Jealousy is a choice.

That sickening, heart-stopping, hair-raising, kick-in-the-stomach flash of white hot emotion you feel? That might be an uncontrollable response but to stay jealous, to be jealous… that’s a choice.

Don’t choose it.

But don’t ignore it, either. Jealousy can often point the way to other feelings or unmet needs.

I get it, choosing not to be jealous is easier said than done.

Last night I went out dancing with this guy I’m seeing (let’s call him Joel), his boyfriend, and a few of their friends. I don’t get jealous at all seeing Joel and his boyfriend together because I have a clear understanding of that relationship. I “get it” and I get how I fit into it.

But as the night went on, I noticed that Joel has a connection with another of his friends too, and I got this twinge of jealousy. Because I don’t have a clear sense of their relationship and where or how I fit into it.

Immediately my mind went to “I wish that person wasn’t here, he’s just one more person that I have to share Joel with” and then “I wonder if Joel likes him more than me” and then to “I bet Joel finds him more attractive than me … in fact, he is more attractive than me.”

Yes, all of that happened in just a few seconds.

And then I took a breath. And I looked around the room at the gender-/ethnic-/body size-/personal style-diverse crowd. And I took in the amazing music and the pulsing lights. And I chose contentment. I decided just for a moment to dance all by myself, just for myself, and to soak it all in. Then I chose to be grateful that I live in a vibrant city, that I got invited out to this fun evening. And then I chose to be happy for Joel.

Here’s this guy I like having a fun time dancing — and yes, making out — with someone that he shares a connection with. That’s a beautiful thing. And that doesn’t take away from what Joel and I have. There was plenty of time for me to dance with Joel. And to meet some new friends. And even to dance with a stranger.

So here’s my takeaway from last night:

I could’ve stopped at jealousy. I could’ve stewed in the uncertainty and allowed that to transform into hurt. I could’ve let it fester. But I didn’t.

I wasn’t quite ready to jump to compersion — the opposite of jealousy: taking pleasure in your partner’s pleasure — so I didn’t try. I made a pit stop at gratitude and then self-love and self-sufficiency. And then, after I filled myself up, I took the next step to be happy for Joel.

The whole process took me, maybe, 30 seconds. But I’ve had years of practice. In the beginning, it might’ve taken me a day to even realize I was jealous. And another day to be willing to do something about this.

Learning to recognize and productively deal with jealousy isn’t a skill that we’re born with. And there isn’t some simple trick you can learn to be an overnight expert. It takes practice.

So start today.

When you feel that flare of jealousy

  1. Notice it
  2. Name it
  3. Use it to find unmet needs and/or to take a moment to practice gratitude for what you have
  4. Meet your needs and take care of yourself
  5. Let it go and choose a different feeling instead

Let me know how your practice goes!

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