Most of us consider jealousy in marriage to be a negative thing, however, according to some of the nation’s top experts in love and marriage, it’s not all that bad. In fact, jealousy can actually enhance your relationship, believe it or not—and it’s also a perfectly natural emotion to feel now and then when you’re in a committed relationship.
“In the context of marriage, jealousy arises when we believe our relationship is being threatened for some reason, whether it’s from an outside third party (as in the case of an affair), an activity (like a hobby or recreational pursuit) or other interests,” says Michele Moore, licensed professional counselor, certified coach, and relationship expert at Marriage Mojo. “It can happen without justification when we attribute the reason for our spouse's distance from us due to someone or something that doesn't have anything to do with it, for example when your spouse works late a few nights in a row and you accuse them of being unfaithful when there’s a perfectly good reason for the tardiness.” This type of scenario, however, is more likely to happen when there have been previous incidents of untrustworthy behavior or when we ourselves have been hurt or blindsided before, she explains.
While you certainly don’t want feelings of jealousy in marriage to dominate your relationship, a little bit here and there is actually okay and, perhaps, even beneficial to your relationship. Here’s how.
It can protect your relationship.
Sometimes jealousy in marriage can serve as an alert for something your intuition is trying to tell you, according to Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., relationship expert, sex therapist and author of Getting the Sex You Want. “It can reel in a partner who might be slipping away or about to betray your monogamy agreement and serve as a checks and balance system to keep you both drawn to one another despite the natural proclivity to check out other people,” she says. “This kind of curiosity is totally normal and jealousy and can be a stopgap that keeps the relationship within healthy bounds.”
It can help you better understand yourself and your partner.
Talking about your feelings of jealousy in marriage can help you better understand yourself, grow as a person and bring your best self to the relationship, notes Yazhini Srivathsal, M.D., psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It can help break emotional barriers, expose each other's vulnerabilities, and build a stronger relationship.” She suggests having an open conversation about where the feelings of jealousy come from to expose your vulnerabilities and deep-seated fears to their spouse. “This helps in better understanding each other and building a stronger relationship,” she adds.
It reminds you to not take your partner for granted.
After the initial honeymoon phase of the relationship has waned, it’s not uncommon for individuals in relationships to begin taking each other for granted. But a little jealousy can help remind you (and your partner) of what you have. “It’s a great reminder because, so often, couples slack off and resort to sweatpants and grooming as a hobby, not a routine, too soon and too often,” says New York-based relationship and etiquette expert, April Masini. “A little jealousy is also a way for you to show your partner that you realize they’re attractive to other people, and that you're lucky to have them!”
It can make you feel more connected to your partner.
A little jealousy in marriage means you feel connected to your partner and you want them all for yourself, which can be a good thing, according to Masini. “When you feel jealous and react by showing your connection to your partner, to thwart off potential suitors, it’s a reminder of how connected the two of you are,” she says. “This kind of jealousy takes you out of any vacuum you might be living in and letting you each know that you care about each other enough to feel uncomfortable when someone else is a possible threat.”
It might fuel you.
Whenever those feelings of jealousy occur within a marriage, Jacob Kountz, marriage and family therapist trainee and clinic manager at California State University, says it could be a sign for one important thing: You've still got it for your person—which is great news! “Sure, the feeling doesn't feel so great in the moment, but these feelings could be a general reminder that you still have a fiery passion for the marriage you began with,” he says. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with using jealousy as a sign that you still want your partner, as long as it seems healthy and playful to the both of you. If it's not broke don't fix it, use it!”