How can I deal with feeling jealous?

Jealousy is a feeling that we’ve all experienced, but there’s something about being in a romantic relationship that really brings it into its own. It can make or break a relationship, so it’s important to know how to identify and deal with jealousy effectively. Luckily, we’ve spoken to psychologist Honey Langcaster-James to get the low-down.

Jealousy is a powerful emotion that no one ever enjoys feeling, but everyone will probably experience at some point in a relationship.

People often confuse 'jealousy' with ‘envy’, but there is a subtle difference. Put simply, envy is when we desire something that someone else has (“I’m so envious of his ability to backflip!”). Jealousy, on the other hand, is what we feel when we are afraid that something that matters to us might be taken away (“I’m so jealous that my best friend is spending so much time with someone else”). In relationships, we tend to start feeling jealous when we become concerned that someone we care about might prefer someone else, or that we might be at risk of rejection.

Sometimes feeling jealous within a relationship can lead you to have insecure and critical thoughts about yourself and about the state of your relationship. These worries and thoughts might then tempt you to behave possessively towards someone, as you try to hold onto them because you feel the relationship is under threat. However, it’s important to remember that feeling jealous doesn’t give you any right to try to control someone else’s behaviour in order to make you feel better.

You need to learn to cope with feelings of jealousy, reflect on them and make choices that are right for you. Never let your jealousy overpower you. If it does, you could end up behaving in ways that you might later regret.

What should I do when I feel jealous?

When you’re feeling jealous it can be helpful to ‘STOP’ and work through these four key steps.

S: Slow things down

First of all, pause. Notice that you’re feeling jealous but remind yourself that, just because you’re feeling something, doesn’t mean you have to act on those feelings. Take a deep breath and give yourself time to think things through. You can still choose to act later if you want to, when you are feeling calm and in control.

T: Think things through

Consider why you are feeling jealous. Is someone you care about really giving you a cause to think that your relationship is at risk, or are your feelings coming from your own insecurities and fears? If so, they may be connected to earlier experiences in your life, so try to take a step back and see things for how they really are.

O: Open up

Be honest about how you feel and talk to the person whose actions are leading you to feel jealous. It’s okay to explain how you’re feeling and even to point out any behaviours that might be making you feel threatened. But you need to be willing to listen to their side of things too.

P: Personal responsibility

It’s important to take personal responsibility for your own feelings and choices. If you’re repeatedly feeling jealous in your relationship, try to work out whether there is any real cause for you to feel jealous. If there is, it’s your responsibility to address it.

Feeling jealous? STOP.

If it’s your insecurities and fears leading you to perceive things as threatening to your relationship when they actually aren’t, you need to work on your own feelings. You shouldn’t expect someone else to behave differently in order to make you feel better. Find ways to reassure yourself, build your own confidence and boost your self-esteem so you don’t keep feeling so insecure. Otherwise, your feelings of jealousy, which are designed to alert you to when a relationship is at risk, could actually lead to the end of an otherwise healthy relationship.

Although jealousy can be a horrible feeling, with Honey’s advice it doesn’t have to escalate into the end of your relationship. STOP and remember that you’re only human – you’ve got this.

An A – Z of love and dating
Six signs you are in a toxic relationship
Does your relationship pass the health test?