Jealousy Advice: When Jealousy Gets Tangled Up with Unclear Agreements
By Susie and Otto Collins
Jealousy is no fun and it can cause a lot of trouble and disconnection in a love relationship or marriage. When you feel fearful or concerned that your partner is going to leave you for someone else, jealousy comes up. From a jealous place you might say or do things that you wouldn’t normally do– and then usually regret it. You might argue, disagree and fight with your partner which pushes you further apart.
There are many possible relationship scenarios in which jealousy becomes tangled up with the fact that the people in the relationship have not made clear agreements with one another– or perhaps agreements have been made but they are not being kept.
It can be that jealousy is dismissed as one person’s “problem” because he or she is holding onto the past or is simply insecure and can’t handle anyone else getting attention.
Jealousy can most certainly be primarily about one person believing that all of his or her partners will cheat. It can also be the case that a person might feel so unworthy of happiness and love that others are seen as an instant threat to the person’s love relationship. These are very real issues that contribute to jealousy and should not be discounted.
However, there are times when the relationship dynamics become even more confused and messier than usual. It is quite possible that jealousy is only one-dimension of the challenges a couple faces. Few or no agreements in a relationship can create a large gap between the two people as each of their unspoken expectations and relationship rules are unwittingly broken or ignored.
When there is little or no communication about what each person in the relationship expects, the risk of upset, hurt and disconnection only grows larger. Whether you want to admit it or not, you have rules. These rules might stem from your moral upbringing or it could pertain to strong preferences you have for how you like to live your life. They might include an expectation that you and your mate will be monogamous or they might not.
[box] Jennifer’s live-in boyfriend Paul has always been active on the internet. He has accounts on various social networking sites and also stays in e-mail contact with many friends and acquaintances, including a few partners from his past.
Jennifer always felt a little uncomfortable with Paul’s continued and regular online contact with his ex- girlfriends but she didn’t want to cramp his style so she never communicated how she felt about it to him.
However, when Jennifer accidentally found nude photos of Paul’s former partners on their shared computer, Jennifer felt upset and intensely jealous. She hasn’t told Paul that she found the photos and now is worried that he’ll leave her to reunite with one of these women.
In fact, she’s considered secretly contacting the women telling them that they cannot e-mail with Paul anymore. To make matters worse, now when Paul and Jennifer are making love she feels awkward and fearful. She worries that Paul is only thinking of his ex-girlfriends and those photos….
What relationship agreements do you have with your partner?
If you are in a situation similar to that of Paul and Jennifer, take some time to look at the relationship agreements that you do have with your partner. It might help you to understand your jealous feelings– or those of your partner– if you consider the specific agreements that you two have made to one another.
You might be surprised to realize that you two have not communicated clearly about the topic of monogamy, for example and what that means to each of you. Perhaps Paul and Jennifer have never explicitly made an agreement about being monogamous with one another. Maybe they each assumed that the other held the same relationship rule around what exactly being monogamous means.
As uncomfortable as you might feel talking about something that you believe should be assumed, consider having the conversation anyway. A lot of hurt and distance between a couple could be avoided if only more honest and clear talk about relationship rules happened!
What relationship agreements would you like to make?
After you have a better idea of what you and your mate have agreed upon together, you can begin to decide what you want to make agreements about. If might also be that you two made agreements a long time ago and one or neither of you are keeping that agreement. If so, it might be time to talk again about expectations and then make new agreements.
Start out by going within and figuring out what rules and expectations you have for your current relationship.
Jennifer knows that she considers holding onto nude photos of an ex-partner to be a form of cheating. She is not only uncomfortable with Paul’s behavior, she also feels betrayed by it. Jennifer makes an intention to address her jealous feelings and she also plans to sit down with Paul and finally share with him her relationship rules. She hopes that they can make an agreement about the photos and his online communications that will be acceptable to both of them.
When you state your personal relationship rules and make a request to your partner for an agreement, be sure to make it a true request. Yes, you probably feel strongly about certain issues. And yes, you have every right to be in a relationship where what you want is respected and honored.
At the same time, don’t present your rules and agreements requests in a judgmental way. Try to stay open and just listen to where your partner is coming from. Grant him or her the same attentiveness and respect that you desire. Look for places where each of your relationship rules overlap. From that space, create agreements that you both are willing to keep.
When jealousy comes up in your relationship– for you or your partner– it’s always a signal to step back and take a closer look at your own self-beliefs as well as your relationship dynamics.
Keep your focus on the kind of relationship you want and courageously yet lovingly communicate that vision to your partner. Know that you can both be happy and move closer together.
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