How to Handle an Insecure Partner (and Jealousy) in Relationships

Updated 04/27/18

It's normal for one (or both) partners to experience jealousy in relationships to a certain degree, but not when it reaches an obsessive or unhealthy level. (We mean, come on: It's only natural in some situations, like if your S.O. is still talking to their ex.) The thing is, there's a fine line between "normal" and territorial jealousy, and it's wise to keep things in check if things start to spiral out of control. If your partner is keeping tabs on you, frequently wants you to be alone rather than out with friends, and is constantly checking your devices, then maybe it's time to reconsider the relationship.

In fact, even though people sometimes use possessiveness to try to keep a partner to themselves (whether consciously or unconsciously), it usually ends up ruining the relationship. Studies have shown that jealousy and possessiveness can be detrimental to your romantic relationship and partners often become dissatisfied. "There are many subtle and not-so-subtle ways people attempt to control relationship partners as a means to calm their own emotions," says Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist and author of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice.

"Yet feeling connected to someone doesn't mean it is okay to act entitled or to exert power over them." If you've ever experienced this type of jealousy from your partner, keep reading to see how to overcome it (and emerge stronger than ever).

jealousy in relationships
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THE SIGNS

- They prefer when you're alone and feel uncomfortable when you're out with friends.
- They need constant reassurance.
- They act controlling.
- They try to tell you what to do.
- They constantly stay in touch via phone, text, and Gchat.
- They're monitoring your texts and social media posts.
- They want to know what you're doing at all times.

Plan a time to talk

Let's be honest—timing is everything. Of course you’re going to want to discuss the jealousy as soon as your partner shows one of the signs above, but the best thing you can do is step away and take a few deep breaths. Allow some time for both of you to calm down, and then talk when you're less heated. You'll be surprised to see how much more you'll accomplish with your conversation when emotions aren't flaring.

Discuss the why

Usually there is a reason your partner is acting this way, and it's worth exploring the root of the problem together. Oftentimes this jealousy comes from insecurity, which is something that you can deal with if you handle it in the right way, together. "Do not try to minimize, negate or 'fix' the fears," says marriage and family therapist Danielle B. Grossman. "Do not try to bully your partner's fear into submission. Do not belittle, humiliate, shame, and threaten the fear." Instead, calmly let your partner discuss how they feel and why they act the way they do without saying anything until they've finished.

Find ways to cope

It can be mindfulness meditation, yoga, or going for a stress-relieving run to get that extra energy out. And offer to do them with your S.O. (if they want you to). Not only will you be helping your partner get into great habits to treat this anxiety, they'll also be reaffirmed of your commitment to them.

Show your affection often

Your partner has already confided in you that they're insecure—so reassure them that you care. You can tell them with words, with touches, or even looks that your love for them is strong. "What I've found in long-term studies of marriage is that affirmation and affection are essential and vital to happiness in a relationship," says relationship expert Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of Finding Love Again.

Set boundaries together

It never hurts to set some ground rules so that both of you are on the same page. If their reading your texts has been a problem in the past, you can set a ground rule that they'll no longer look at your phone but that they have the right to ask you who you're you talking to during a marathon texting session. Of course, boundaries will vary by couple, but you get the idea. "You need to know what you like and dislike, what you're comfortable with versus what scares you, and how you want to be treated in given situations," explains psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD.

Keep working on it

If you think jealousy is going to go away instantaneously, then think again. But the more your partner starts to flex their non-jealousy muscles, it will likely get easier. It's going to take a little (okay, a lot) give and take on both ends, but it can be done. If the jealousy doesn't subside, then it's definitely worth re-evaluating whether this relationship is one that you want to be in. ■

We hope that we've answered your questions about how to deal with jealousy in relationships. And remember: If your partner gets overly controlling or threatens you, you need to end things right away. Jealousy is never an excuse or reason for you to feel unsafe.

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