Dealing with toxic jealousy in a healthy way according to therapists

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Maybe your friend got a raise while you’re struggling to make ends meet. Or your partner spent what felt like a little too long chatting with the neighbour who just so happens to be way better looking than you. At some point or another, we’ve all gotten a little jealous.

Thankfully, those envy pangs usually fade away after a little while. But what happens when they don’t? What if your jealousy keeps getting more and more intense to the point where you’re thinking about it nonstop—or worse, where it’s starting to affect your relationship?

It might be time to face those feelings head-on. Here’s what experts say you should be doing to get your envious emotions under control.

How to deal with jealousy in a healthy way

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You might think the best way to cope with your jealousy is just to ignore it and move on. But pretending your feelings don’t exist can be a recipe for an emotional disaster. “That’s how jealousy becomes toxic, gets acted out in exaggerated ways, and can become highly destructive,” Borg says.

To get your emotions under control, start by taking a deep breath. Now take the time to think about how you really feel—and how you want to respond—before making another move, recommends marriage and family therapist Risa Ganel, MS, LCMFT. Here’s how to do it.

1. Separate yourself from your feelings

Rather than label yourself as jealous, remember that your mind is merely handing you a jealous feeling at the moment. This can help you avoid getting swallowed by your own emotions—and keep a level head. “That makes it easier to choose if this is a feeling you need to act upon or if it’s one you let pass by,” says Ganel.

2. Figure out where your jealousy is really coming from

Do your jealous feelings stem from something the person has done in the past, or are they coming from your own insecurities? Figuring out the answer can tell you whether the issue needs to be addressed with the person (maybe your partner has a history of being a little too friendly at parties) or if it’s something you need to work on internally (your previous partner cheated, so you’re worried that your current one will too).

3. Write it down

Pausing to put pen to paper can sometimes slow the flood of emotions and help you think more clearly before taking action on your feelings, says Ganel.

4. Now talk about it

Once you’re calm and have taken some time to clarify how you really feel, loop the other person in. Be open and honest about what’s going on inside your head, and ask for help working through your jealousy instead dishing out criticism. “This gives you an opportunity to talk about strengthening your relationship from the signal jealousy gave you and keeps you away from playing the blame game,” Ganel says. “You may be surprised to hear that they’ve had jealous feelings too.”

What not to do when you’re feeling jealous

Resist the urge to lash out, even when you feel like your jealousy is totally justified. Accusing your loved one or blaming them for your feelings is a surefire way to spark an argument. “You want to own your emotions and be in charge of them,” Ganel says.

And when it comes to romantic jealousy in particular, here’s another no-no: Don’t monitor your partner or invade their privacy to prove that your jealous feelings are “right.” “No relationship has ever improved through snooping,” warns Ganel. And yes, looking through texts or emails totally counts.

Finally, don’t let your jealousy spiral out of control. It’s normal to feel jealous every once in a while, notes Borg. But if you’re seething with envy on a near-daily basis or your jealousy is triggering feelings of intense rage or even violence, you might be dealing with internal insecurities that are worth addressing with a therapist.

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