Jealousy in the Relationships: The Secret Aphrodisiac

It was a sultry summer night and the air was filled with loud chatter, music, and pheromones. I was working my way through the crowd, both hands occupied with drinks for me and my husband, scanning the space for his gorgeous golden head of hair. And then I saw him... There he was, talking with a stranger, who was standing too close, leaning in too attentively, with his hand placed too low on my husband’s back. I sensed a sting in my chest, blood rushed through my veins, my back stiffened and I felt my inner werewolf fighting from inside out for a gasp of fresh air, threatening to tear through my quite civilized and refined exterior. The only audible thought in my head was one primal roar – “He is MINE!”. As I approached, my body clearly gave away my thoughts and the stranger scurried away to the great delight of my husband. He was laughing hard at the scene I have made. He hugged me, looked into my eyes, and said – “You know that you are all I want. I love you.” We left the bar and spent the rest of the night together. It was both sweet and electric as if we have rediscovered the depth of our love for each other all over again.

Why am I telling you all this? Because when we talk about jealousy, we often talk about the combustible mixture of anger, territorial possessiveness, projected blame, and hurt. The conversation is usually about the destructiveness and the pain of it, rather than the possibilities and the gifts. The usual chaser for the jealous conversation is “How could s/he do this to me.” Here I want us to consider a different possibility. Like a bitter tonic, when added skillfully and sparingly, jealousy has the power to refresh, renew, rekindle, and deepen our passion, intimacy, and connection. Surprising, isn’t it? So how about breaking the mold and having a full and fair conversation about the green-eyed monster and the treasure volt it is guarding?

Jealousy is an overwhelming emotion for a few of reasons. First, it is a complex emotion combining anger, territorial possessiveness, projected blame, hurt, and rejection. Second, it is a very intense one. And finally, this Molotov cocktail is pressurized and destabilized by the shame we feel about being jealous. Shame is a big part of jealousy experience in our culture. We tend to feel ashamed that someone, as evolved, progressive, cultured, and educated as we are, can succumb to such a base and primitive sentiment. After all, aren’t we supposed to be above this?

Shame added to jealousy is a dangerous mix. It creates stuckness around the experience of jealousy and makes it harder to talk about and resolve. By trying to pretend we are not feeling jealous, denying that anything might be wrong, and acting as if everything is “fine,” we magnify our own anger, resentment, and hurt while alienating and distancing ourselves from our potentially oblivious and confused partner, who might have no clue what has been brewing in our mind. Imagine what would happen if instead of allowing the jealousy to corrode our relationship through feelings of hurt and rejection we could harness this energy to empower our bond and deepen our connection? How amazing would it be to find a secret tonic to enhance the passion and intimacy in our long-term bonds? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to be able to borrow a new pair of eyes to help us momentarily forget the familiarity of our beloved and remember what attracted us to them in the beginning? We often hear about the longing to “keep things fresh,” so here is one powerful way of doing just that.

How can we harness the energy of jealousy to power our passion?

First - we have to flip the script. Instead of allowing our jealousy and shame to throw us into the spiral of hurt and rejection, leading to anger, disengagement, or withdrawal from our loved ones, how about speaking up instead? Of course, when we talk to our partner we have to own the responsibility for our feelings, rather than using blaming and accusatory language, which will only serve to alienate them. Instead, own the responsibility for your feelings and use the ABC structure to explain to your partner your personal experience. While talking to him or her, tell them “When you do (A) in the context of (B) I feel (C).” For example, “When you did not introduce me to your ex last night, I feel excluded and abandoned. It felt like the two of you still share something that does not include me.” Talk about your experience and your hurt. Be open and gentle. Breathe and take your time to talk it through. It takes strength and commitment to be vulnerable and to admit our insecurity and our needs. It is also an essential step for reconnection.

Second – invite your partner into your world by describing what would you like from them in order to feel loved, connected, and secure. Are there special words he can say to you, the special way she can touch you, the time you would like to spend together, to be chosen as a priority over daily tasks, to be supported in ways important to you? Ask for what you want.  Be genuine, open, and gentle. Simply ask. For example, “I want your permission to be able to tell you when I feel jealous because it is an overwhelming experience for me and I need your help and reassurance to shake it off. I need to know that you love me.  I need a smile and a hug from you, and I need your reassurance that I am the one you want. I need to know that you’re choosing me.” Or something along these lines adjusted to your personal experience and your own relationship.

Is this it, you might wonder? Where are the 10 steps to magic?.. There are only two, and these two steps have the potential to transform the green-eyed monster into a genie in the bottle, offering you wishes of love and bliss. Of course, it absolutely requires the support and reassurance of your beloved. Love is a tango – it takes two.

The reason jealousy can be such a powerful aphrodisiac is because it breaks the familiar flow of the relationship.  It shutters the accustomed image of your significant other and makes you see them in a new light, as an object of desire for someone else, which in turn reminds you that you were once that “someone else” and your beloved was, and still is, an object of your desire. It destabilizes the predictable flow of your togetherness and reminds you that you do not own your boo, and there are plenty who would love to steal your place. Your partner’s stock soars as you are reminded of their appeal to strangers’ eyes. Jealousy creates distance between the lovers, sufficient to remind them of what lit the fire of passion between them, to begin with. It introduces a disruption of the familiar, where there was little space left for novelty and surprise. It lands us with new eyes and underlines the illusory nature of predictability in our relationship. Things that we have taken for granted a moment ago are questioned and tomorrow is no longer promised. The realization that we do not possess our partner stokes our wanting, fanning the flames of our desire, and making us reach out to reclaim our beloved.

There is a catch. Jealousy is a highly volatile emotion, and precautions have to be in place. If you are to harness the power of jealousy to fuel your passion, there are a few prerequisites to assure the safety of everyone involved:

  1. Foundation of Trust - we have to trust that our partner has our best interests in mind and never intends to hurt us purposely.
  2. Good communication - we have to be able to both share our experience and to be able to listen to our partner, to hear and to be heard.
  3. Commitment to the relationship – the relationship has to be in established stages with both partners being committed to each other.  
  4. Never elicit jealousy intentionally. If you choose to play a game using jealousy to tickle each other’s emotions, talk to your partner first, and discuss the rules of the game and safe ways to exit the game in case it becomes overwhelming.

Once these conditions are in place and you feel a sting of jealousy, take your chance! Own your experience – remind yourself that this is your feeling and as unpleasant and even overwhelming as it might be in the moment, it can be a magical opportunity to be chosen by your beloved once again.

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