybe they will think that you are too moody, and they might withdraw, too. We know that in relationships, negatives often lead to negatives. The two of you may unravel, because you are not connecting, but are practicing reciprocal disconnection.
  • Asking for reassurance that you are still attractive. This is a natural tendency that many of us have, but continually seeking reassurance may make your partner feel that you are too insecure, too high-maintenance, and too demanding. Accept and appreciate compliments when you get them, but don’t go fishing. It will only add to your insecurity and, ironically, lead to more reassurance seeking.
  • Trying to control your partner. Sometimes you think that you can convince your partner not to be around other people who are “tempting” or “appealing.” You might try to guilt trip them, warn them, or make them feel uneasy. But no one likes to be controlled, and your partner may become more defiant and intentionally insist that they should be able to do whatever they want to do.
Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., is the author of The Jealousy Cure, Anxiety Free, The Worry Cure, and Beat the Blues. He is a clinical professor of psychology at Weill-Cornell Medical School.

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