Marriage and the Husband-Wife Relationship/Jealousy

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Question
Dear Graham,

English is not my first language, so I apologise in advance for any mistakes you may find in this letter.

I'm married to the love of my life and I trust him  implicitly. He's a very honest, respectful and trustworthy guy. We've been together for 5 years but we've known each other for 12 years (we dated for 4 years in the past).

Even though I've never heard him make any disrespectful comments about women (I mean, of sexual nature) or give any women a lustful look, I'm still very, very jealous. Just the thought of him lusting after another woman makes me cringe. I know this is utterly ridiculous and I'm very ashamed of feeling this way. My husband feeling sexually attracted to another woman doesn't mean he'll dump me or cheat on me. I know this. I don't even know why exactly it bothers me so much when I picture my husband lusting after beautiful women, actresses, models etc.  

Whenever I see a beautiful woman on the street, I'm afraid he'll find her attractive. Whenever there's a beautiful actress on a movie, I kinda feel anxious and pray that this woman will not take off her clothes. It feels like a nightmare, because there are beautiful women everywhere.

I went into psychotherapy more than once, I've tried counselling, meditation, exercising, you name it. But nothing and nobody has ever changed the way I feel. I see my girlfriends not being jealous of stupid things like the ones I've mentioned and I envy them.

Could you please help me? How can I overcome this? I mean, I know that going into therapy is important, but I'd like to hear something more "practical".

Thank you so much.

Answer
Hi Flavia,
Let me say your English is perfect. So to the issue in hand;jealousy,at the root of jealousy lies fear of loss. Like many jealous partners, you fear the  loss of your relationship, loss of self-respect, even loss of 'face'.
     When fear lessens, so does jealousy. More than feelings of fear, jealousy also leads to a smorgasbord of other emotions such as anger, hate of love 'rivals', disgust (sometimes self-disgust), and hopelessness. So why might a person be jealous? Have you been cheated on  'Once bitten, twice shy',  now creating imaginary threats. We're told it's great to have 'a good imagination', but using it to torment yourself is not going help you at all.Of course, if your partner is continually sexually active with other people, then jealousy is totally justified. And perhaps the whole relationship needs to be re-evaluated;but you mention he hasn't showed any interest in that manner. So here, we need to focus on helping yourself. if you feel unduly jealous (that's to say, there is no real or proper evidence that your partner is or has been unfaithful to you). Whatever  you  focus on be it, sexual jealousy rather than, say, being jealous of the amount of time your partner spends with his mother or  friends.
So how can we start to break the jealousy cycle, reclaim self-control, and stop driving your partner and of course, you crazy?
   It may sound trite, but how about you believe your partner?
Yes, take them at their word. If they do lie to you, then they are not making a fool out of anyone but themselves - remember that. It's been said that trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. It's very insulting for your partner to have you always doubting their word or decency of behavior. Constant questioning by you can even be as destructive as having an affair in the long run. You'll still distrust your partner for a while (out of sheer habit), but find the strength to start acting as if you believe them. If you've been checking that they really were where they said they've been, then stop doing that. When they tell you they love you, believe them. Easier said than done, but stop comparing yourself to others
Some (not all) jealousy is driven by low self-esteem. "How could they love me? I don't understand how someone like them could be attracted to someone like me!" We none of us are supposed to understand exactly why someone loves us, but consider this:
    There are better looking, richer, funnier, smarter, younger people around than just about all of us, but these are qualities of a 'product'. If he or she loves you, it will be because of an extra, indefinable quality you have that they couldn't even explain - some deep part of your humanity they connected to which transcends looks, youth, wealth, and so forth. Some of the most loved people in history have been well down the list when it comes to looks or wealth. Stop trying to 'work out' why they can possibly like you. Remember anger, fear, and jealousy drive out love; and love needs a strong dash of fearlessness to flourish. Okay, so you fear losing your loved one to someone else (and possibly fear how this will make you feel about yourself). If you must keep using your imagination, use it to imagine the 'worst' happening and you still being okay; not just surviving, but thriving in this imagined scenario. This isn't to say you have to pretend that no other attractive people exist in the world, but you can acknowledge this without using it as relationship ammunition. If your partner is ever unfaithful to you, that is a reflection of them, not you; and if this were to occur, it's better that they don't have the 'ammo' to turn around and say: "Well, you were always talking about..." or "Can you blame me? Because you were always flirting outrageously with the auto repair man (girl who works in the bar)..." Keep your dignity long-term and ditch the game playing before it begins.
     Most importantly,stop confusing make-believe with reality jealousy, like many psychological problems (from hypochondria to paranoia), is driven by the destructive use of the imagination. The imagination is great...if you use it for your own benefit, not if it messes with your mind. Stop trusting your imagination so much. Think about it: Your partner is home later than you thought they were going to be.
You start to imagine them having an intimate drink with that pretty girl you saw working in his office or that luscious sister of his new gym partner you happened to see one time.
You become angry, upset, frightened - without having any evidence that what you imagined is real. Overcoming jealousy isn't about making your partner face the wall in restaurants or trying to prevent them ever looking at anyone else; it has to be about you managing your own emotions.
good luck,

Graham

Marriage and the Husband-Wife Relationship

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Graham Smith B.PHIL

Expertise

I can help with any question on marriage, based on my 32 years of marriage. I also have two children, and one granddaughter,and one step grandaughter.

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32years of marriage.

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I have a bachelor of Philosophy from the Liverpool university (UK)

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bachelor of Philosophy

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