I have handful of deal-breakers in a relationship, and jealousy is right near the top of my list — both having a partner who is jealous without reason, and being with someone who makes me feel jealous. That’s because jealousy and all the emotional turmoil it stirs up is just not something I am willing to put up with. However, like all deal-breakers, they usually start as lessons you learn from past experiences, so I have been there, done that, and experienced firsthand all the painful ways jealousy can ruin a relationship by rotting it from the inside out.
That said, is jealousy always a bad thing? I reached out to experts to talk about the effects of jealousy on a relationship and, on this point, they were somewhat split. There is, according to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent relationship therapist in Los Angeles, some amount of jealousy that can be healthy, but only in very small doses. "A little healthy jealousy — and I mean a little bit of jealousy — can be a good thing. It says that we love our partner enough and that they are important enough to feel threatened at the possible loss of them," he tells Elite Daily. However, he adds that, for the most part, it's detrimental to relationships. Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Elite Daily that she takes a more negative view of the emotion. "Jealousy is not healthy. Jealousy involves resentment, fear, suspicion and rivalry, all of which are toxic in a relationship," she says. But here’s the good news: Jealousy doesn't have to be your romantic destiny, according to the experts. You can opt out of relationships that make you feel this way or do the personal work you need to do in order to stop perpetuating your own jealousy. The first step is to understand the impact this negative emotion has on relationships, as the experts explain here.
1. Jealousy breeds insecurity.
One of the most damaging aspects of jealousy, says Dr. Brown, is the impact it has on the way we feel about ourselves. “Jealousy can make us doubt our own self-worth,” he says. Over time, this can escalate and become all-consuming, Diana Dorell, intuitive dating coach and author of The Dating Mirror: Trust Again, Love Again, tells Elite Daily, which can both negatively impact you and the relationship. “If you're feeling jealous all the time, your energy contracts and you are suddenly focused on the other person and what could go wrong vs. what you appreciate about them and the relationship,” she explains. “They may start to pull away without realizing why.”
2. Jealousy can drive you apart.
Dr. Brown explains that when you are afraid you’re going to lose someone you love, there may be a temptation to become possessive and hold on tighter. Unfortunately, this often has the opposite effect on a relationship. “Jealousy can ruin a relationship by making us too possessive,” explains Dr. Brown. “Excessive jealousy can drive our partner away — and especially if we are jealous for no good reason,” he adds.
3. It creates an unhealthy balance in the relationship
A healthy relationship, Richardson explains, has a healthy balance between the people involved, and jealousy negatively affects the relationship by throwing that essential balance out of harmony. “When jealousy is present it creates a power differential,” Richardson says. “When one person is seen as better or more valuable in a relationship, the power dynamic shifts. This is really unhealthy as both partners should view themselves on an even playing field where both contribute value to the partnership.”
4. It causes a breakdown in communication.
Healthy communication is the foundation of a good relationship. However, when a partner is jealous, Richardson says it’s a very effective way to break down those open lines of communication. “Jealousy often requires one person to defend themselves,” she explains. “When a person is defensive, they can't listen and get to a solution.”
5. It creates a negative cycle in the relationship
The energy you put into a relationship is what you typically get back, and that includes jealousy, warns Dorell. “If you are focused on the negative, then you will just recognize more of that, and the Universe mirrors that back. Flip it and focus on trust and confidence within yourself around the relationship and you get more of that,” she suggests. “ What do you want to choose?”
What to do if jealousy is ruining your relationship.
If jealousy is ruining your relationship, or has in the past, the good news is there are solutions. “The very first thing is to try and become more self-aware of what your feelings are and where they are coming from,” says Dr. Brown. He suggests asking yourself, "Is there any real evidence that I should be feeling jealous, or do I tend to get jealous easily, even if there is no evidence that I need to feel threatened?"
Richardson agrees that it’s essential to get to the root of why you are feeling this way. “Typically, jealousy shows up for one of two reasons. First, someone brought jealousy in because of past experiences. Second, because trust was broken in the relationship and that trust has not been healed,” she says. Richardson adds that it's important to look for patterns in order to access how seriously to take the situation. “Ask yourself if this is a one-time thing or if it's a pervasive feeling and you never really trusted your partner from the beginning,” she suggests. If the answer is the latter, then she says it’s time to open up about what you are feeling. “Have a heart to heart with your partner,” she concludes.
The takeaway here is that you aren’t doomed to have to deal with jealousy, but the experts warn not to ignore those feelings if they do exist. They say this is an opportunity to figure out why you feel the way you do and work with your partner to come to a resolution. If you ultimately decide there isn’t one with this partner, then follow your heart and do what you know to be right for you. You deserve to feel safe and secure with you partner, and to be with someone who feels the same way about you.