0

Why Do We Get Jealous in Relationships?

Recognizing and embracing your partner’s enduring vulnerabilities, as well as your own, will strengthen your relationship.

Share this post:

In an interview, Dr. John Gottman was once asked what to do about “insatiable jealousy” in relationships.

His response hit on something really profound for me.

I believe that every person has areas of enduring vulnerability. For a marriage to succeed, these vulnerabilities need to be understood and honored.

This flips jealousy on its head. Instead of something to avoid in relationships, jealousy becomes an opportunity to connect. In her book “Daring Greatly” Brene Brown writes, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.”

When you understand why you get jealous, you can manage it in a way that is compassionate and constructive. Recognizing and embracing your partner’s enduring vulnerabilities, as well as your own, will strengthen your relationship.

Understand your triggers

Jealousy in a relationship can be more about your own vulnerabilities than about your partner’s actions. For instance, you may be prone to jealousy if you’ve had painful experiences in your past. It’s important to talk to your partner about these experiences so you can be mindful of each other’s triggers and respect them.

Jealousy may be driven by low self-esteem or a poor self-image. If you don’t feel attractive and confident, it can be hard to truly believe that your partner loves and values you. Other times, jealousy can be caused by unrealistic expectations about the relationship. It’s not healthy for partners to spend 100% of their time together. In the words of Kahlil Gibran, “you need spaces in your togetherness to sustain your bond.”

Remember that feelings aren’t facts. Are you imagining things that aren’t really there? I encourage my clients to ask themselves, “Is that so?” Is it really happening? If the answer is no, let go of the negative thoughts. Acknowledge them before consciously dismissing them.

Feelings of jealousy can become problematic if they affect your behavior and your feelings toward the relationship as a whole. Here are some signs of unhealthy jealous behaviors.

  • Checking your spouse’s phone or email without permission
  • Insulting your spouse
  • Assuming that your spouse is not attracted to you
  • Grilling your spouse on their whereabouts throughout the day
  • Accusing your spouse of lying without evidence

If you recognize any of these behaviors in your relationship, seek to understand the vulnerabilities beneath. If you need a little extra help doing this, I recommend working under the guidance of a Gottman-trained therapist. You can find one in your area on the Gottman Referral Network.

Use jealousy for good

Jealousy in a relationship can also be a very real and reasonable reaction to your partner’s actions. Remember that in a good enough relationship, people have high expectations for how they’re treated. They expect to be treated with kindness, love, affection, and respect. They expect their partner to be loyal and honest. 

If the answer to the question “Is that so?” is yes, then it’s important to tell your partner how you feel before your jealousy turns into resentment. When you bring it up, stick to “I” statements and avoid saying things like “you always” or “you never.” Talk about your feelings about the specific situation and avoid blanket statements about your partner’s character. Say what you need, not what you don’t need.

For example, “I feel anxious when I don’t know where you are or who you’re with when you’re out. I need you to text me and let me know.”

The more you talk, the healthier your relationship will be. Is there a specific relationship that is making you uncomfortable? Are you finding that you are being stonewalled or that your partner’s behavior has recently changed?

You and your partner should be open and upfront with each other about friendships and work relationships. Transparency will help you feel more secure. If you’re not sure about boundaries, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “How would I feel if I heard my partner having this kind of conversation with someone else?” If that would hurt, then a boundary is being crossed.

Show one another how much you value each other by putting your relationship before your work, your coworkers, and your friends. Every time you do this, you build trust.

By understanding what is driving your feelings and honoring each other’s endearing vulnerabilities, you can use jealousy for good.

The Gottman Relationship Adviser, the world’s first complete relationship wellness tool for couples, takes the guesswork out of improving your relationship. Measure your relationship health with a research-based self-assessment, then receive a tailored digital relationship plan proven to heal and strengthen your connection.

For an in-depth analysis of your relationship health check out the Gottman Assessment, a virtual relationship evaluation tool for couples.

Find out how well you know your partner and how you and your partner use compromise in your relationship with the free relationship quiz for couples.


Subscribe below to receive our blog posts directly to your inbox.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Share this post:

April Eldemire is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Bringing Baby Home Educator, and couples expert in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She is passionately devoted to helping couples achieve thriving relationships. For information on a Bringing Baby Home workshop, counseling services, or to subscribe to her Tip Sheet, visit her website.

Recommended products

Original price was: $250.00.Current price is: $179.00.

Our Best prices of the year on the Gottman Relationship Adviser. 

Celebrate Dads this month.

Sale Ends Soon!

The Gottman Relationship Adviser is a complete approach to relationship wellness. Measure your relationship health with the research-based Gottman Assessment, analyze five key areas of your partnership to identify your strengths and weaknesses, then start a tailored, step-by-step digital program proven to heal and strengthen your connection—all on your schedule and from anywhere.

