Author Ayala Malach Pines writes: "Jealousy is the shadow of love," and we couldn't agree more. Without love first, there can be no betrayal.
Esther Perel, sex and relationship expert and our personal guru, has a fresh perspective on this all-consuming emotion. As she writes in her book The State of Affairs, "Jealousy can go too far, undermining us and leading to aggression. But in other cases, it may in fact be the last glowing embers in an otherwise burned-out relationship - and therefore, it is also the means of relighting the fire." In other words, some jealousy might be more than okay, it might be useful. But be careful... too much of it will burn your house down.
Jealousy: How Much Is Too Much?
The aftermath of infidelity can feel like a magnifying glass on your relationship. If you or your partner were possessive and jealous before the affair, you could each now feel that your suspicions were confirmed and become even more paranoid. If you weren't jealous before, you may feel the need to ignore the feeling like it's something to be ashamed of. Perel encourages you to feel your natural responses instead of burying them, like one of her subjects who refused to acknowledge his jealousy. When she brought his attention to it, he said: "Me? Jealous? Never! I'm just angry!" Anger is understandable, and so is jealousy. The worst thing you can do is to try and pretend like they aren't there.
At the end of the day, jealousy makes each of us vulnerable.
However, there is a fine line between productive jealousy and destructive jealousy. That's when it turns to obsession. Obsessions don't always focus on the "other person," although that's common: jealousy can lead to an obsession over timing (When did it start? Was it going on when we vacationed? Switched jobs? Took sick leave?) or comparisons (Was it different with them? How so? Better? Why?) or simply a thirst for information. If your quest for information is fueled by jealousy, nothing will ever be enough.
At the end of the day, jealousy makes each of us vulnerable. And if you have recently been hurt, the last thing you want to do is be vulnerable in front of your partner. But Perel says that giving yourself permission to really feel jealousy - and eventually let it go - will save you months of pain. "To acknowledge jealousy is to admit love, competition, and comparison - all of which expose vulnerability." And in a world where there are much bigger monsters that threaten our relationships such as monotony, boredom, and complacency, maybe the green-eyed threat isn't as dangerous as we make it out to be.