‘How do I overcome the fear of being cheated on?
‘I’ve experienced jealousy in every relationship and it’s showing itself again.
‘I’ve started dating a guy I like but when I saw him looking at another girl, I felt jealousy rage through me and I started pulling back from him.
‘I don’t want to live with this feeling that I always have to control. If my last ex was ever vague about where he had been the night before, I would jump to the worst-case scenario.
‘How do I deal with this jealousy so I can just relax?‘
It’s natural to be protective of a coveted new beginning.
‘Depending on how secure we feel, these feelings can be containable or out of control,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘It’s the uncontrollable jealousy that creates the very outcome we fear — the pulling away of the other person and their move towards someone else.’
So the first step is to accept that jealousy is part of the human experience — you like someone and you want them to like you above anyone else. The next step is a reality check.
‘You will also find others attractive, even if you’re content in your relationship,’ says Rudkin. ‘Finding someone attractive or being intrigued by another person is not a reflection of anyone else being inadequate or flawed.’
But jealousy is also a messenger and if you carry the very heavy expectation of being betrayed into every relationship your next action is to create some awareness around this belief and dismantle it.
‘Perhaps you’ve had some tough experiences in your life and you’re half expecting them to happen again,’ says Rupert Smith. ‘Was there a family break-up or a parent who was unreliable? Did you learn in childhood that the people you get close to are likely to let you down or hurt you?’
In facing the pain behind this jealousy, perhaps with a professional who can support you, that raw, automatic reaction will eventually dissipate and you will finally be able to relax.
‘They call jealousy the green-eyed monster and that is your clue,’ says James McConnachie. ‘If you lock a monster in a box, it just gets scarier. If you look it in the face and seek to understand it, the monster becomes less scary.’
While jealousy is a universal emotion, it can feel particularly painful to individuals with low self-esteem who already fear they aren’t good enough.
‘Any behaviour by others that even remotely implies this is then taken as proof,’ says Rudkin. ‘So improving your self-esteem — putting effort into things you’re good at — will help buffer you against jealousy’s sharp edges.’
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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