Is jealousy healthy in a relationship? (Like even a little bit?)

By (Sarah Ashley), published by

EVEN though jealousy evokes negative connotations, it can definitely lead to positive outcomes. First and foremost, envy is a natural human emotion! Don’t berate yourself for feeling it. Second, jealousy can be healthy, as long as it’s dealt with in a thoughtful way.

Jealousy in relationships can be especially tricky, so take a deep breath before tackling this complex emotion. The good news is, if you’re feeling jealous in your relationship, it’s not time to break up.

Before we really dig into it, it’s worth taking some advice from Maya Bialik, founder of The Same Page, an app that provides a place for people to make meaningful connections around what they’re reading (romantic or platonic). She says people experience envy in completely different ways.

“In some relationships, a little jealousy is a natural thing and stays at that, while in others, it can lead to toxic dynamics,” Bialik says. Don’t compare yourself — or your partnership— with anyone else.

Is jealousy healthy in a relationship?

When we think about healthy relationships, we envision mutual trust, respect, communication and compassion. Dr. Leena Magavi, M.D., of Community Psychiatry, says when we worry about losing our partners, these positive emotions can balloon into fear. This fear often morphs into jealousy, which is actually kind of sweet when you think about it. It means we want a commitment.

“Mild jealousy can be healthy,” says Dr. Magavi. “It reiterates the fact that an individual cares about his or her partner, values them and does not want to lose them.”

We may become jealous of the attention our partners give to others because we want to be the only apple of their eye. This is healthy when it clarifies and solidifies the definition of your relationship with your partner.

If, however, this type of jealousy leads to constant fights between you and your partner, it’s time to slow down and check in with yourself. Again, this can be a good thing — for real! Dr. Magavi says being envious may mean you’ve got to spend some time thinking about whether there is something making you feel inadequate or less deserving of love.

“In this case, journaling a timeline of life events, which made them feel unloved may help them identify the trigger. Healing from past trauma in therapy, practicing self-compassion and interacting with uplifting individuals may help combat debilitating feelings of jealousy,” Dr. Magavi says.

Ryan and Alex, the real-life couple behind Duo Life, build on this sentiment by addressing the jealousy we may feel directly towards our partner. Formerly engineers, this husband-and-wife team now coaches couples on nutrition, fitness and living their happiest lives together. Alex says coveting your partner’s skills or achievements signals areas in which you probably want to improve yourself.

“Ask yourself why and what you’re really jealous of,” Alex says. “Harness that to fuel positive change … Whether you need to improve in a skill or increase your self-confidence, recognizing jealousy as a signal instead of the end of a relationship will help propel you to become a better partner.”

Finally, a little jealousy can be a nice reminder that the two of you are absolute catches. When a stranger flirts with you, but you only have eyes for your partner, it can remind them how lucky they are.

Signs of healthy jealousy

Healthy jealousy results in growth. This may look like one partner coming to terms with insecurities and devising a plan to deal with them. It may look like both partners talking more openly about emotions or simply better understanding each other.

1. Acknowledging it

Ryan and Alex say healthy jealousy is acknowledged jealousy, plain and simple. This can definitely include sharing your feelings with your partner, but it really begins within you, the person experiencing it. If you’re envious and refuse to acknowledge it, there’s not much your partner can do to help.

2. Openly talking about it

Dr. Magavi says a partner willing to discuss their feelings in an honest way is demonstrating healthy jealousy. For example, phrases like, “I felt jealous when the girl at the party was talking with you. I felt like she was flirting, and it made me feel uncomfortable,” and “I’m so happy to hear that you are excelling at work, but right now, I am feeling insecure about my own performance and the way others perceive me,” are healthy expressions of jealousy.

Keeping details hidden doesn’t count! Embrace vulnerability.

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