Tips to Help You Talk with Your
Spouse about Jealousy
By Susie and Otto Collins
Bruce often feels powerless to his jealous thoughts.
A doubt or worry about his wife Janey creeps into
his mind and, before too long, he finds himself
acting from jealousy.
This almost always leads to trouble. Trouble for him
and trouble for his marriage.
Bruce doesn't want to bother Janey by trying to talk
about his jealousy. He always thinks that, one day,
he'll be able to get it under control.
But then something happens-- he sees Janey talking
with another man at a party or he imagines her
interacting closely with a male co-worker-- and the
jealousy seems to take over.
Soon an argument breaks out between the two of them
or he's muscled his way into another man's personal
space-- more than one fist fight has been barely
Is your jealousy the unspoken and avoided
"elephant in the room" in your marriage?
Perhaps you believe that if you don't focus in on
your jealousy, it will just go away. Or, you might
see the jealousy as "your" issue and maybe even feel
embarrassed to be having these emotions.
Here's what's usually the case, however...
As much as you try to hide your jealous feelings,
they seep out in unexpected and sometimes
exaggerated ways. You may speak rudely or harshly to
another person whom seems to you to be a threat to
your marriage, for example.
Your mate can sense that something is going on for
you. When you are jealous, you are probably more
withdrawn and distant as you grapple with this
Conversely, you might lash out at him or her for
what appears to be no apparent reason.
It could be that particular habits that your spouse
has developed are triggers for your jealousy. He or
she might seem to you to be a flirt, for instance.
We do not recommend that you spend your time and
energy attempting to determine which of you is
ultimately or solely to blame for your jealousy and
the possible disconnection in your marriage.
We do encourage you to find ways to talk about the
current dynamics in your relationship.
Acknowledge that you are feeling jealous and look at
the possible contributors (from within yourself and
possibly from your partner's behaviors).
You can talk about jealousy with your spouse in ways
that can bring you eventual ease and actually move
the two of you closer together in the process.
Take ownership for your jealousy.
As you communicate with your mate about your
jealousy, own how you are feeling. Practice using "I
feel" statements instead of speaking in ways that
will be judging and blaming.
Remember that your goal is to not only to overcome
your jealousy and find relief from the upset you've
been feeling, it's also to re-connect with your
After a particularly difficult office party at
Janey's workplace the previous night, Bruce asks her
to talk. Bruce admits that he felt jealous while at
He shares with Janey that he has been feeling
intense jealousy quite frequently for the past year
Bruce tells her, "I feel angry and fearful that you
will have an affair when I see you talk with another
Janey is relieved that they are finally talking
She has begun to dread social occasions because
Bruce's stares and glares at the men she casually
talks with are uncomfortable and even seem to be
Identify triggers and create strategies.
When you communicate to connect, it is essential
that you and your mate speak with honesty and
openness and that you also listen in engaged and
Using "I feel" statements is one way to promote a
feeling of openness as you communicate, as
As you and your spouse attempt to uncover what
triggers jealousy, continue to focus in on what you
each need and what you'd like to change.
For example, Bruce could say to Janey, "I need you
to stop talking with other men when we are out
But this request is unrealistic and, most likely,
undesirable to Janey.
Instead, Bruce might go within himself and identify
that when Janey is talking with other men and they
touch her on the arm or shoulder, his jealousy tends
Bruce and Janey can create an agreement that Janey
will be aware of how closely she stands while
talking with other men at parties and in other
It might be acceptable to her to agree to maintain a
particular distance between herself and the men she
is talking as a way to support Bruce's effort to
overcome his jealousy.
For his part, Bruce can agree that he will no longer
rush over to Janey when she is talking with another
man. He will not stare or glare at them.
When triggered, he agrees to find a quiet space
(such as the bathroom) to take some deep breaths and
As you identify what seems to trigger jealousy for
you, be aware of your past.
Often, unresolved hurts and experiences from your
own history will play a role in your feeling jealous
about situations that are happening right now.
Take the time to make completions about your past so
that you can be fully present in your marriage
As you are communicating about jealousy with your
mate, pause and reflect on what you are feeling and
what you want to say before you actually say it.
If you need to take a brief break in your
conversation, ask for one. Be sure to set up a
specific time during which you two will resume