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Jealousy – The Root of Despair

Jealousy – The Root of Despair
by: Zachary Lee
This past weekend my company hosted a pre-marriage retreat for couples from MN and ND. It was an awesome experience and one that I’ll never forget.  
I’ll never forget it because of the connections and break-throughs that we had with so many couples. Couples struggling with communication challenges, family issues, depression, anxiety, sexual abuse and jealousy.
Although I could focus on any one of these issues, one connection I made with a young man at the retreat reminded me of the pain and anguish I used to put not only myself through but my wife through when we were first dating and first married.
To be completely blunt and honest, I was an A#$%HOLE when it came to my wife’s past relationships. I was a jerk.

Not only would I make her relive those past relationships, but I would then critique her on why she had made such bad decisions.  Thinking about my past behavior – I am really embarrassed.

Jealousy for me wasn’t something that I had ever really experienced before my wife. I had usually run the show with girls I had dated (meaning I never let them in enough to be completely vulnerable) and because I felt in charge I didn’t have that much too lose.

That was until I met my wife. I fell hard and fast and didn’t know if up was down or if left was right. Bring on the insecurities and the jealousy.

Jealousy is a funny thing. When you first start to experience it, it acts like your friend. It’s trying to protect you and make sure that you know what your getting into. For me, jealousy took the form of being a private investigator and making my wife recount story after story to make sure she was telling me the truth about her past. Jealousy told me to keep digging, be untrusting, and dwell in fake memories I created in my head or in a past that I couldn’t change.

In working with couples I generally find that women have an easier time getting over their partner’s romantic past than do their male counterparts. However, I have also found that generally woman struggle more when it comes to emotional ties if their significant has any to their past flames.

In a poll of nearly 64,000 Americans in 2007, researcher David Frederick found that sexual infidelity was most upsetting to men in heterosexual relationships. “Men [in heterosexual relationships] are more upset by sexual infidelity than women are,” he said. “Women are more likely to be upset by emotional infidelity.” (1)

Although this can work both ways, a good example of this is when a person continues to be friends with their ex. Sometimes people can remain plutonic friends after they break-up, but the majority of the time there are too many feelings, connections and memories that distort what a plutonic relationship means to them. Often the relationship is unhealthy and can cause major issues for future partners.

Problems With Jealousy:
  1. Vicious Cycle – For me jealousy took on cyclical pattern of moving between the states of angry and sad. First I would get angry and want to scream and then when my body got sick of doing that it would go to sad and depressed.
  2. Pushes You Into Depressive State – Tony Robbins calls that cyclical pattern “The Crazy Eight”. You can think of the eight as a side-ways number eight or an infinity symbol. On the left you have the active side (anger, frustration, take action) and on the left you have the passive side (fear, sadness, depression). Each side serves a purpose and we’ve all done it. One side allows you to take charge and be in control (active side) and one side allows you to sit back (passive) and feel your emotions.
  3. Pushes Your Partner Into Either/Or Situations (do I tell the truth?) – Now that I’m on the other side of jealousy I’ve learned that my wife wasn’t always truthful with me when I would question her over and over again about her past. “I don’t blame her”.
She has told me through conversations that when all of the anger and sadness was being projected at her she didn’t want to say something that was going to hurt my feelings more or that she didn’t want to spark more fits of jealousy.

   4.   Makes Your Partner Feel Helpless (they can’t change the past) –
The last time I checked the movie Back To The Future wasn’t a documentary and Marty McFly was a fictional character. As much as we all may have regrets of what we might have done differently, hind-sight is 20-20 and you are being unfair to yourself if you are beating yourself up for what you did in the past. None of us are perfect people and your partner isn’t either. Instead of beating each other up over things we can’t change, it may be time to forgive and forget. Living in the past is futile.  
Jealousy is a normal emotion for people to go through and in some cases it can even be a good thing – but only in very small doses. Those doses that I’m referring to are when someone in a relationship is triggered by an event that causes them to feel that their relationship is being threatened. For example, if your at a work function and one of you notices a co-worker flirting with your significant other. That awareness can help you to step-in and intervene, or even just simply walk up and introduce yourself and Mr. or Mrs. “Step-off”.

Ways to help curb jealousy in your relationship:
  1. Affirm your partner on a daily basis – If you struggle with jealousy or your partner does. It’s important that you request or give affirming words and actions for them on a daily basis. I do mean daily. They need to see that they are your number one priority and hear that you mean the world to them. Even if you don’t understand why your partner needs it, you still need to do it.
  2. Build up your partner to family, friends, co-workers in front of your partner – There is no better way to build your partner’s self-confidence, self-esteem and belief in themselves and your relationship that having them hear you pronounce great things about them to your friends, family and co-workers. It shows them that you care and that you also cherish your relationship to them.  
  3. Change your perspective – I used to see my wife’s past as a heavy   burden and baggage that I had to deal with. Today I see it as a huge strength to our relationship. My wife’s past relationships shaped her into the strong, confident woman that she is today. I’m blessed to be with someone who didn’t stop looking for what she wanted until she found it in me. I’m a lucky guy. I’m also lucky she didn’t kick my butt for being so thoughtless when we first started dating.  
You have a choice every day to decide to dwell in the past or live in the present. Working through your jealousy will take time and a commitment to change.

About the Author: Zachary Lee is an entrepreneur who lives in the Twin Cities. His company, LifeWorks Group focuses on strategic interventions of relationships in the workplace and at home. Over the past five years he has worked with hundreds of couples helping improve their relationships and worked with organizations to improve employee morale, team dissatisfaction, and creating synergy in the workplace. 

To learn more about Zachary and LifeWorks Group visit: www.lovecommitsucceed.com