Sometimes in relationships, jealousy can rear its ugly head and cause chaos and friction between partners.
But what causes this jealousy – or even, why are some people more likely to become jealous lovers than others, and is there anything you can do about it?
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To understand this phenomenon, one must first understand what jealousy is in a romantic context.
According to a 2013 article published in the Sage Journals, jealousy is “an emotional response to the real or imagined threat of losing something of value from a romantic relationship.”
And it’s that emotional response – should it be a regular occurrence – that can be detrimental to a relationship.
“Letting jealousy get out of hand will drive a wedge between you and your partner because they won’t feel trusted,” relationship expert Chantal Heide of Canada’s Dating Coach says. “Without a sense of trust, a relationship can’t survive in a functional manner.”
Even if you think you’re not a jealous person, everyone has the capability to become the jealous partner, and it’s all thanks to love, Heide says.
“Jealousy is at its core a fear of loss, and temporary fear of loss is a normal part of becoming more emotionally devoted to someone,” she explains. “The more emotions you have invested in a person, the scarier it can be to think about losing them.”
Common reasons that spark jealousy in couples include the feeling that your partner is giving more positive attention to someone else, misperceptions and low self-esteem, Heide says.
And usually when jealousy manifests, Heide says it’s often at a time in people’s lives when maturity has yet to fully develop.
This means they’re more likely to be focused on their needs and wants at the expense of someone else’s. If they don’t feel things are going their way, they may try to use control tactics to achieve what they want.
If that jealousy becomes an excuse used to control someone else’s behaviour, that’s when it becomes damaging in the relationship, Heide adds.
“Checking phones, directing what can or can’t be worn or who someone can hang out with, all cross the line into destructive behaviours and are serious red flags,” Heide says. “These are indicators of uncontrolled behaviours and emotions and need to be dealt with head on.”
Uncontrolled jealousy can create a sense of hopelessness in your partner, Heide says, and partners will constantly ask themselves if they’re going to be accused of unfaithfulness every time something comes up.
In fact, constantly accusing your partner of unfaithful behaviour can backfire, Heide points out, and it can make them question your own.
Mature men and women, on the other hand, will be more generous and long-term thinkers and are more ready to make compromises and deal with their emotions head on.
“They seek more functionality in their relationships because their goal is staying together for the long term,” Heide says. “That means they’re less likely to blame their feelings on their partners, and are more likely to seek therapy or help if they feel their emotions are running away with them.”
If this sounds like you, Heide has a few tips on how you can manage these feelings of insecurity.
First, try meditation.
“Meditation physically shrinks the size of your amygdala, your brain’s fight or flight mechanism, therefore reducing your capacity to feel negative emotions like fear, insecurity and anxiety,” she explains.
Also, recognize when your imagination is creating scenarios. When this happens, pull your mind into the present moment and ask yourself, “What is my reality?” Then look for how your partner shows their love and appreciate and learn into that, Heide says.
Next, take responsibility for our emotional spikes and deal with them internally by releasing negative emotions instead of suppressing them, Heide adds.
“Do so privately so you’re not constantly vomiting those feelings on your partner,” she says.
Lastly, increase your sense of self-worth and emotional security by doing an “I Am” exercise. Heide says to write out 50 positive “I am” statements. By aiming for this high number, it forces you to dig deep and face what’s worthy and loveable about yourself, she explains.
If you’re not the jealous one in your relationship, but recognize it in your partner, there are also things you can do to better the situation.
“Not all jealousy stems purely from a want to control others,” Heide says. “It could be their feelings came from histories where the betrayal they fear actually happened.”
So if your partner is working at controlling themselves through meditation and/or therapy, then patience is key.
But if your partner isn’t looking to deal with their feelings and continues to create this dysfunction through controlling behaviour, Heide says its best to leave the relationship behind.
“Anyone not willing to fix their problems, instead of choosing to only look outward and blame their emotional discomfort on others, do not make ideal long-term partners,” she warns. “Make it clear that reconciliation is possibly only after they’ve undergone treatment for whatever problem is leading to the controlling behaviour.”