Addiction recovery is a path that certainly takes you on winding roads with ups and downs. Add jealousy to the mix and it can really become a tough path to navigate.
Jealousy can be an intense emotion, as it can cause drama in a relationship and perhaps destroy it. Most people can relate to small doses of healthy jealousy in a relationship. A little insecurity arises, but it’s nothing that an honest conversation with yourself or your partner can’t handle.
However, for someone struggling with attachment issues, low self-esteem, codependency, addiction, etc., jealousy can cause an emotional and relationship breakdown in no time.
Jealousy is a variety of emotions rolled up into one. If you’re feeling jealous, you may also be feeling angry, fearful, anxious, and defensive at the same time. Jealousy can cause you to think and behave in ways that you never thought possible. Afterwards, you’re thinking, “Did I really say/do that? What’s wrong with me?”.
Granted, not all jealousy rips relationships apart. Often, someone will feel a bit jealous, speak it, and have a discussion around it with no harm done. For example, let’s say Jane and Joe are out to dinner. The waitress is a good-looking woman wearing a skimpy t-shirt. Joe finds himself staring at her, and Jane starts to feel jealous.
She brings it up to him calmly and maturely. She says she is not comfortable with the way he is googling over her. It makes her feel jealous. Joe, wanting to honor his gal’s feelings, apologizes. He tells Jane that he adores her and refrains from doing this sort of behavior again. Problem solved.
Let’s look at Tim as an example of someone dealing with unhealthy jealousy. Tim is in recovery from alcohol addiction. He’s got six months sober and just got out of a sober living home. He feels like he’s doing pretty good, so he decided to start dating.
After dating for months, he finally found a woman he was totally into. They started seeing each other almost every day. He didn’t think of himself as a jealous man, but suddenly, he found himself thinking irrational and insane thoughts about this woman for no good reason at all. Thoughts like:
On top of these irrational thoughts, he found himself doing things he later felt shame around. For example, he kept sneaking a peek at her cell phone to see who she’d been texting. When she went to bed at night, he’d stalk her Facebook page and read her Facebook messages. He looked through all her drawers in her house, seeing if he could find incriminating evidence that she loved another.
He even started following her when she went out with her friends. Sometimes he’d drill her with questions, but she quickly laid down a boundary around such intense questions. So, he wrestled in his mind day after day feeling insecure and had no idea how to contend with it.
He also noticed that when he would feel extremely jealous, he started craving a drink really badly. He knew he had to reach out for help with his jealousy or he’d end up drinking again. Eventually, he contacted his counselor that he had when he was in an outpatient program, determined to work through this jealousy issue.
Where does jealousy come from? Why do some people struggle with it and others don’t? What is underneath the emotion?
Mental health experts state that jealousy stems from insecurity and that insecurity usually stems from old childhood wounds that have not been resolved. It can also stem from an occurrence from a past adult relationship in which someone was subject to infidelity or rejected. However, more than not, it stems from childhood issues like the fear of abandonment, rejection, and shame.
There may be certain triggers that unleash jealousy more than others. Someone who is dealing with insecurity may want and need almost constant attention and approval from their partners in order to feel calm. When they aren’t getting it, they tend to start obsessing in their minds.
They didn’t call me at their lunch break. They must have lost interest in me. They are being ornery and tired today. They must have been out late with someone last night.
These thoughts tend to be irrational and it is important to be able to recognize this and not continue to entertain them. Entertaining such thoughts will cause you to say or do things that you might regret. What you can do in those moments is to take a look at the whole picture and commit to trust your partner even when these insecure feelings pop up.
Evaluate the situation rationally. Take a few minutes to see if you’re looking at the situation rationally or irrationally. Also, remind yourself that if by chance your partner is doing something that is shady, you won’t die. Your body may be in survival mode if your thoughts have drummed up scenarios of cheating or being abandoned, so be sure you pause to calm your mind and body. Then, reevaluate the situation.
Whether you’re in addiction recovery or not, jealousy is something that can hinder relationships, so it’s a good idea to honestly look at the topic. There is hope for overcoming jealousy. If you’re struggling in this area, seek professional help. You can become more secure and more able to thrive in your relationship based on trust and respect.