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Normal Jealousy or the Start of Abuse?
How to tell the difference in your relationship
- Feb 08, 2016
Most, if not all of us, have felt jealousy at some point in our lives. Many of us may also be familiar with the negative effects jealousy can have in relationships. Hopefully, we are able to find healthy ways to communicate with our partner when we do feel jealous.
However, jealousy can be a driving force behind an abuser’s controlling behavior and should be considered a red flag, particularly if it occurs frequently during the onset of relationships. But does the mere presence of jealousy signal a potentially abusive relationship?
“Experiencing occasional feelings of jealously is normal, and sometimes even appropriate, within a relationship,” says Dani Bostick, a counselor and member of the American Counseling Association. “For instance, if one partner does something like act flirty with someone else, it’s appropriate to feel jealous.”
Jealousy, when in response to a real threat to the relationship is normal, as long as it’s dealt with by expressing one’s feelings and talking about establishing healthy boundaries that both partners can agree upon. Jealousy becomes problematic when it’s triggered by delusions of perceived threats, or in other words, if one person becomes jealous even when no threat is present. It’s also problematic when normal feelings of jealousy fuel unrealistic expectations of one partner.
“Jealousy becomes a problem when the person feeling jealous becomes possessive or controlling, or imposes double standards on his or her partner,” Bostick says. “For example, the jealous person might say the partner can’t hang out with members of the opposite sex on their own. If both partners agree to that, that may be healthy. But if it’s one partner telling the other not to do that but he or she still can, that’s a red flag.”
Other red flags for identifying an unhealthy type of jealous behavior include:
Getting too serious too quickly. If a partner wants to be exclusive immediately, ask yourself why. “It may offer feelings of security, but wanting to be exclusive immediately can be a red flag,” Bostick says. Consider why an emotionally secure adult would need to rush into being exclusive when you barely know one another.
Monitoring your communications. Following you on Instagram is one thing, but “anytime someone wants your password or to check your phone, that’s invasive,” Bostick says. “The first time it comes up, you need to set a strong boundary. Or run.”
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Repetition. Abuse is recurrent. If bouts of jealousy followed by apologies and promises of a better future become a pattern, it may signal that control and abuse is to come.
Not taking responsibility. In healthy relationships, the partner who is feeling jealous should discuss his or her feelings with the other partner rationally. He or she might say, “When you go out with your co-workers without inviting me, I feel insecure and jealous.” But people who are not emotionally intelligent will blame the partner for their own feelings, saying things like, “You make me crazy when you go out with your co-workers!”
Listen to yourself. “A huge red flag is when the partner who is being abused starts defending, explaining and accommodating the other partner,” Bostick says. “If you’re using sentences that start with ‘I was just …’ that’s generally a sign of abuse and control.”
Abuse isn’t always easy to identify.. Educate yourself on the type of abuse that doesn’t have tangible evidence in “Abuse That’s Hard to Recognize: Coercive Control.”
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