Your spouse or significant other already spends a lot of time at work — more time than you’d like. Now, as if that’s not bad enough, a sexy new colleague has joined their office. Knowing that affairs increasingly begin at work, you find yourself rendered insecure, which gradually blossoms into feeling out of control. Eventually, you just can’t take it. If the jealousy doesn’t put you over the edge, the suspicion will. And the worst part? Your relationship wasn’t even in jeopardy before this. Or was it?
Jealousy related to a partner or person we desire (or “romantic jealousy”), is a category unto itself according to psychologists. Beyond the usual pangs of envy we feel over objects, events and situations, romantic jealousy surfaces with three prominent characteristics: it’s extreme and unusual (translation: intense, unique and sometimes unmerited), involves loss of control (wherein you find yourself acting in ways you wouldn’t normally act), and it results in the feeling that you’re going mad (which starts with feeling all-consumed). Indeed, the green-eyed monster turns you into just that — a monster — and often leads to the destruction of otherwise happy relationships. Which brings us back to your relationship.
To survive your partner’s scorching secretary, beautiful boss, or cute-as-can-be colleague, you’ve got to ask yourself two questions: Why am I jealous? What can I do about it?
Do I have reason to be jealous?
First, here’s the good news. If you’re feeling jealous, yet deep down, you know your partner is faithful (and will continue to be so), you’re not alone. Many report feeling insecure in relation to highly attractive people. However, insecurity is not an optimal state, in or out of a relationship. Rather than focusing on what the co-worker in question is wearing to the Monday meeting or just how close the quarters are when they’re stuck at work together after hours, focus on what you can do to feel better about yourself. Sure, you may still wish you had her legs or his car, but by actively working to optimize your own self-esteem, you’ll likely find that you greatly reduce your discomfort. Likewise, you may benefit from confessing your jealousy to your mate. Not only will their reaction help you determine the validity of your feelings, it will clear the air and alleviate some of the tension. If you’re still tinged with mistrust, you have to question if there’s more to this matter.
When red flags are waving
Whether or not jealousy is merited, communication is the key to dispelling it and preventing your fears from manifesting. Explain to your spouse that you don’t feel comfortable with the situation involving this person, but if you have to deal with it (since you probably don’t have any say in their company’s HR issues), you’d really appreciate if they can help alleviate your concerns by keeping you in the loop about what’s going on at the office. Armed with that information, you can pay attention to their schedule, but don’t obsess. Be open to signs that something is amiss, but don’t create them out of thin air. And, if in their sharing, your partner makes mention of the co-worker in question, stay calm. After all, if you freak out at the mention of the name, your spouse will be less likely to share. And believe it or not, secrecy is more threatening to a couple’s intimacy than a short skirt or sparkling smile.
Finally, if you’re certain something is going on, you’ve got to confront your spouse, not their conspiratorial co-worker, head-on. Anger, like jealousy, often motivates us to act out at a perceived problem. However, as much as this person has played a part in your problems, he or she is only part of the cause. If, in fact, you are correct and infidelity has occurred, you are entitled to expect your spouse to cut this person out (and perhaps even find other work) if you’re going to stay together. Still, it’s vital that you remember that this particular co-worker was nothing more than ill-considered medicine for whatever was already ailing your relationship. While that medicine may have only made it sicker, whether you let it kill your bond or make you stronger is up to you.
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