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Jealousy Advice: "How
do I know when to set boundaries in my relationship?"
By Susie and Otto Collins
When you've been jealous in the past in this or a
different relationship, it might feel difficult to know when
to set a boundary with your partner.
Perhaps you have a difficult time knowing when to chock the
uncomfortable way that you're feeling up to "mere" jealousy
or when it's time to have a serious talk with your mate
about the issue.
We advise you to never simply dismiss, minimize or avoid how
you're feeling-- even if, to you, your emotions seem
dramatic or inappropriate.
We suggest that whenever you are feeling something
intensely-- such as jealousy-- you take some time to explore
Search within yourself first to get clear about what's true
for you and then decide whether it is something to talk
about with your partner or not.
All feelings are important.
If jealousy is fueling the thoughts you are having, then
it's vital to you and your relationship that you take a
Perhaps your jealousy is mostly rooted in the past and
doesn't pertain as much to your current relationship.
If so, ask yourself what specific things are unresolved
about your past. Map out steps you might take to make a
Once you start making completions about the past, it is far
easier to focus in on the present and what's going on in
your relationship right now.
At that point, you can usually approach your mate with a
boundary or make a request that the two of you come to an
agreement that may also help to ease the jealousy you're
Carly is torn up inside. She feels jealous, angry and
helpless about what she just discovered. While answering her
boyfriend Andy's cell phone a few days ago, she
inadvertently hit a button and a nude photo of another woman
popped onto the phone's screen.
Carly quickly put his phone down and hasn't mentioned
anything to Andy.
She feels embarrassed about her accidental discovery yet
wants to know why Andy would have such a photo on his phone.
Carly worries that this is a woman who Andy actually knows,
or used to know.
She has a lot of questions but can't bring herself to ask
As much as Carly wants Andy to explain the nude photo on his
cell phone-- and then to remove it-- she also fears that
he'll just think she's jealous. The woman in the photo is
very attractive, after all.
What's non-negotiable for you?
As we suggested above, when intense emotions, such as
jealousy, arise within you, take notice. Pause and look
closely at where these feelings are coming from.
Once you have more clarity about your feelings, then ask
yourself if there are boundaries or agreements you'd like to
set with your partner.
No matter what's happened in your past or your mate's past,
you are both entitled to set boundaries and make agreement
Is this issue something that is non-negotiable for you? This
is important to discern within yourself first.
There are times when couples make agreements and, in order
to keep an even keel, one person may not be totally honest
about how strongly he or she feels about a particular topic.
Carly finally realizes that she has to talk with Andy about
the nude photo she found on his cell phone. She plans to ask
him who the photo is of and what his relationship is right
now with this woman.
Because Carly and Andy have an agreement that they are only
dating one another and are monogamous, she feels that it is
non-negotiable for him to be holding on to a nude photo of
another woman he knows, or used to know.
This feels to Carly like a violation of their agreement.
Listen to understand as you share and hear each other's
Even as you set boundaries and state what is non-
negotiable for you, be sure to listen to understand. This
might seem difficult, but give it a try.
You can be honest about how jealous you feel when your
partner acts or speaks in particular ways. And you can
listen to try to understand what is motivating him or her to
act and speak in these ways that trigger you.
Pay special attention to the needs that your partner may
want to have met. This doesn't have to be a negative
judgment about you, instead it can be informative.
You can make changes or adjustments in your own behavior if
you choose to.
At the same time, state your needs and explain how the
agreements you'd like to make and even the non-negotiable
boundaries you are setting fit in with your needs.
We want to stress that you-- and your partner-- deserve to
have your needs met and listened to.
When Carly courageously sits down with Andy and talks with
him about the nude photo on his cell phone, she asks for the
information she wants to know and she states her boundary.
He finally admits that the photo is of a woman whom he dated
in college whom he recently re-connected with online.
He says that he didn't ask her to send him the photo but he
also concedes that he's saved the photo for a few weeks now.
Carly and Andy then begin to talk about their relationship
agreement to be monogamous and specifically what that means
to each of them. They listen to one another and decide their
next step from this listening and sharing.
While jealousy is a destructive and disconnecting emotion,
it is one that needs to be acknowledged and explored. Tune
in to yourself, no matter how difficult it seems.
As you are clear about what you are feeling and what you
want, you will know if there are boundaries to set and
agreements to be made with your partner.
From this place of honesty and openness, you two can move
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