(NOTE: This blog was written in response to Bill & Amber’s unhealthy relationship as seen here) So our girlfriend or boyfriend gets jealous all the time? Is that a normal trait and sign of endearing affection, or should we be more concerned about behavior like this?
At the Teen Alert Program, we discuss the trait of jealousy as a normal human quality, one that most people will feel at some point in their lives. Maybe a friend received a gift for the holidays that outshines our brand new swag. This might bring with it a tinge of envy on our part, but we likely don’t take that jealousy and smash, break or take our friend’s new gear. We can be in control of our behavior, even if we have those feelings of jealousy.
So why then is it considered a “good thing” when our partners treat us as insecure, jealous people? Why do we condone their jealousy when it forces us to block our friends online? Is it a sign of undying love to continually prove to our partners that we’re being faithful, just because they get mad whenever someone calls or texts us? Should we stand for this type of behavior when it leads to our boyfriends or girlfriends starting fights with others because of a perceived glance? Shouldn’t this type of controlling behavior send us running to the hills, rather than consider it a sign of love?
Jealousy should be seen as one of the first warning signs of an unhealthy, if not abusive relationship. Too often it begins with a sense of entitlement over the person for whom we are dating. If they’re busy texting or calling someone else, we may assume that they care less about us, or that we’re on the verge of losing our partner. And it’s not wrong to be concerned in our relationships, but we need to be careful that this worry does not equate to controlling our partners.
This feeling of concern might stem from a lack of self-esteem or insecurity on our part. Maybe we’ve been treated poorly in the past, or been cheated on before, and our emotions are raw as a result. Maybe we have a difficult time trusting others, and this comes across as constantly questioning our partner. Even in that case, we want to be careful not to let our jealousy rule us. We need to learn healthy ways to communicate this insecurity, and not use our past pain or fear to affect our current relationship.
For some, this insecurity becomes so overwhelming that they make snide comments to their partner. It may be aimed at friends they distrust, saying things like, “I don’t think you should text him/her so much,” or we may insinuate that our partner would be better off dressing differently, so as not to attract the “wrong kind” of attention. This is a form of control in that we use our own insecurity and jealousy to make decisions for our partners. Some may even frame it as a form of protection, as though their partner’s choice in clothing opens up the door for sexual harassment.
Soon, this may turn into actively denying one’s partner the ability to reach out to anyone else, friends or family alike. This extreme isolation can also be painted as a sign of love, as though spending every waking minute together is the healthiest form of affection. Like jealousy, isolation opens up the door for a whole slew of unhealthy qualities and controlling behaviors. And if that unhealthy relationship turns into one that is abusive, it becomes much more difficult for friends or family to offer support if they’ve been actively cut off from the victim.
That’s why it’s so crucial we learn about healthy relationships and conflict resolution skills. Rather than feed the green-eyed beast of jealousy, we need to plant the seeds of trust in our relationships. We need to practice those healthy forms of communication with our partners, and if we have those moments of doubt or distrust, we can find common ground. We can learn to listen and share what’s going on in our minds and hearts. And soon we can truly show our partners how much we care for, trust and respect him/her.
It’s time to transform jealousy into trust and transparency!
To read more about how harmful jealousy can be, check out this blog!