We all experience jealousy from time to time. You know the feeling: You see an attractive person flirting with your partner and sometimes it just gets to you. It seems, though, that there is more to jealousy than simple insecurity. When oestrogen is high, we engage in mate protection behaviour, which means we don’t want our partner focusing on anyone else besides us.
Jealousy can be a very uncomfortable and even destructive emotion. We feel it when we believe that someone or something is encroaching on our territory and this causes a gut reaction. New research is showing that it can be more than a simple feeling of insecurity. Oestrogen levels in hormonal contraceptives have been connected to increased feelings of jealousy.
The study showed that women who had a higher dose of oestrogen in their contraceptive rated other women’s looks as very important. What this could mean is that when oestrogen is high, women tend to engage more competitively with other women. Hormones fluctuate naturally along with the female cycle, but could the Pill be contributing to increased fluctuations which would normally be under our control?
Although the research is tentative due to lack of other controls, there are other studies indicating that women using contraceptives try to make sure that their partner is not interested in other mates more than those who don’t. What can be concluded from the study is that synthetic hormones such as those found in the Pill may be impacting your emotions more than you realise. So, does knowing where your emotions stem from help to curb their charge, or is it important to develop strategies to cope with strong feelings of jealousy?
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What happens when jealousy arises?
While there are different reactions to feelings of jealousy, common responses include anger, blame, emotional shutting down and even threatening behaviour. Sometimes, you may find yourself going to a place of reaction that can cause pain for both you and your partner. Knowing that jealousy can perpetuate these kinds of emotions is important in order to curb your reactiveness, which can reduce any damage and open a space for understanding yourself better. With this, understanding that hormones can contribute to feelings of jealousy could change the way you approach such situations and diffuse potential conflict.
Don’t ignore your feelings
Trying to ignore or push feelings away can often result in an expansion of the emotion. Rather than discarding what is happening for you, notice your feelings without judgement. Almost as though you are keeping half an eye on passersby while sitting at a coffee shop on the sidewalk, just be present to what is happening, but try not to attach to any one thought or idea for too long. Allowing the feelings to be there often diffuses their intensity and helps to let you unhook from them.
Talk or write about what is happening
Revealing your internal processes can often result in a weight being lifted. Talking to someone about your feelings helps to air some of the heaviness while creating a different perspective. If you feel uncomfortable talking about feelings of jealousy with another person (which is very common), then write about it in a journal or diary. Writing about feelings accesses an alternative part of the brain, which allows you to process the information differently.
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Using your emotions to learn about yourself
Something that often strikes me about my clients is their enthusiasm for learning more about themselves and their behaviours. Taking an inquisitive stance when jealousy arises can help you to understand yourself better and learn the best way to support yourself. Asking yourself where else you feel jealousy in your life or what the jealous feelings mean about you is one way to start a process of self-enquiry. If you find that jealousy is stemming from a belief that you are not good enough, then perhaps you could list reasons why you are good enough. Facing the emotions and working through them is always better than being reactive.
While you have little control over your hormonal fluctuations, knowing that you can feel jealousy in response to them might take the edge off slightly. Being aware of the causes of emotions often helps to reduce their intensity and offer space for acceptance. Next time you find yourself facing the green-eyed monster, give yourself a break. Allow yourself to feel whatever arises and curb your reaction. It may go a long way to improving your relationship.