If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, you’ve probably experienced the pit in your stomach that comes from wondering why your partner isn’t calling you or why they wanted to spend a night apart.
Is he trying to ignore me? Or is he just forgetting that I exist?
Is she getting tired of me? Is there someone else?
While some people might be blessed with a mind that doesn’t work this way and a past that doesn’t trigger such thoughts, many people are prone to having them often, particularly if they feel that they’re in a relationship with a high-quality partner.
Do you sometimes find yourself trying to control your partner’s behavior, such as how often they go out, when they go out, who they can see, etc, either through setting up rules or through coercion?
Do you feel totally reliant on your partner as your only support system?
Do you often negatively compare yourself to others?
If these behavior patterns sound familiar to you, then there are a couple of important things to remember:
- Feeling this way doesn’t make you inherently worse than people who don’t struggle with feelings of jealousy or possessiveness. You just have a different attachment style than those people. Researcher Chris Fraley created an attachment style quiz that you can take in just 5-10 mins to get a sense of how you perceive attachment in your relationship.
- These feelings could very likely have something to do with past relationships in your life, and probably not just romantic relationships. As Lisa Firestone, PhD, writes for Psychology Today, “…if we experienced an anxious attachment pattern growing up, we may have felt a lot of uncertainty around getting our needs met and felt like we had to cling to our parents to make them take care of us – in essence, to survive. As adults, we may project these feelings onto our partner, feeling like we need to make things happen, remind them to notice us, etc.”
- Although these feelings may have been caused by events outside your control, working through them is not outside your control. Just because your mind works in a way that leads you to doubt the stability of your relationship doesn’t mean that you have to be stuck in an endless cycle of self-doubt and blaming/controlling your partner!
The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to help control these feelings, and they’ll benefit your life in more ways than one!
Talk about your insecurities with your partner.
This may sound counterintuitive because you may feel like revealing your insecurities to your partner will only make you look more vulnerable and unattractive. But trying to hide your feelings or “just get over them” will make them worse, not better. If you and your partner address them together, your partner can help you understand where you’re just being prey to your own low self-esteem and not seeing reality accurately. If you think your partner would be open to it, you could even take the above-mentioned attachment styles quiz together so that the two of you can understand what you need to do to help each other feel secure and comfortable.
Practice very deliberate self-care.
You already know how to do this – it’s just a matter of putting it into practice: Eat foods that you know are good for you. Exercise. Practice meditation, if that’s your thing. Get enough sleep. If you’re not doing these things, then you’ll automatically feel like a less valuable member of the relationship because you’ll feel like an incomplete, unintentional version of yourself. This won’t help your self-esteem, and low self-esteem is often a reason for displaying jealous, possessive behavior.
Spend more time with quality friends.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, author of Insecure in Love: How Anxious Attachment Can Make You Feel Jealous, Needy and Worried and What You Can Do About It, recommends keeping a chart on which the left side says “Friends” and the right side says “Valued Qualities In Me.” On the left side, write down friends’ names – anyone from an agreeable acquaintance to a best friend – and on the right side, write down what you think that friend values in you. Seeing yourself through your friends’ eyes is a great way to remind yourself of the value you bring to your relationships.
Find a therapist you trust to talk to.
Talking to a professional can potentially help you in a few ways. First of all, there is always the possibility that you’re not being paranoid or exhibiting low self-esteem at all, and are actually just picking up on signs that your partner is not being faithful to you after you agreed to a monogamous relationship. If this is the case, a professional, objective third party can help you sort through whether your S.O.’s behavior seems like an issue of actual unfaithfulness or an issue of your own self-esteem.
Second, if your issue is more with your own self-esteem than your partner’s behavior, then a therapist can offer you the tools and the practice you need to start seeing your own value. As Sarah Noel writes in the Good Therapy column, “My belief, which is backed up by a growing body of research, is that much of the change that therapy produces is a result of the therapeutic relationship that develops between the client and the therapist. Therapy can be very effective in helping people work on relationship issues, in part because the therapy relationship allows you to participate in a safe, strong, and healthy relationship.”
Ultimately, if you find yourself struggling with feelings of jealousy and being possessive, try to remember that the manifestation of those feelings won’t help you show love to your partner, even if you feel like they stem from loving him/her so much. If you’re in a healthy, mature relationship, then you’ll want to take whatever steps necessary to make sure that you’re allowing your partner’s world to grow, not to shrink.
If you find yourself losing the battle of jealousy and possessiveness, remember that you have the power to turn things around today. You can reach us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult to learn more about how we can help you reach a healthier, more stable version of your relationship.