The Three Most Important Mantras for Fighting Jealousy in a Relationship

I was the spelling champ of my entire K-8 school twice – once in 4th grade and once in 6th grade. In 5th grade, I got second place to a 6th grader. If I recall correctly, the word was something like “antithesis” or “antihistamine”. I don’t know. But it was definitely an “a” word.

When my opponent won that fateful year, you would have thought that she had killed my dog; my jealous fits could not be maintained. I was the spelling queen. I was the grammar monarch. I was the reader and the writer of my class. Who exactly did this scraping “sixer” think she was?

“Why did SHE win? It’s not fair! She only won because she’s older than me! Or maybe I’m just the worst speller ever!!!!!”

Still, this temporary conniption subsided pretty quickly, probably because I played video games later that afternoon or found cookies in our pantry. This was also before my crippling insecurity about my appearance settled in (and stayed for a solid, I don’t know, 15 years?), so my jealous outrages were more like minor huffs at that time.

Some things get better with time, others get worse. The acne that I had back then has long since subsided, but even to this day, jealousy – especially in my romantic relationship – has become one of my biggest weaknesses.

To demonstrate, let me tell you another story.

About two and a half months ago, my partner and I decided to go on a characteristic adventure in my city of Long Beach. We’re huge fans of finding cheap and free things to do, and the great thing about living in the greater LA area is that there is a bevy of them. This particular Saturday’s activity was swing-dancing. Seems innocent enough, right? Wrong. Or at least “wrong” according to my evil, anxiety-ridden conscience.

My partner and I were nervous because we had arrived after the actual lesson portion of the swing dancing event, so we moseyed around for a little bit and surveyed the scene, attempting to churn out our best West Coast swing steps but usually creating our own thing. I eventually decided to strike out on my own to find a bathroom.

When I came back to find my boyfriend, I saw him standing near a fan, innocently enough. But this was no ordinary fan. It was a fan teeming with women. *cue dramatic sound effect*

I noticed that one of the women had taken a particular liking to my partner, and though he walked away indicating his disinterest, she looked displeased that her efforts had not panned out. Rather than continue to analyze her, I shot my partner a livid glance.

“Who was that.” There is an intentional lack of a question mark here. I wanted to send the message that my question would  be addressed, in full, no matter the answer.

“Nobody,” my partner responded confidently. “Some girl trying to talk to me, but I just told her I was here with you.”

I asked a couple more questions and he went into a little more detail. At this point, I should have moved on and had a good night with my partner, but instead I adopted this stance for the remainder of the evening, ensuring that many of these glances were aimed at Miss Checkered Pants herself as often as possible:

when someone flirts with bae

You see, for most people, jealousy is something that occurs in passing. It’s an afterthought. Or it only comes up if something REALLY big happens, like the other person having a secret family or flirting with a good friend.

But in Haley Territory, it’s a different scenario.

I have had some really, really abysmal things happen to me in relationships. I’ve been cheated on plenty of times, often in exceptionally creative ways. I’ve had money stolen from me. I’ve had life plans altered or ruined amidst the promise of a good relationship, only to be halted by utter asshattery. Couple that with my long-brewing insecurity over my looks and general worth to society, and you have quite an overreacting, overdramatic mess on your hands. And I’m sorry to say that that mess is me, even though my relationship now is near-perfect, my plans are intact, and I have no reason to stay so messy.

If you’re like me, the three things below just might be the only things that’ll keep you sane when the time comes. After everything I’ve tried to tell myself, these are the only tactics that have actually worked for me. They are:

1) Do not look too deeply into your partner’s past. Your partner’s romantic past should not be delved into beyond the basics. While it’s important to know the gist of the main exes or other major players in your belle/beau’s history, it’s unhelpful to know the details of the one-offs and the minor people. There’s enough jealousy and questioning with the main ones, so for your own sake, please don’t add any more veggies into that pot (if that’s even an expression). Your partner is with you now. Focus on that.

2) Put yourself in their position. Hopefully, if you’re in a relationship, you are the type of person who is enamored of your partner and can barely glance at another person. If you’re in a relationship, you have hopefully chosen a like-minded person to be with. Thus, assume that they, like you, are enamored of you and don’t want anybody else. Otherwise, why would they be with you?

3) Focus on your own development. Take it from me: looking at people on TV and Instagram can be absolutely soul-crushing. I’d be lying if I said that I never got jealous of these people, because sometimes it damn near ruins my day. But I don’t have the time, money, or – most importantly – the true desire to get ice-blue hair extensions, photo facials, or Balmain dresses, so I’m not gonna look like those people. So I focus on things that matter to me, like making my muscles stronger and becoming a better-than-2-bit writer (I’m sitting at around 3 bits, which isn’t bad…but I’d like to be better). Do the same for yourself – focus on being the best YOU that you can be and don’t cave to others’ expectations to be anything else, whether that’s your partner’s or some random magazine model who’s (insanely Photoshopped) face seems to be judging you through the pages.

As with anything I say on here, I speak from my own, limited experience. I’m obviously still struggling with this, to the point where I might even write a book of short stories about my jealousy. It might actually be a winning addition to the comedy shelves at your local bookstore.

Oh man, maybe I should go work on that idea.

-H

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