A little bit of envy here and there is human nature. It doesn’t always mean we’re terribly insecure. Sometimes it’s a good indicator that we truly love and cherish the person we’re with, and thus don’t want to see our relationship threatened. But what happens when jealousy is more than just a fleeting thought? If you’ve ever felt consumed with envy, we have some bad news — this could really be turning your partner off.
Pathological jealousy can quickly tarnish a relationship. Here’s what you need to know about the condition.
For starters, men and women get extremely jealous over different things
You can probably think of one thing in particular that makes you feel quite jealous. And Seth Meyers, Ph.D., tells Psychology Today your gender might actually indicate what sort of behaviors make you envious. Women are more likely to feel jealous when their partner’s emotionally cheating on them. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to get riled up over physical cheating.
If your partner has a history of infidelity, then perhaps your jealousy is justified. But what if your jealousy is more grounded in paranoia than reality? Here are some red flags.
You have irrational, obsessive thoughts
When you spot your partner talking to someone else, it’s natural to feel that bite of jealousy within you. But what if these thoughts turn obsessive and last way longer than they should? According to an article from BJPsych Advances, if you have this condition, you might act out on these intrusive thoughts even when you know they’re totally irrational.
Have you checked your partner’s phone recently or searched through their Facebook messages? This is a sign your jealousy has gotten the best of you.
You’ve gone to extremes to prove you’re right
Pathological jealousy is tricky — there are times when you might know you’re acting totally out of line. But you still might go to great lengths to prove your partner’s unfaithfulness. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, you might feel the need to prove your jealousy is justified. This can include tracking your partner’s every move, or even confronting the person you think your partner is cheating on you with. And if you’ve been hurt or deceived in the past, you’re even more likely to suffer from these thoughts and behaviors.
You have low self-esteem
Psychologist Petruska Clarkson tells The Independent jealousy is deeply rooted in insecurity. “Then it can take the form of wanting to possess the partner, restricting their liberty or controlling their behavior which rapidly becomes self-defeating,” Clarkson says.
If you’re having extremely jealous thoughts, you may want to consider if you’ve gone through any stressful life changes recently. This can trigger jealousy in people with low self-esteem.
You have another psychiatric disorder
Pathological jealousy isn’t its own psychiatric disorder. Rather, it’s a condition that’s often a symptom of a bigger issue. Many people experience extreme envy when they also have schizophrenia or a delusional disorder, the Indian Journal of Psychiatry reports. This is also a symptom of alcohol psychosis, which can result from long-term alcoholism.
If you’ve developed severe jealousy over time and it’s affected your relationships, it may be a good time to address this with a mental health professional.
You’ve been violent before
Pathological jealousy can be emotionally damaging to your partner and to yourself, but there’s also a good chance it can escalate. BJPsych Advances reports many cases of homicide start from a jealous person accusing their partner of cheating. Even when it doesn’t get to this extreme, domestic violence is common in households where one partner experiences a lot of envy. This can result in physical assault or threats, especially if alcohol is involved.
What can you do?
Maybe you’re aware of your jealous ways, or your partner has said something to clue you in on your unacceptable behavior. Here’s the truth: If nothing changes, you very well could drive your partner away. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., tells Psychology Today cognitive-behavioral therapy can be extremely effective in treating morbid jealousy. The treatment involves identifying the thoughts you have that make you feel the most jealous, challenging these thoughts, and developing strategies for preventing them in the future.
Once you can address the underlying issues that may be fueling your jealous thoughts, you’re sure to have a happier and healthier relationship.