Healthy Ways to Express Jealousy in Relationships

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Jealousy is a common human emotion, and almost all of us have experienced it at times in relationships, particularly romantic relationships. Sometimes these feelings of jealousy are fleeting, but other times they can take over, and we may feel the need to express these feelings to our partners.

The question is how to do this in a healthy and helpful way so that our feelings and concerns are heard, and the lines of communication and trust in the relationship remain intact.

Let’s take a look at what feelings of jealousy mean in romantic relationships, and how to open up a conversation with your partner about these feelings.

Is It Normal to Be Jealous in Relationships?

It is very common to experience feelings of jealousy in relationships, whether or not your partner is doing anything that might justify these feelings, like flirting with someone else, or cheating in the relationship.

There are theories that jealousy has an evolutionary basis, and that humans evolved to be particularly protective of their romantic relationships to ward off the possibility of infidelity.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Types of Jealousy

Most of us perceive jealousy in a negative light. We think of a jealous person as someone who feels anxious and insecure about their relationship. Or we might think of a possessive, angry partner who is suspicious of every move their significant other makes, whether justified or not.

But while obsessive forms of jealousy can absolutely be unhealthy—and at times can turn into emotional abuse or violence—sometimes jealousy is a healthy emotion to experience in a relationship.

When looked through a different lens, a jealous partner may be someone who feels passionately about their relationship, and wants to build a foundation of trust by expressing their needs and boundaries.

In fact, researchers have found jealously in relationships to be correlated with:

  • Increased love for one’s partner
  • Greater feelings of being “in love
  • More relationship stability

In other words, jealousy can sometimes be a healthy component of relationships, and when shared and expressed in a positive way, may increase the overall happiness and longevity of the relationship.

Addressing Infidelity in Relationships

It’s important to keep in mind that if you believe your partner is being unfaithful—whether are having sexual relations with someone behind your back, having an emotional affair, or breaking an agreed upon rule for how to conduct themselves in your relationship—you are facing more than a cut-and-dry case of jealousy.

If you have reason to believe that your partner has broken a serious boundary in your relationship, feeling upset and hurt is a normal reaction, and while you may also be experiencing jealousy, addressing this issue is not as straight-forward as learning to express your jealousy in a healthy way.

You will also need to focus on how to address your suspicions of infidelity in a clear and self-respecting way. Talking to a trusted friend or therapist beforehand can help you do this; you may also want to consider couples therapy as a way to work through the aftermath of infidelity with your partner.

5 Healthy Ways to Express Jealousy

If you are experiencing feelings of jealousy in your relationship, you don’t have to hold them inside, and it’s not healthy to do so. That being said, coming at your partner with your feelings in an explosive or aggressive manner isn’t the best approach either.

The healthiest way to express your feelings of jealousy is to be honest, direct, and self-affirming, but also sensitive to your partner’s emotions and boundaries.

Start With Some Personal Introspection

Some people are more prone to jealousy than others, especially people who deal with low self-esteem, insecurity, and anxiety. Loneliness and an insecure attachment style can also make you more likely to experience jealousy in a romantic relationship.

Spending some time considering your own personal reactions to your partners’ other relationships, behaviors, or other jealousy-triggering activities, can offer you insights about what is going on, and what your feelings of jealousy might be telling you. Consider discussing your feelings with a therapist or good friend.

Ground Yourself Before the Conversation

It’s best not to start the conversation in a place of heightened, charged emotion, even if that is how your jealousy often feels to you. If possible, take some time to write down what you want to say beforehand, as this can help you collect your thoughts. Practice what you want to say by rehearsing alone or doing a mock conversation with a friend. Do some deep breathing and meditation before the conversation, if those methods work for you.

Share Concerns, Not Accusations

It will be easy for your partner to become defensive if you start listing all the things that they do that make you jealous. Instead, center on your feelings and concerns, rather than coming from a place of blame or accusations.

Consider using “I” statements, rather than “you” statements. For example:

  • Say, “I feel jealous when I see you do X, and I wanted to talk about that” rather than “You make me really jealous when you do X.”
  • Say, “I want to share some jealous feelings I’ve been having,” rather than, “You're making me so jealous lately!”

Be Patient and Compassionate

Even if you bring up these feelings as sensitively as possible, you should expect that your partner will have their own strong feelings in response. After all, you are telling them that something they are doing, or something about their relationship with you, is triggering feelings of jealousy in you. It’s understandable that they may feel defensive or upset.

You can expect some difficult feelings to surface during this relationship. Just as you are opening up and allowing your own feelings to surface, try to give some space to your partner’s feelings as well. Remember that they may need some time to digest this all, and they may not immediately have a rational or compassionate response.

Give It Time

Hashing out your feelings of jealousy in your relationship, and your partner’s reaction to it, may take several conversations. The hope is that your partner will be able to hear your feelings, and express their own.

Your partner may be open to changing certain behaviors that are making you jealous, but the solution might simply be that they need to reassure you that you can trust them to keep your relationship boundaries in mind.

These conversations may also serve as opportunities to go over the “rules” of the relationship so that feelings of jealousy can be kept at bay. For example, everyone flirts a little from time to time, but what amount or what kind of flirting different partners find acceptable varies. Some partners feel OK with their partners talking about their exes, or continuing to have a platonic relationship with them, but others don’t. You and your partner need to be as clear about these kinds of scenarios as possible.

Consider Couples Therapy

Sometimes conversations with your partner about jealousy don’t go as well as you’d hoped. That’s understandable, because jealousy is a very strong and difficult emotion. Many couples benefit from a few sessions with a couples therapist to work through these feelings.

Couples therapy can offer a space for you to express your feelings, learn more effective communication and conflict resolution skills, gain greater understanding of the stressors present in your relationship, and learn to improve trust.

A Word From Verywell

Jealousy is a complex, uncomfortable emotion, yet it’s one that comes up frequently in romantic relationships. You shouldn’t feel ashamed if you are experiencing jealousy: it’s one of the emotions that makes us human. That said, it’s important to find healthy ways to express it. You want to come from a calm, direct, non-reactionary place, if possible, and give your partner space to process what you are telling them.

If you are finding it difficult to communicate your feelings to your partner, or if you and your partner are having trouble discussing these issues, you may want to consider individual or couples therapy.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a health and parenting writer, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and mom to two awesome sons.