Do you experience jealousy? Flushing in your face, tension around your mouth and eyebrows, knots and butterflies in your stomach, anger rising into your chest. However jealousy may manifest in your body (do pay attention to how it feels immediately upon surfacing), it can be unpleasant to experience. When left unchecked, it can lead to unproductive communication in a relationship, leaving behind sadness, anger and fear in it’s wake.
Ultimately, jealousy is an evolutionarily useful feeling. It lets us know that our relationship may be threatened and gives us a surge of adrenaline to spring into a protective mode. However, due to the complexities and nuances of our modern relationships, we will likely see better results if we let our nervous system calm down a bit before engaging in any action to protect our relationship.
First, it’s important to recognize the body sensations that manifest when we experience jealousy. This can take some practice because jealousy can be an intense emotion, and intense emotions can decrease our rational (frontal lobe) brain functioning by 20-30%.
Once you have an understanding of what jealousy feels like in your body, try to catch it when it comes up. Say to yourself “this is jealousy” and breath into your belly for at least 10 breaths. Belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which produces a calming effect in the brain.
Because our society tends to frown upon jealousy, it can be a difficult subject to approach with a partner. It can be helpful to phrase conversations about jealousy in such a way that helps your partner understand that it is a feeling that you are taking ownership of, and that you would be grateful for their support in instances where jealousy arises.
Often jealousy is triggered by patterns that we recognize from our current relationship or past relationships, that we feel powerless to change. The instances when jealousy arises, who it arises in, and the nuances of how to deal with relationship rifts due to jealousy are unique to each individual and relationship. Ultimately, meeting with a relationship therapist can help untangle us from unwanted patterns, improve partners’ understanding of each other, and provide guidance for establishing new ways to deepen connection.