Jealousy is renowned for its negative power. Everyone has felt it swell up inside them at some point or another, and although short bursts of it can remind you how much you care for someone, prolonged jealousy can be harmful to a relationship.
How it manifests and how it’s triggered will vary from person to person. But one research study has found that, generally speaking, the triggers between men and women are profoundly different.
“Young men on average fear their partner having sex with someone else, whereas young women on average fear their partner falling in love with someone else". (Groothof, Dijkstra, & Barelds, 2009)
If you’re feeling a lack of trust between you and your partner at the start of the relationship, it may just be that trust still needs time to be established. If one or both of you have been hurt in previous relationships, it may take longer still. Being in a relationship is risky for anyone– everyone is quite aware they can get hurt even if they’ve not been hurt before.
If you’re dealing with past betrayals, it’s easy to get stuck with memories of what went wrong. A partner can assist with this healing process, but it shouldn’t become their responsibility to ‘fix’ the other person.
When you enter into new relationships with past betrayals inflicted by ex-partners, there are a few ways you can play it. You may choose to tell your partner about your previous betrayal, and allow them to earn your trust while working it through with honesty and sensitivity. Of course, it’s possible to have a balanced relationship without mentioning the past betrayal, as long as you treat your partner with respect.
Where the jealousy gremlin does the most damage is when you seek to control the other person, to appease your uneasy feelings. Be very wary of exhibiting controlling behaviour.
Social networks like Facebook can crack open a window into what you’re doing, who you’re flirting with, and even where you are. One study (Muise et al, 2009) argues that the wealth of information about our partners can contribute to an increase of jealousy. Research also shows that women are more likely than men to monitor their partners’ profiles.
If you think you're detecting flirtation on your partner's activity, stop and give yourself a minute. Come off the social network, clear your head (maybe make a cup of tea or something), and return to it. If you still think there's a lot of flirtation going on, ask a friend who is neutral and doesn't revel in drama to give you an outsider’s perspective. You might find that you’re overreacting to something quite harmless. Text is easy to misread.
Equally, if you think your own social network activity might trigger jealousy in your new partner, just be mindful of how your interactions and statuses may appear. You may well be perfectly innocent but there’s no harm in being considerate and thinking about how your words and pictures may come across to others.
Talking to each other about what bothers you and giving each other a chance to respond can be hugely helpful for both sides. It’s useful to talk about things you have noticed and don’t like, rather than allowing a catalogue of complaints to build up in the back of your minds.
Also, remember to talk about what boundaries you would like to have in place. Being clear about what you do and don’t find acceptable lets your partner make an informed choice about how they behave and how it might affect you.
Although it's not easy, it’s possible to ease jealousy by simply accepting that it’s not your job to control someone else’s behaviour. Your partner will make friends both online and offline, they will likely have drinks with colleagues and share jokes with attractive people from time to time. This is where trust comes in. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt, in the same way you hope they will do for you.
Another problem with jealousy is that it’s rarely attractive. You wouldn’t write a dating profile that says: “I go to the gym three times a week and I’m the jealous type”. Jealousy tends to come hand-in-hand with neediness, insecurity, and emotional baggage. While some reports say jealousy can make for more intimate and passionate sexual encounters, there’s little evidence to suggest that it’s helpful for maintaining a healthy long-term relationship.
If your partner is struggling with jealousy, turn your attention to supporting them and building up that trust.