When jealousy in a romantic relationship hits, it wells up inside of us, a unique mix of sadness, competition, anger. It feels like an immune reaction — what I imagine it feels like when you're bit by a poisonous spider.
But part of the reason jealousy makes us feel so uncomfortable is that we typically think of it as toxic and unhealthy emotion — something to rid ourselves of ASAP. So we add on a layer of self-blame
Yet thinking this way is precisely what makes jealousy feel insurmountable, even though it's a totally normal thing to feel. To keep with the spider analogy: when you're bit by a poisonous creature, your body will react — a rash, a hive, other kinds of acute inflammation. This response is, quite literally, a call to action: your body is telling you to DO something.
Even in healthy circumstances, jealousy may still feel toxic, but that toxicity can be a very valid warning sign that there's something you need to communicate to your partner.
Here are 10 particular situations where your jealousy is a healthy call to communicate with your partner and take action …
1. Someone is giving flirtatious vibes to your partner.
Say you're at a party, standing with your partner. Someone comes up and starts talking to him. A lot. He/she is giving your partner focused, intense eye contact and enthusiastically asking questions. Remember, flirting doesn't have to be explicitly sexual.
You're left in the shadow of the conversation and feel jealous as a result. Perhaps you feel that the person is sexually interested in your partner, and that his response could be sending the wrong message. Perhaps you wish, on some level, that the other person were giving you attention instead of your partner. This is totally natural
So what to do about it? Well, if you can, in the context of the conversation: pipe in! Odds are, your partner will pick up on your hope to shift gears. If not, wait it out, and confront him once the other person has left.
Plain and simple, admit to your jealousy: "Hey, I felt kind of jealous when X came up to us at the party. I felt like he/she was giving you a lot of attention, and I felt left out." From there, you can hash it out.
2. Your partner is giving flirtatious vibes to someone else.
This situation may feel a little more uncomfortable, as it's more likely to produce feelings of inadequacy.
This situation is similar to the above. Sure, you don't want to assume your partner is up to no-good, but you're entitled to feel what you feel. If she's with another person at a party and you feel threatened, you can feel free to try and include yourself. If that feels forced or uncomfortable, simply confront her after the conversation has ended.
3. Your partner is bragging when you're in a rough place.
Hearing anyone brag about his successes can be really annoying, but in the context of our relationships, we usually want to be there as a sounding board for some bragging. We want to feel happy for our partners when they succeed.
That said, there are extenuating circumstances. Maybe you had a bad day at work. Maybe you're experiencing a bout of depression. Maybe you're sick. Regardless of why you're not feeling your best, hearing your partner succeeding when you feel subpar can produce jealousy.
Rather than probing the jealousy (as it is likely somewhat irrational), simply tell your partner you're not feeling your best. You may even say something like, "Listen: I'm super happy for you about X. But I'm just having a rough time right now, do you mind if we talk about it later?" You can be happy and reassuring, and also honest.
4. Your partner succeeded in something you are both pursuing.
Couples often pursue particular activities together. You and your partner may decide to take up yoga. But what happens when he gets praise for his handstand in yoga class? You may feel jealous. And that's OK.
After class (to keep with this example), you may casually say to your partner: "Ha. I felt kind of jealous in yoga when the teacher complimented you. Want to help me with my handstand?" You aren't being competitive or trying to outperform him. You're just being honest, and that will bring you closer.
5. Someone mentions something about your partner that you were unaware of.
When you're in a relationship, you often quickly start to feel like every detail of your partner's life is a part of yours. Perhaps she always texts you during the day to tell you what she ate for lunch, or what her co-worker said to her in the bathroom. Sometimes, you even feel like you deserve to know everything about your partner's life. Sometimes this morphs into codependency. Sound familiar?
So it can feel painful when we learn from someone else something about our partner that we were unaware of — even if it's totally nonthreatening. Say you are with your mutual friend and he tells you about your partner's insane talent at painting. I had no idea she painted! you think. You may feel jealous: why does our friend know about her painting hobby and I don't?
Again, it may be quite irrational. But still be honest: very straightforwardly ask her why she didn't tell you, and tell her it made you feel jealous or bad. She'll either have a reason, or she won't — but she probably didn't intend to hurt you.
6. Your partner treats another activity like a second relationship.
It's possible to feel like your partner is cheating on you with something other than a person. If he gets really into a particular form of exercise, a particular hobby or other activity and spends all of his time doing it, you may feel left in the dust.
This doesn't mean you don't want him to pursue his new thing — but you're allowed to feel jealous. Tell him! Maybe he had no idea, and will invite you on his next run, or to his next spin class. When we communicate our needs, we often find out that other people had no idea we were even feeling a particular way. We can't assume others can read our minds.
7. Your partner goes on a trip or has an experience that you aren't apart of.
Experiences — particularly those involving travel — can make us feel transported, renewed, reborn, even. That's why it's especially hard to deal with those times in your relationship where your partner has an experience, interaction or trip that is transformative, and we aren't present.
Tell your partner, "I'm so happy you had so much fun, but I felt kind of jealous that I was totally not apart of it." You may suggest doing a special activity or going on a trip together.
8. Your partner treats his/her friend(s) with tremendous attention.
I've had girlfriends tell me, "I have a ton of guy friends, and it always makes my boyfriend jealous." It's probably nothing for their boyfriends to worry about, but let's give the guys a break: it makes sense.
Of course you'll be a secondary (or tertiary) concern at times, and that's fine. But voicing your jealousy to your partner will only make him that much more sensitive about it, even if there are those moments when he's getting drinks with friends.
9. Your partner makes comments about other people's attractiveness to you.
Enough said. Some people are OK with this kind of gesture. In some relationships, partners openly communicate about past relationships and sexual encounters, and even "check people out" together.
But this is a pretty normal reason to feel jealous. You want to feel like the center of your partner's sexual attention. Say something, kindly but firmly: "It makes me feel jealous when you say things about other guys' attractiveness in front of me." Easy enough, right?
10. You feel like your partner doesn't appreciate you.
If you don't feel appreciated, your mind will likely start to see all of the ways that your partner appreciates other people and things. This is a serious issue in your relationship, and something you definitely need to raise with your partner.
Of course, feeling amorphously unappreciated in your relationship is probably more difficult to talk about than a specific action. But it's arguably more urgent.
Bottom line: you should always feel appreciated in your relationship. Feeling appreciated will ensure that jealousy is not a constant.