There are two things which affect a relationship in ways that will make or break it. And these two things are really just opposites. The two things we will look at are trust and jealousy.
Each one of us has our own definition of these terms. So we’ll try to find some definitions that we can agree upon.
To start out, each of these things is a feeling. We can’t touch “trust” or “jealousy”. But we can certainly feel them when they are around! Most people experience these feelings to some degree each and every day.
You take your car in for service. You will probably have some feeling about the personnel working there. You either trust them with your car or not.
Some similar things are going on when we deal with our partners or lovers. In some situations, we feel like we can trust them very much. Then something happens and we have some doubt about our trust. What makes this feeling change to something else is our feeling of safety with the person.
Jealousy often occurs when we feel as if we are going to be abandoned by a partner or lover because of someone else in the mix. The other person is taking away our love interest and we feel left behind.
Is this bad? Well, no, because we are always looking for ways to feel safe. When I have enough money, a stable job, plenty of food to eat and a roof over my head, then I feel very “safe”. If any of those things goes away, then I get really nervous. The fact that our internal system is looking for ways to keep us safe is a good thing.
In a relationship, though, jealousy can creep up for various reasons. A partner can stare at someone else “just a little too long”. Or someone might start up a conversation with them while we’re standing right there.
Suddenly we feel disconnected from our partner and wonder what happened. We start to feel unsafe with the person and our mistrust causes us to ask questions like “Can I rely on this person?” “Will they be there for me?” “Is this relationship going to last?” “What does she have that I don’t have?”
These may be valid questions, but how we answer the questions (yes, we will answer our own questions like this!) can depend on our mood. If we just had a fight with our partner or lover, have been dealing with some difficult family challenges or even just had a rotten day, we might blow up a simple situation into something much larger.
Because these feelings can be so strong, a good approach is to wait until the initial “sting” has gone down. This is when “sleep on it” makes good sense. Trying to discuss the situation while in that heightened emotion may just make things worse.
When you feel like you can talk about it, bring the situation up to your partner and talk about how it made you feel uncomfortable. Focus on how you feel rather than the event that made you fee that way. That way you and your partner can address the feeling.
It may be a matter of understanding how each other reacts in a given situation. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and talk about how behaviors can change to meet the situation. Changing the way we behave in a situation may be a simple cure to a vexing problem in a relationship.
Most often the way to deal with a jealous response is communication, because it’s usually miscommunication that caused the problem.
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