When jealousy hurts your relationship
Explaining your emotions and crafting loving responses are the keys to intimacy
There are many paths to intimacy in a loving relationship. Some people feel a more intimate connection when they’re physically affectionate, and others boost intimacy through words of kindness and affirmation.
But one of the simplest and most meaningful ways to cultivate an intimate connection with your partner involves a simple conversation. It’s an exchange we have the opportunity to engage in every single day, as it arises naturally and it’s formulaic: Intimacy = vulnerable expression + loving response. Intimacy arises when one person feels vulnerable and expresses that vulnerability in a constructive manner and the other person responds with love and support. It’s that simple.
It took Toronto couple Serena* and Nicole* some time to understand how this works. Nicole has a high-stress job but enjoys it thoroughly as she’s close with her co-workers. They often go out for drinks after work and share playful messages on a group chat on the weekend. Serena has joined them a few times but felt left out because they mostly talk shop and they’re a tight-knit group. She finds the weekend text chats intrusive, and Nicole’s relationship with one particularly vivacious woman in the group makes her feel jealous.
At first, Nicole responded to Serena’s vulnerable emotion (jealousy) by lashing out. When that didn’t produce the result she was looking for, she withdrew. Serena then criticized this “other woman,” insisting that Nicole come home by 6 p.m. and even checking her messages to keep tabs.
Nicole’s response to Serena’s vulnerability (now expressed as anger, withdrawal and controlling behaviour) didn’t help the situation.
She was dismissive, calling Serena “crazy, jealous and insecure,” and it’s no surprise that the tension and conflict heightened. It wasn’t until the couple worked with a counsellor who was able to help them name their emotions, express them constructively and craft loving responses that things shifted.
Serena learned to say things such as “I feel left out and worry that you like hanging out with them more than me. And when you’re texting them at the brunch table, I feel like I’m not enough for you.” Nicole learned to respond with love and reassurance: “You’re the one for me. And of course you’re enough for me. I like hanging with my friends, but of course I love our time together. And I should put down my phone.”
They’ve both learned to identify and admit to their vulnerabilities and view them as a source of strength, and they now say they feel closer than ever.
I’m summarizing and simplifying their story, but the result is clear: once you learn to express vulnerability in a constructive (nonaccusatory manner) and your partner responds with love and reassurance, you reduce relationship conflict and intimacy soars.
We feel vulnerable every single day of our lives. Vulnerability is a universal experience, and it appears as fear, jealousy, insecurity, uncertainty, self-doubt, nervousness, neediness, sadness, weakness and other emotions.
Once we accept that vulnerable feelings are universal and have the potential to be sources of power and connection, we create openings for a more profound intimate connection.
*Please note that names have been changed and relationship details have been shared with permission from all parties referenced.
If you feel jealous when your partner goes out, express your emotions