On Jealousy

In many years of dealing with many different kinds of relationships (both in counseling and personal situations) I can tell you that anyone who says “I don’t get jealous” simply hasn’t been in the right combination of circumstances. In fact, the longer it takes for them to come into actual contact with jealousy-inducing situations, the worse they are at dealing with it. They fall into all the usual traps:

  • Blame the partner for making them feel that way
  • Lash out at the “threatening” partner (or activity) for making them feel that way
  • Attempt to treat the symptom, not the disease (I don’t want to see you EVER even LOOK at another man!)
  • Suddenly change their own behavior in an attempt to be more attractive

Please don’t think I’m implying that people don’t cheat (they do) or that people don’t poach partners (they do) or that jealousy isn’t a wake-up call that requires some attention (it is). Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with changing yourself to try and be more attractive (and I highly recommend my friend Arden’s book to anyone wanting to do just that).

Ad Hominem Fallacy
One of many…click for high-res poster with even more fun!

They also can use one of a number of fallacious thinking techniques to come up with why they’re feeling that way – anything but being jealous. It’s a defense mechanism of sorts, and it’s reinforced by the way relationships are portrayed as zero-sum or binary situations in the media. “You either love me or you don’t,” or “How can you love me if you say you also have feelings for them?” are good indicators. They also can use one of a number of fallacious thinking techniques to come up with why they’re feeling that way – anything but being jealous. 

The problem with jealousy is that it is given far more status than most other emotions. We’re taught to control anger, greed, sloth, gluttony…why is it that so many people thinks it’s reasonable to say “Don’t do that; it makes me jealous.” Jealousy is just another emotion, and we need to have tools to deal with it as well.

It’s Inside You

The problem comes in the simple phrasing: He made me jealous. It made me jealous. It didn’t “make” you anything; you came up with that. As any good zen student knows, life is just what happens; meaning is what we attach to what happens. So if she looked at the well-dressed man walking by, that’s all that happened. The dialogue of Is he in better shape than me? evolves into Does she want somebody richer than me? evolves into I’m such a loser, I’ll never be good enough… long before you discover she was actually looking at the new ice cream shop across the street.

And that’s where we get the clue to what, in my opinion, is the only way to deal with jealousy. It’s the fact that jealousy is yet another of the many little voices of the monkey-mind, and it’s through the practice of sitting with that fearful yammering and not doing anything else that we can begin to see it for what it really is.

I’m not going to sit here and say “get over it” because that might imply that I have somehow “gotten over it.” I still get jealous of all number of things, silly things, like how many re-tweets other blogs get. But I’ve gotten better, and I do know that eventually – and I do mean eventually – it does get easier to handle. You still feel jealous, but like hunger or anger or pain it rolls through you and keeps on going. You feel it, you watch it go, and you get on with the business of loving, and living, and continuing your practice.


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