Coping with jealousy

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Dear Dr. Rachel,

My husband is really into yoga and has developed friendships with some of his teachers. These instructors are all much younger than me and happen to be attractive women. I want him to enjoy his passion of yoga and make friends, but I feel tension when he insists on going to one of their classes, especially when it disrupts our schedule. He tells me I have nothing to worry about. How can I stop being jealous over something so minor?

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Jealousy can make us feel crazy. Granted, some people who feel jealousy actually are crazy (think of the movie Fatal Attraction). Pathological jealousy includes preoccupation, violence and a split from reality. Sadly, this goes beyond the movie screen: spousal jealousy is the leading cause of spousal murder worldwide. I gather you’re a reasonable person with self-insight who is experiencing normal jealousy (your husband may beg to differ). Whatever the degree of jealousy, you can damage a relationship if you don’t get a grip on it. As they say, paranoia will destroy ya.

Jealousy has been called the shadow of love. Yet showing jealousy over minor things is not an expression of love, it’s an expression of insecurity. Insecure people destabilize their relationships and make them insecure; the very situation they fear becomes the one they create. These individuals become jealous of anyone else who takes attention away from their partner, whether it be a friend, a hobby or a child. Jealousy often leads to anger, which is then regulated by trying to control their partner. This is driven from a sense of competition with the perceived (or real) object of attention. Typically this only backfires and pushes their partner away.

Given you don’t mention a history of deceit or infidelity in the relationship, I suspect your reaction is about you and not him. This isn’t your intuition telling you he’s straying. It’s your fears creating a warped perspective. This is rooted in your formative years, namely your childhood but perhaps also your earliest romantic relationships. Your jealousy is the result of insecure attachment from these caregivers. Your inner child feels threatened and fears humiliation or abandonment.

If your husband’s passion were hunting or golfing with the fellas, you might be less emotionally triggered by his hobbies, but you’d still be ticked if it disrupted your schedule together. This is because your insecurity seeks to keep a tight reign on him.

Persuading him to only attend yoga classes taught by unattractive, older men is no solution; you’ll never be able to shield him from engaging with cute women on occasion, on or off the mat. A healthy relationship allows space for each person’s interests and outside friendships — male or female, student or teacher. Trust your husband’s ability to maintain boundaries. Trust that the vast majority of yoga teachers recognize their influence and do not abuse it. That being said, sexual scandals between a “guru” and his/her students have occurred in the yoga community. These scandals are the exception and not the rule. No doubt there is something palpable about the energy generated in a yoga class, beyond the fact that people are breathing, sweating and moving together.

The practice invites a deeper connection to the body compared to other types of movement classes and can draw those seeking transformation during a vulnerable time. For example, a time such as the one you’re currently experiencing.

It’s natural to feel the occasional pang of envy toward pretty women who garner your husband’s time and energy. A hint of jealousy just might be beneficial, reminding you that this person waking-up next to you every day with morning breath is desirable to others as well. This might re-ignite passion, giving you a fresh perspective and preventing you from taking your husband for granted. Don’t overlook the ways his involvement in yoga is an asset to the marriage. Interfere with such a valuable outlet for him and he’ll be more on edge, tired and irritable. Plus, encouraging him to get to class means a more patient, refreshed and friskier playmate for you.

Rest assured you are not crazy, just working through old wounds. You have to comfort this part of you as if you were soothing an innocent child. Validation must come from within. Engage with people and activities that remind you how lovable you are. Involve yourself in meaningful and novel pursuits, both within and outside of the marriage to help feel more confident. Focus on your purpose and meaning, your accomplishments and your unchanging essence. After all, it’s this unique, one-of-a-kind essence that led your husband to choose you in the first place.

Dr. Rachel Allyn is a licensed psychologist in private practice. Learn more about her unique style of therapy at DrRachelAllyn.com. Send questions to Rachel@DrRachelAllyn.com.

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