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Jealousy: the eight-letter word that can destroy even the best of relationships. There’s a reason the phrase, “Jealousy is the grave of affection,” is in the chapter on “Marriage” in Science and Health. Jealousy is a mistrust of your partner, and when you don’t believe and support one another, the strong foundation on which your relationship should be built starts to deteriorate until you eventually have nothing left.

The tricky part about all this is that jealousy can try to creep into your relationship in many different forms. Usually when you think of jealousy, you might picture two girls fighting over one guy or the feeling of simply wanting something you don’t have. But sometimes jealousy comes when we don’t appreciate or understand something we already have. Allow me to explain:

The most common form of dating jealousy I see in everyday life at Principia (and elsewhere) occurs when one partner begins spending a lot of time with another member of the opposite sex. If you’re a relatively secure person, you may not deal with this feeling unless it escalates. Nonetheless, it’s something we’ve all seen at some point. When your girlfriend is suddenly spending a lot of time with another guy (or vice versa), it makes you begin to wonder what their relationship has that yours is lacking.

When you start thinking there’s something missing in your relationship, proceed with caution. For some of you, this suspicion might be accurate.  However, in the majority of the relationships I’ve witnessed, the partner who feels this lack is simply experiencing personal insecurity eating away at his or her thought. If you’re uncomfortable that your significant other is spending exorbitant amounts of time with someone else, then you should calmly say something to him or her, talk about how you’re feeling, and then discuss a peaceful resolution.

Before you do that, there are some things you should be aware of. As I’ve described in previous columns, it’s important for you to have your own independent life and not just be seen as a “couple.” This includes having your own friends. Yes, sometimes they include members of the opposite sex. Even when you’re in a relationship with someone great, it’s important to keep the friends you have and continue to make new ones.

When your significant other is spending time with the opposite sex, don’t assume something is going on. If you trust the relationship (which you should be able to do), you should have every confidence in your partner to know that if someone began pursuing your partner, your partner would have the gumption to say, “No thanks, I’m in a relationship.” Bottom line: if your relationship is on solid ground, there should be no reason for concern. If you are worrying, talk to your significant other or check out your own thinking and make sure you’re not just being paranoid.

Now, what about when you are spending time with someone you know has feelings for you that signify something more than friendship? This is a bit of a sticky situation. Even if this third person isn’t actively pursing you, it still might not be spectacular for your relationship. Why? Even if you don’t mean to, you could be “feeding the fire” by spending a lot of time with this individual. If it’s ever misconstrued as returned feelings, you may inadvertently be disrespecting your relationship and your partner.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend is the one spending time with someone who has feelings for him or her, this is where jealousy can really spin out of control if you’re not prepared to deal with it. First, talk with your partner and explain why a behavior makes you uncomfortable. Even if it’s someone your partner has been friends with for years, you need to be talking about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable within your relationship.

So how could someone else make you uncomfortable about your own relationship? There are two reasons I can think of off the top of my head:

  1. You don’t want anything to jeopardize the good relationship you’re in.
  2. You hate the idea of someone else having the same feelings you have for your girl/boyfriend. Worst of all, if you feel like your partner is “feeding the fire” by spending a lot of time with this person, the third party is getting a taste of what it’s like to be in the relationship you’re in. There’s a reason you’ve labeled your relationship “exclusive.” To jeopardize the trust and friendship that it sits on is a scary thought.

As always, you need to talk about these problems. Make sure you really listen to each other. Don’t blow them off, thinking they will just go away, and don’t think that your partner is “just jealous.” You never want to think that way about the person you’re dating. It’s not fair to you, your partner, or to your relationship. In the end, all you should ever want for your relationship is peace and balance rather than chaos and mistrust.

And, of course, make sure you’re on the same page. Love your partner, love yourself, love your relationship.

Love from me to you,