I never thought of myself as a jealous person before. In fact, I identified as the opposite of jealous. I would describe myself as "a free spirit," "at one with the earth," "connected to all living things." How can jealousy exist when we are all connected? Kumbaya.
Yet despite my self-perception, I still somehow encountered jealousy. In fact, jealousy hit me like a bat swinging at my head. Shortly after I met my husband and learned that he dated someone before me for 15 years, I probed him for details. He is quite straightforward, so he did not see the harm in answering my questions about his former relationship.
At first, learning about his past was fascinating, even titillating. I, at 26 years old, had the mentality that I was indestructible. I wanted to know everything, so I should just ask. But soon, my emotions got the best of me, and my brain began to spin with a tortured internal dialogue. Could he really love me as much as he loved his ex, a former teenage model? Was I as smart as she was? As desirable? The jealous, competitive questions felt infinite.
I was gripped by this debilitating emotion that was so alien to me that I felt I almost became a different person. I started raiding my partner's apartment. I started constantly picking fights. I imagined myself in direct competition with a girl who my husband loved for over a decade. For me, there was no competition: it was clear, and painful ... the other girl won.
I've finally realized that this jealousy had nothing to do with the other girl, but rather my feelings toward myself, and how I perceived myself within my relationship. And so here is the path I navigated to lift myself out of jealousy, and reclaim my identity as a confident person:
1. I admitted that I had lost control of my emotions.
When I was jealous, I transformed in to a master justifier. Every time I picked a fight with my husband for reasons that I found perfectly valid, there was some deep part of me that recognized how outrageous I was behaving. But the rational side somehow could not overpower the jealousy. My deepest insecurities took over ... for 10 months of my life.
My ego convinced me how warranted I was for my behavior. I pushed him away, hoping that he would fight for me and make me feel lovable again. My jealousy acted like my greatest protector, making sure that I would not get hurt or end up the fool. As much as I claimed to want to get over my "insanity," I was really just looking at reasons to justify it. It took me a long time to realize that the jealousy simply kept me from facing my deepest insecurities.
2. I tracked my jealousy down.
I successfully manifested a make-believe competition between me and my husband's ex, completely convinced that she was as perfect and elusive as a unicorn. When I was less self-aware of my jealousy, I let it take control over me: my jealousy prevented me from believing that my husband could love me fully and deeply.
My jealousy told me everyday how unlovable I was, and most days, sadly, I believed it. How on earth could I win against my own voice telling me that I was not worthy of love? My husband could not find the words to comfort me, and so I invented my own reality, one where my husband was still in love with her. Jealousy is great at having you believe in your worst nightmares of the moment, until you realize that it's just a negative voice, feeding off your insecurities and magnifying them so that you think it's real. It's not.
3. I discovered that I was the only one with the solution.
During my lowest point, I had sought everyone's advice, even my husband's, but no one came up with a solution that stuck. Most of them just looked at me and said, "Can't you just get over it?"
After 10 months of feeling hopeless, I decided that enough was enough. I acknowledged that I would lose my husband (and myself) if I continued this way. I found a quiet place and concentrated (hard) on remembering who I was before this insane emotion dominated every moment of my life. I recited every cheesy mantra I could think of —— I'm unique, special, beautiful, rational, smart —— and then I visualized myself being healed by a protective light. I distinctly saw the duality of my jealous self and my non-jealous self, and decided, then and there, to stop allowing the irrational side of me win. It took all of 20 minutes, and it was the beginning of the end.
I repeated those quiet mantras for one year until I found my way back. While those months were not easy, they were necessary. Now that I have overcome my jealousy, I am stronger and wiser than I was before. I developed an inner confidence that can withstand anything. Now that I know my own worth, nothing can ever take that away again. Not even my imagination.