The Adviser uses the legendary scientific Gottman Method to help you understand what’s really going on in your relationship—and gives you exactly what you need to improve it.

Original price was: $149.00.Current price is: $99.00.

You’ve decided to spend forever together. Congratulations! Making a commitment to one another is a time to celebrate and prepare for the new adventure ahead of you. This new journey is one of Trust and Commitment as you forge a path towards lasting love. You’ll have shared goals and new dreams to hope for, and plenty of fun and play. Don’t forget to soak in all the intimacy and romance along the way! So, take each other’s hands and get ready. Whether you’re committing to each other after a long time of casual dating or you’ve just swept each other off your feet, committing to each other is a big step, but don’t worry. With more than 40 years of research into how relationships work, the Gottmans are here to give you the tools you need for happily ever after.

This new program will help you learn:

  • The difference between dreams and goals
  • How to have conversations around your hopes for your lives, both individually and together
  • The meaning of trust and commitment, and how to increase both in your relationship
  • How to go “all in” on your relationship, and the fruits that it can bear
  • How to introduce more fun, play, and adventure in your lives
  • How to create your own Rituals of Connection

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.

Limited Time Offer!

Original price was: $149.00.Current price is: $99.00.

Do you feel seen, heard, and valued by your partnerOne of the many benefits of a happy and healthy relationship is the feeling that you have someone who really “gets” you. But everyone has areas they could improve on, or be more intentional in their relationship. That’s what Feeling Seen and Heard, from the Gottman Relationship Coach, is all about. Learn from Drs. John and Julie Gottman how to be seen and heard, how to become a better listener and how to Turn Towards your partner more often in this series of videos and exercises.

When you show up for your partner, and when you feel seen and heard, your connection will deepen and you can even reduce your stress! 

This new program will help you learn:

  • How to identify and share your truth
  • About what we call Bids for Connection, and the three ways you can respond to them
  • How to Turn Towards your partner to make your relationship successful.
  • A concept of an Emotional Bank Account and positive emotions, and how to
    increase the balance in your Emotional Bank Account
  • How to identify and express your needs in the relationship
  • How to be a great listener
  • How to have a stress-reducing conversation

Limited Time Offer!

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.

Original price was: $149.00.Current price is: $89.00.

In “Dealing with Conflict” Drs. John and Julie Gottman guide you through a series of exercises, concepts, and communication skills that can truly change your conflict conversations. With these new skills, going from arguing to understanding is possible. Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.

In this program you will learn:

  • Why you keep fighting about the same things, and how to get “unstuck.”
  • How to address recurring issues within your relationship.
  • How to approach conflict conversations gently, in a way that addresses specific issues.
  • How to identify what your feelings and experiences are around issues that are causing conflict, and how to gently bring them up with your partner.
  • How to understand your partner’s side of an issue, and how to get your partner to understand where you’re coming from.
  • How to examine the individual values, ideas, and beliefs that influence how you and your partner engage with the world around you.
  • More about your own emotions.

“Buy Now” will take you to GOTTMAN CONNECT to purchase and view this product.

Related posts

Couple not talking where one person is stonewalling.

What Is the Difference Between Stonewalling and Gaslighting?

Laura Silverstein

Read More

Julie and John Gottman with Fight Right book

What Are We Fighting For?

Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman

Excerpted from FIGHT RIGHT copyright © 2024 by Julie Schwartz Gottman, PhD and John Gottman, PhD. Used with permission from Harmony ...

Read More

Couple feeling emotionally stuck.

Overcoming Gridlock This Holiday Season

Sanaa Hyder

Gridlock. The word itself conjures up the image of sitting in your car for hours while traffic around you barely inches ...

Read More

What is the story beneath their emotions?

Do You Know the Story Beneath Your Relationship to Emotions?

Sabrina Walters

There’s an untapped power to understanding why you manage your emotions the way you do — and how that might differ ...

Read More

Co-parenting during the holidays

Co-Parenting During the Holidays

Terry Gaspard

It is challenging to co-parent during the holidays but making your child/ren the priority and creating new rituals of connection can ...

Read More

Couple working together and balancing love and everyday life

Preventing Roommate Syndrome

Kendra Han

Based on the webinar Preventing Roommate Syndrome: Balancing Love and Everyday Life presented by Genesis Games, LMHC on October 12, 2023. ...

Read More

Subscribe to Gottman Love Notes

Sign up and start your relationship transformation. Subscribe and get the latest on relationships, therapy, and much more from the experts. Includes a free download and access to special pricing on Gottman products every month