How Jealousy can Ruin Your Relationship

Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P
February 17, 2019

Jealousy is a common challenge in intimate relationships. While the impact of jealousy can range in intensity and severity, it is damaging and will lead to disconnection.  Jealousy can be insidious, as it often can start as a minor concern, yet if it is not addressed, it can get out of control.


Jealousy is an intense, complicated feeling that can lead to despair and dysfunctional behaviors. Jealousy can come from actual events that break trust. There can be real reasons for someone to experience jealousy based on past experience.  However, most of the time, jealousy is irrational and leads to emotional overreaction and conflict.

Jealousy comes from insecurity and if fueled, can cause people to question their worth or if they are good enough for their partner.  Even if it starts out as a minor twinge, it can spread and erupt if people are not careful to understand it.

Jealousy can cause people to live in a state of hypervigilance, being on edge that their partner might do something bad. It is often expressed in the form of anger, rage, or paranoia. When it becomes unmanageable, individuals will begin to pull away from their jealous partner.  Unfortunately, this expected detachment can seem like a self fulfilling prophecy for the one who is jealous.

It can become quite irrational, as fear feeds jealousy.  People can begin to believe the lies that fear is telling them through their thinking patterns. They can be quick to misinterpret cues in their environment or over personalize behavior that is not directed at them. Their lens can become quite distorted and incomplete.  As a result, it causes people to be overly sensitive to behaviors of their partner.  Jealousy can lead to people becoming overly controlling, possessive, frequently checking up on them and even potentially abusive. Jealous partners can begin obsessing and even demonstrating stalking behaviors.  They can become so consumed with these concerns that they find it difficult to think about anything else.

Clearly, jealousy will suffocate a relationship. There is no room for extreme jealousy in a healthy partnership.  It can create quite a toxicity between people, as with it comes arguments, challenges, and frustration for all involved.   If you are consumed with jealousy, it may feel like passion or love on the surface, but it is distinctly different. There is not room for genuine love when jealousy is dominating a relationship. 

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There are usually communication breakdowns when jealousy enters a relationship. If this has occurred, there are actions couples can take to mend and heal.  Open the lines of communication and share your concerns and fears without accusing or attacking. Talk about each others’ strengths and revisit what brought you together in the first place.  Everyone in a relationship needs affirmation from their partner, so find ways to bring this back into your interactions. Discuss ways to build trust and agree upon healthy actions each person can take to foster trust.

If you feel severe jealousy in a relationship, it can be beneficial to seek therapeutic help.  The more that you have invested in a partnership, the scarier it can feel to consider losing it. The fear and concern over losing someone or something can be addressed in a healthy manner.  Gaining this insight and understanding will improve the dynamics in your current and future relationships.

Karen Doll, Psy.D., L.P

Karen Doll has been a Licensed Psychologist in the Twin Cities for 20 years, working in organizational consulting. She leverages her education in Clinical Psychology with her leadership assessment expertise in her practice. She is an executive coach focusing on helping people maximize their potential.