Jealousy is a complex emotion that has cultural power - sometimes jealousy feels bigger than just a feeling. Jealousy is intensely personal. Depending on the individual, jealousy can either paralyzing or catalyzing. For some, jealousy is an experience of fear and shame; people avoid it at all costs. For other, they relish the experience because they interpret it as care or they feel cherished when they know their partners are feeling it.
Although our January of jealousy lessons is coming to a close, I will continue to study jealousy as I work toward releasing my second book. Until then, I will wrap up with six lessons to learn from jealousy:
- Jealousy can help you learn how to take care of yourself.
If you are willing to see jealousy as a way to get to know yourself, you can also understand it as a tool to help you navigate what you need in a specific situation.
An example might help to make this more clear:
Imagine someone who is consensually non-monogamous and their partner just started dating a new partner. This someone social media stalks the new partner and feels jealousy because they are worried their partner's new partner is more attractive than they are. In this instance, Someone might (A) spiral into self doubt and wallow that the relationship is over 0r (B) give themself some grace that they live in a culture that values physical beauty to the detriment of other personal qualities and step away from the social media. They might do something nice for themself and acknowledge their intelligence, wit, or charm.
The lesson of using jealousy to learn how to take care of yourself is an advanced approach. If you are not quite there yet, you are still doing great. Know that this lesson comes with time and practice.
- Sometimes, your feelings of jealousy are an accurate reflection of what is really happening.
Jealousy occurs when there is a real or perceived risk to your relationship. Sometimes, that new hottie that your partner is dating DOES take time away from you. The risk is real. And your jealousy was an accurate reflection of what is happening around you.
Yes, this does happen. Yes, you and your relationship can live through it. Once you understand that jealousy is an emotion, and you choose how you react to your emotions, you will be able to navigate both the real and perceived risks. You feelings are valid either way. It is how you react that really matters. Which brings me to...
- Feeling jealous does not entitle you to be an asshole.
You do not get to lash out and use your jealousy as the justification for your poor behavior and treatment of others. Do not weaponize jealousy - you are just making it worse. Stop it.
- You get to decide the amount of power you allocate to your experiences of feeling jealous.
If you think jealousy is the all powerful Oz, then jealousy will wreak havoc on your whole entire Lollipop Guild. If you see it as the little man behind the curtain, you have the opportunity to click your heels and go home.
I am both pleased and appalled by that analogy. Heh.
Anyway, you have an opportunity to feed into the cultural script that jealousy is the worst and no one should feel it or they are morally and relationally compromised and their relationships are doomed. OR you can see it and feel it and acknowledge that it sucks but remind yourself that you are going to be okay. I encourage you to consider the latter. Trust me. I am a doctor.
- Anticipatory jealousy is real.
If you are well and truly afraid of feeling jealous, you probably think about all of the things that will make you feel jealousy and have deep sense of impending jealousy doom. I cannot recommend a good therapist enough if you are in this bracket of human.
Feeling jealous can be hard enough, but if you compound it with other emotions - like fear or shame! - then you are burying yourself. Do what you can to support yourself through your whole process. And give yourself a lot of credit for your courage.
- Jealousy can be a gateway to greater empathy.
You know how hard jealousy can feel! So when you see others experiencing it, be damn kind. To have a hard experience and help others who are in that same hard experience is the sign of a good damn human. Let your experiences inform how you encounter others...let that be with softness.