What is jealousy? What is possessiveness?
Jealousy is a powerful emotion. When someone feels that there is a threat to a relationship that matters to them, they can feel jealous. A jealous person can react with anger and hostility towards the threat or to their loved one.
Sometimes the jealousy is based on rational events.
For example, if your partner’s behavior has changed and there are indications he or she is having an affair — then jealous feelings might have a real basis. In that case, like any source of pain, jealous feelings are a warning sign that there is a problem.
However, a lot of times the jealousy is irrational.
Often it’s based in insecurity and emotional neediness.
For example, there are cases where a new father is jealous of the attention his partner now gives to the baby because he feels neglected. Or a small child might feel jealous of a new brother or sister.
Other times, a person is so driven by their own insecurity that they become controlling and abusive.
Possessiveness is slightly different from jealousy.
A certain amount is actually necessary to a healthy relationship in the sense that intimacy creates a sense of belonging. Two partners feel they belong to each other.
This can lead to them developing certain rituals and commonalities that are special to them — for example, they have “their song”, special dates, nicknames, etc. Even the special meals one might make for the other or the ways they tease each other can become part of that inter-relatedness.
If possessiveness is limited to these types of things, it just cements the relationship as something apart from other relationships.
However, if carried two far, then one or both partners may feel they own the other person. That can stifle the partner(s) being “possessed”.
People like to feel loved and desired but no one wants to be owned or controlled. No one wants to be objectified, and when one partner is being possessive, he or she is objectifying the other. This is destructive.
What can you do if you find yourself feeling jealous or possessive?
If you are jealous — ask yourself if there is any rational reason for the feeling. If you actually have real reasons to fear a partner is cheating — communicate honestly, not by accusing them, but by honestly letting them know that you are feeling jealous. Ask them about their perspective.
If you have had someone cheat on you in the past, realize you may be blaming your current partner for your history. He or she may be totally innocent. Give the benefit of the doubt unless you actually have hard evidence that they are cheating.
Of course if your partner actually is cheating… then you have to figure out if you can forgive them or if you need to leave. In either case, violence is never the answer.
What about if you are overly possessive?
Remind yourself that your partner is not an object to be controlled or owned. If you have issues with boundaries and personal space, it might be time to talk to a therapist to figure out why and to learn ways to create healthier interactions.
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This post was previously published on Shefali O’Hara’s blog.
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