It’s been two weeks since you’ve seen your spouse. While you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that, for now, you’ll need to endure these longer-than-you’d-like periods apart, over the past several days that green-eyed monster has been rearing its ugly head.
Maybe it’s his recent mention of a new female co-worker (who he’s taken out to lunch one too many times) and then how he only called you twice instead of three times the other night. Regardless of the specific circumstances, you’re feeling incredibly jealous of this woman, who, unlike you, gets to see him each and every day. Even though he’s assured you their relationship is strictly professional, you can feel your jealousy rising up inside.
Feeling vs. action
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Craig Malkin, Director of YM Psychotherapy & Consultation, Inc. and writing a book about how people control attraction, when you’re separated from your partner, it’s natural to feel jealous. However, it isn’t natural to act jealous.
“Jealous behaviors, like hacking into e-mail, interrogation and compulsive texting or calling, are futile attempts to reduce feelings of insecurity,” says Dr. Malkin who notes that when you indulge the jealous impulse, you’re trying overcome helplessness through control instead of asking for reassurance.” It’s important to avoid grilling your partner about who he’s with and how he spends his time. If he feels grilled he might get angry and become distant which will only leave you feeling more insecure.
Build your connection
Dr. Malkin notes you won’t find security in getting a blow-by-blow of his life. You’ll find it by feeling more connected. If you spend all your time fact-finding, you’re missing out on the one way you can feel more secure: asking for actions and plans that increase your sense of connection. Worries about other relationships often fade when you’re feeling closer. Read jealousy as a sign you’re not feeling connected enough and then think of what activities might make you feel closer.
Dr. Malkin recommends these nine ways to help stave off jealousy in long-distance relationships, especially when all you have are the conversations, texts, e-mails and Skype to communicate with your loved one.
1. Confirm your commitment
If you haven’t talked about how you’re approaching the distance (especially if you are NOT married yet) “can you date others, is this a break?” do it now. If you have to guess, you’re bound to get jealous. If you want to feel secure, you need to know you’re both on the same page.
2. Discuss attraction
It’s normal to feel attracted to other people. That doesn’t mean you have to act on it. Talk about what you’ll do if you start feeling attracted to someone, and the steps you’ll take to manage it. If you both do this at the beginning of a separation, it can help prevent jealousy from overwhelming the relationship; you’ll both know your partner has thought seriously about how to avoid cheating.
3. Schedule contact
If you used to live in the same room or just the same town, you probably relied on the structure of your day to keep you feeling connected (returning home from work, going to bed together, weekends). Now you’ll have to plan those moments. Schedule regular phone calls, IM, or text check-ins that both of you can look forward to and expect and stick to it-or you may not talk at all. Distance is your enemy when it comes to fighting jealousy.
4. Spice it up
When you’re living apart exciting, new people and experiences may be a dime a dozen. You’ll need to preserve some excitement with your partner if you want your relationship to compete with all that novelty. If you’ve never considered sexy notes or creative video chat, now’s the time to try. The novelty and excitement could even strengthen your attraction.
5. Fess up-to jealousy
You need to talk directly about jealousy to prevent and manage it. If you don’t say it, you’ll show it-which can mean all kinds of accusations and snooping. Share your feelings without hurling accusations. Make clear requests: I’m feeling a little insecure. I think I’d feel better if we firm up our plans for our next visit so I can look forward to seeing you. Request specific actions he can take to help you feel more secure like planning another call or sharing more about his experiences during the day. The more connected you are, the less jealous you’ll feel.
6. Manage stress
Jealousy is a stress response-which means if you’re already anxious and overwhelmed, you’re likely to feel it even more intensely. Before you look to your partner for reassurance, make sure you’re doing your part to manage anxiety with exercise, good nutrition, meditation or yoga, and plenty of supports. Sometimes the green-eyed monster settles down when you plan a little self-care.
7. Ask for reassurance
If you feel suspicious, use I statements: I feel a little jealous about your time with her. Can we talk a little about your relationship? If that sounds too risky, remember, you’re already feeling insecure. Better to say it than show it with accusations and angry distance. If there’s nothing going on, it shouldn’t be a big deal to talk about it-anymore than it would be to discuss time with his other friends. If you do this, be sure you model the same transparency about your own relationships. . Avoid making demands or hurling accusations-these are just more attempts at control. Instead, say something like, I get a little insecure when you talk about having a great time with these other guys (or girls). I think it’d help me if we touched base after you go to the party- maybe in the morning if it’s too late when you get back?
8. But ask in moderation
If you always have to ask about time with friends to get any information at all, it might be a red-flag. If things are innocent, you partner should routinely volunteer information. You shouldn’t have to keep asking. The more open you are about your relationships (and the more open he is about his) the less jealous you’ll both feel.
9. Know your limits
If you worry day and night or fire off insecure e-mails on a daily basis, then consider taking a break. If no amount of direct reassurance helps, or you just can’t talk openly about insecurities, long distance may not be for you. Likewise, if either of you feels reluctant to schedule times to connect-with or without the spice-consider taking a break. You’re going to have hard time keeping up the connection without these moments together-and that leaves a lot of room for destructive insecurity and jealousy.
Ultimately, Dr. Malkin notes, connection is the best cure for jealousy, but also cautions that couples shouldn’t count on the strength of their love, alone, to keep them connected, and if you can’t rely on seeing each other, you’ll need to work hard to keep the connection alive in other ways.