Healthy and unhealthy jealousy in marriage: What’s the difference?

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Is jealousy ever a good thing? Let's take a closer look

When we hear the word jealousy, it is often accompanied by negative connotations. No good memories or feelings can be associated with the word. You've probably experienced feeling jealous of your husband's closeness with a friend of the opposite sex or perhaps you've been jealous of your in-laws closeness with your spouse.

But are there times when being jealous can be actually good for a relationship?

First, it's important to know that there can be two kinds of jealousy--healthy and unhealthy. The good kind of jealousy helps you become protective and more committed, while the bad kind can cause feelings of growing resentment, self-pity, emotional distance, and other forms of marital strife.

"A little bit of jealousy in a healthy relationship is fine," Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist author of Why We Love tells CNN. "It's going to wake you up. When you're reminded that your mate is attractive and that you're lucky, it can stimulate you to be nicer [and] friendlier."

photo: dreamstime

How can you know if the jealousy you're feeling is healthy? Here are some questions to ask yourself

Am I jealous because I don't want anything to damage this good relationship?

Am I simple being protective of the special thing we have?

Am I willing to allow this to strengthen our bond and pave the way for deeper understanding?

Am I fully aware that this is also signaling me of warning signs I need to guard against to prevent future problems?

How to determine if the jealousy you're feeling is potentially damaging to your relationship

If it is coupled with feelings of inadequacy--like you're inferior in some way--then it may not be good for your relationship. When left unchecked, chronic jealousy can pervade all aspects of marriage, damaging how you process simple issues, and relate to your spouse.

Jealous partners have a danger of becoming controlling and selfish, pushing their partners further away. When doubt is allowed to fester, it can destroy trust and make your spouse feel like they're always striving to prove that they're not lying.

In turn, it causes frustration in the jealous spouse, reinforcing their feelings of worthlessness and aggravating their frustration and need for control.

sources: Focus on the Family, Livestrong.com, Bustle, CNN

READ: Jealousy in relationships: Real moms share their thoughts

Marriage Marital Issues Family Life