This Is the Age When Jealousy Is Most Likely to Ruin Your Relationship
Jealousy can strike at any age, but here's when it takes the biggest toll, according to a recent study.
At some point in your life, you've likely contended with jealousy in a relationship. And whether it was you or your partner battling that green eyed monster, it most likely had a major-effect on you as a couple. Jealousy can trigger a cascade of unpleasant feelings: rage, suspicion, uncertainty, self-loathing, and humiliation, for starters. This can quickly destabilize your relationship, and sometimes even end it. While everyone experiences this complex emotion to some degree, research shows that jealousy rears its ugly head during some life stages more than others. According to one recent study published in the journal Developmental Psychology, adolescence is when most people experience the most severe forms of jealousy, and when it is most likely to result in a breakup.
Using interviews and questionnaires, as well as a decade's worth of collected data, a team of psychologists at the University of Denver looked at how young couples (between the ages of 15 and 25) experience negative interactions, support, control, and jealousy within their relationships. "The purpose of the present study was to examine how qualities of romantic relationships change with age, relationship length, and the interaction between the two," the researchers explained.
The team hypothesized that jealousy would decrease as people aged and relationships reached greater lengths over time. After reviewing the data, they found that they were only partly right: "Jealousy decreased with age, but increased with [relationship] length, further underscoring the distinct contribution of the two variables," the researchers wrote.
This could be because, as individuals invest more in their partnerships, a perceived threat to the relationship could result in greater loss. Still, as we age, we get better at identifying potential partners and weeding out the ones who may give us cause for jealousy. We're also generally better at navigating relationships over time, as well as our own emotions.
Whatever your age or relationship length, any partnership that's riddled with jealousy deserves a closer look. Sometimes it's the relationship that needs work, and other times you'll need to take a good, long look in the mirror to get to the root of the problem. Read on for tips on overcoming jealousy, and for more on relationships, check out If You Stay in a Relationship for This Reason, It Won't Last.
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Don't vilify your feelings.
While jealousy can be destructive, there's no need to vilify it in a relationship. As Robert L. Leahy, PhD, director of The American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, wrote for Psychology Today, "jealousy may actually reflect your higher values of commitment, monogamy, love, honesty, and sincerity."
In other words, as long as you don't let your emotions run rampant, those negative feelings may help clarify your intentions and expectations for the relationship. Besides, beating yourself up for feeling how you feel rarely helps anything. And for more relationship tips, check out The No. 1 Thing That Makes a Relationship Successful.
Identifying the underlying reasons for your jealousy is crucial to solving the problem. "When you notice that you are feeling jealous, take a moment, breathe slowly, and observe your thoughts and feelings," says Leahy. "Recognize that jealous thoughts are not the same thing as a REALITY. You may think that your partner is interested in someone else, but that doesn't mean that he really is. Thinking and reality are different."
Not sure where your feelings are coming from? While you don't want to overburden the relationship with a constant need for reassurance, checking in with your partner openly and honestly (sans accusations) could bring you closer together. And for more topics that are important to broach, here are 22 Questions to Ask Your Partner Once a Year.
Just because you feel jealous doesn't mean you need to act on those feelings. As Leahy points out, "It's important to realize that your relationship is more likely to be jeopardized by your jealous behavior such as continual accusations, reassurance-seeking, pouting, and acting out. Stop and say to yourself, 'I know that I am feeling jealous, but I don't have to act on it.'" And for more relationship tips delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
As Leahy explains, many of us hold unrealistic expectations about what it means to be in a relationship. For example, it's commonly believed that once we're coupled up, neither partner should ever be attracted to anyone else, want to spend time with friends of the sex (or sexes) they're attracted to, or need much time apart. When reality contradicts these expectations, many people experience jealousy or even suspect cheating. You can avoid this undue agony by talking with your partner about their own beliefs and expectations. And for more secrets to a great relationship, check out Doing This on Your Own Can Strengthen Your Relationship, Study Says.