Technology makes it easier for us to feed the green-eyed monster. But here’s how to stop yourself obsessively checking up on your partner…
It’s normal to feel jealous sometimes. In small amounts it can be positive and show that we care about a relationship. At the other extreme, jealousy can be painful and destructive.
Cate Campbell, relationship therapist and accredited member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says that a bit of jealousy in a relationship is normal and healthy.
‘Obviously you shouldn’t go looking for jealousy if you don’t have it in your relationship, but a bit of jealousy is all right,’ she says. ‘The time to worry is if it becomes obsessive.’
Cate says that feeling jealous doesn’t automatically mean your partner is being unfaithful or eyeing up someone else. Jealousy, she says, can sometimes be less about what your partner is doing and more about your own self-esteem.
‘Often in relationships we can look to our partner for self-validation,’ she says. ‘So if your partner is not validating your feelings, you can wonder who are they validating instead?
‘The best relationships are based on people who are secure in their own skin and don’t seek approval from their partners. Self-esteem can be a cause of jealousy.’
Self-esteem can be dented for many reasons — from not feeling attractive enough, or after having a baby and feeling your body has changed.
But now technology is making it easier to give in to feelings of jealousy and insecurity.
There was a time when, if you were jealous of your partner, you might have followed him to the pub to see what he was up to.
Now it is much easier to track your partner — through GPS tracking apps on their phone that tell you where they are at all times, to logging on to their emails or social media.
Cate says the sheer range of options available now makes it much easier for us to feed our jealousy.
‘It’s not legal for people to go around tracking people’s private emails or their car,’ she said. ‘Yet people do and it’s shocking.’
In Cate’s own counselling sessions, couples have admitted using technology to track their partners or spy on them. But she says it can only lead to problems.
‘A lack of trust like this will ruin a relationship,’ she says. ‘It won’t last if you are stalking or following your partner around — either digitally or in reality.’
Interestingly, Cate says technology has also changed our perceptions of what infidelity is.
‘Years ago, people would come for counselling citing sex as infidelity. Now I have seen a huge rise in people who see texting or messaging on social media as infidelity — even if there has been no sex,’ she says.
‘The definition of infidelity has changed — and that means more jealousy.’
So what can you do if jealousy is starting to take over your life?
Cate says that couples need to decide what the rules are.
‘Have a conversation and ask, what is OK?’ she says. ‘Decide on your definition of infidelity and then respect that. Often I see partners being accused of infidelity for texting other people, but they genuinely do not see it that way. This talk should happen early on but if you haven’t had it yet, start now.’
Cate adds that she is seeing many younger couples who are not saying they’re in a relationship until they’ve been sleeping together for a long time.
‘When they tell the world they are in a relationship, suddenly all the anxieties rear up,’ she says. ‘By allowing the other person leeway early on in the relationship — such as texting other people — before it gets serious, a person can then feel jealous when their partner carries on as before.’
Finally, Cate reiterates that just because you’re jealous, it doesn’t mean that your partner is playing away.
‘The thing to remember is a thought is just that — a thought,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t mean your partner is being unfaithful. If your jealousy is getting out of hand it’s time to have a conversation.’
Edited by Julie Cook
Four ways to stamp out jealousy
Have a chat about what’s acceptable in your relationship — is it OK to text people of the opposite sex? Is it OK to have each other’s passwords?
If you feel jealous, don’t snoop — go to your partner and get a hug. Do things together.
Look to yourself — is your jealousy a result of your partner’s actions, or because of your own self-esteem?
Respect your partner — following someone around either in person or via technology will only lead to them not trusting you.