Beyoncé said it best: “I’m just jealous, I’m just human, don’t judge me.” And yet, jealousy is an emotion most people are still ashamed to admit they actually feel. Thanks to movies like Single White Female and Fatal Attraction, pop culture has inaccurately taught us that all women who are jealous are psychopathic and unstable. But although jealousy can be annoying and painful, it doesn’t have to rule your life (and transform you into a rabbit murderer). Here are five healthy ways to deal when you’re feeling jealous.
1. Avoid situations that fuel your jealousy. Your boyfriend gets a text during dinner, so you pretend to reach across the table for the salt so you can see his phone screen. When you don’t recognize the name, your heart sinks. Now, instead of enjoying your dinner, your mind is racing with thoughts of who this mystery “Samantha” is. The solution? Stop doing that. In a survey published in Cyberpsychology and Behavior, researchers noticed that people who were jealous tended to check in on their partners’ Facebook feeds, paying attention to who they were talking to and how often. The more they checked in, the more things they found to worry about, creating a vicious cycle of jealous behavior. For your own mental health, “out of sight, out of mind” is the best approach.
2. Understand the root cause of your jealousy. When you’re feeling jealous, your mind can run wild with totally unrealistic theories. Maybe my two best friends secretly hate me and that’s why they decided to take a spin class without me and post it on Instagram…and now maybe they’ll never speak to me again and they’ll be best friends and I’ll be friendless forever and I’ll die alone. Whoa, whoa, whoa—back up. Recognize that your jealousy might start with a feeling of being left out, but can quickly spiral into feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem, possessiveness and anxiousness, notes Gwendolyn Seidman, PhD, in Psychology Today. When you get down to the bottom of the core issue—your friends went to a spin class without you and feeling left out is understandably painful—it’s a lot easier to put things in perspective and keep your emotions in check.
3. Communicate. No one wants to admit that they’re feeling jealous—especially if you’ve just started dating someone you really, really like. But when those pangs start to surface, the best thing to do is to acknowledge them and communicate exactly what you need in order to feel more in control. For example, if your new girlfriend casually mentions that she’s hanging out with her ex next weekend, your first instinct might be to pretend you’re cool with it, even if you’re seething with jealousy. But this isn’t going to make you feel any better, and it won’t make the problem go away if she decides to make friendly ex hangouts a regular thing. First, sort out what you need in order to be OK with this. (A text check-in about how it went? An invite next time, so you can see with your own eyes that nothing is going on? For her to not even tell you when she’s hanging out with her ex? And no, “never see your ex again” is not a fair request.) Next, communicate your needs. Here’s how it could go:
You: So, about you getting drinks with your ex this weekend…
You: You don’t still have feelings for her, do you?
Her: Oh no, not at all, we’re just friends.
You: OK. Logically, I know this, and I trust you completely, but I can get a little jealous sometimes. I know there’s nothing to worry about, but I’m still feeling a bit uncomfortable. So can you do something to help me? Next time, do you think you could invite me along, so I could meet her? That would make me feel a lot better.
Her: Oh! Sure. Maybe we could all go out to dinner next weekend. Would that work?
You: Yes, that sounds great.
4. Separate your jealousy from actual red flags. Your husband is working on a big project and needs to stay late at work every night this week. Cue your old friend jealousy, tearing through your central nervous system. He’ll be pulling long hours with two female co-workers, and although you know deep down that nothing is going on, by the time your husband gets home, you’re a worried, weepy mess. That’s jealousy, plain and simple. But if your husband has seemed especially distant recently and you think he might be making excuses to stay late at work so he doesn’t have to come home, this could be a red flag. If you have an intuitive feeling that a situation doesn’t sound right, open up the lines of communication and talk about it. Once you set your jealousy aside, it will be easier to tell if the problem is real or imaginary.
5. Channel your feelings into something positive. No matter how much you communicate your feelings, let’s face it: jealousy sucks. It’s awful. So when you start feeling the uneasiness set in, use that energy to focus on something positive. Go to the gym, clean your kitchen or start that new book you’ve been meaning to read. Meditate. Go for a walk. Text an old friend and go out dancing. (Hell, do anything but refresh his Instagram for three hours.) Counteract those negative feelings with positive, healing activities, and you’ll quickly discover how little power jealousy really has over you.