Letters, We Get Letters(about Relationships...)

Hi Joel,

I was wondering if you could give me any advice on dealing with jealousy in a relationship? I love my partner and for a lot of the same reasons that I love him I tend to get insanely jealous over stupid things. I'm working with myself on a lot of things in particular that seem to come completely naturally to him, but I have a hard time not getting bitter about it. I know my bitterness is misplaced, so I try to repress it and then it ends up coming out some other time, causing some completely ridiculous argument. I know that I could sit down and list all my good traits or have him point out what he admires about me, but I wish I could just get my mind to stop comparing us all together.

Hiya Dear,

Thanks for writing so honestly on a topic we can all relate to. Here are some thoughts about your situation. Feel free to ask more if needed.

Most of us partner with someone who has different skills and qualities than we do.  What they can naturally and easily do well, we may have to work really hard to accomplish, if we even want to put our energy into those endeavors. Even then we may not ever reach their skill level. Usually, we too, have areas of natural expertise that our partners may find difficult for themselves. Hopefully we don’t downplay those too much!

Sometimes, in a couple, one person is more of a “glass half empty” type (like me) and looks more at what’s missing. The other is often more a “glass half full” person, and seems to pay more attention to their wholeness. When our focus is more on “where we’re not” it’s easier to feel bad in comparison to another. “Glass half fullers” (like Kate) don’t tend to go there, at least not in the light of day.

The glass half empty and the glass half full attitudes are compensations for the invisible fear of not being enough. Believe me, there’s an awful lot partners have in common when they are able to dive beneath the surface through tender sharing and honest dialogue.

When we compare ourselves to others, we are often afraid that we don’t measure up to them. Having another person so close to us makes it very convenient to place some of the blame on them. We want them to be in touch with or manifest their fears in the same way we do. We hope that if they do this we would then feel so much better about ourselves. Unfortunately, there’s a really good chance that without some excellent communication skills, that will lead us down a tunnel where no cheese exists.

Our partners are big mirrors for us to see ourselves. At times they will, without even trying, reflect back to us our negative view of ourselves thus bringing up difficult feelings. When I’m in this place, I have a couple of options. I can go down my usual and well worn path called “The- Less -Than -You - Highway” (and blame my partner) or make a right turn onto a less known, less comfortable road named “Plenty – Good – Enough - Street”.  I believe we always partner up with someone different, so that we can borrow from them characteristics that are beneficial to us. As you make that turn, either gradually or quickly, the mirror will begin to reflect your courageous choice, and feel like a friendlier place to hang out.

We all need a safe place to work through our feelings, especially when we are in the process of changing. Ask your partner if he would play back to you what he hears you saying and try to understand your world. Over time, you will be able to see and appreciate both your natural skills and the areas you’d like to change. When your partner is willing to do the same, a great bonding and learning process should result for both of you. Please remember that this is a journey we all face but aren't necessarily as honest with ourselves about it as you are. That’s just one of your strengths!

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