All intimate relationships have to deal with varying amounts of jealousy. But jealousy in long distance relationships feels like a completely different beast.
The distance combined with time spent apart can make the mind spiral out of control. It leaves you thinking about the uncertainty of your future, which creates hypothetical scenarios that lead to real to feelings of jealousy.
If left unchecked it can lead to a destructive combination of suspicion, possessiveness, anger and insecurity.
To help, here are some smart steps you can take to understand and overcome feelings of jealousy. But first…
Don’t Discount Feelings of Jealousy Entirely
If your internal alarm bells are going off and you are feeling jealous, there may be good reasons for that.
E.g. Do not willfully ignore signs that your partner might be cheating on you.
If your partner is giving you real cause to doubt his or her commitment, affection, or fidelity, then feeling jealous doesn’t mean you’re being irrational or weak. In these cases, jealousy can actually reflect security and high self-esteem.
However, uncertainty is part of every relationship. If there’s no real evidence that your partner is being unfaithful, you should make every effort to get a handle on your jealousy before it undermines your happiness and your relationship.
How to Deal With Jealousy in a Long Distance Relationship
1. Ask yourself why you are feeling jealous
Why are you feeling jealous? Chances are, this question has more than one answer. You may not be able to untangle all the reasons you’re feeling jealous, but anything you can pin down will help you put together a better action plan. So sit down, think about these questions, and make some notes:
- What sorts of situations or moments are arousing your jealousy?
- Are there specific things that your partner is doing or not doing that is feeding your jealousy?
- Is your jealousy a general problem, or are your jealous feelings focused on specific situations or one particular person?
- If you are feeling jealous of one person in particular, what is it about that person or your partner’s behavior towards them that makes you feel uncertain?
- Is the general flavor of your relationship one of trust, respect, and love?
- Does your partner’s behavior reflect his or her words? Is your partner honest with you?
- Given all of this, is your jealousy disproportionate and/or at least partly irrational?
2. Stare down your jealousy
At the root of jealousy is often fear—fear of losing something that you value. Feeling fearful and insecure can push you to act in all sorts of unhelpful ways—angry, entitled, demanding, controlling, and bitter (to name just a few).
When you realize that you are feeling jealous, it can help to sit still and acknowledge that you’re scared. Then, stare down that fear. Ask yourself what you’re so scared of. What is your worst-case scenario?
Maybe that worst-case scenario is your partner cheating on you and leaving you. So, imagine that happening. What would you do? How would you cope? (Stick with me here, I promise I have a point to this torture).
Now, imagine how you would cope without him or her, and how you would eventually go on to thrive and flourish.
If your worst-case scenario came to pass it would be awful, sure. It would hurt like crazy. But you know what? You would be OK in the long run.
Paradoxically, being prepared to lose your partner under some circumstances will make you feel immeasurably better. Knowing that you have other options and are choosing to be in this relationship makes you stronger, more independent, and more secure. It will also make you more attractive in the eyes of your partner.
3. Put a leash on your imagination
If you know your jealousy is largely irrational and destructive, it’s time to get serious about a course correction. That means bringing your mind into line.
Your thoughts and your imagination are the fuel for your jealousy. If she doesn’t call as expected or comes home late, you might imagine her getting cozy with an attractive co-worker after office hours. If he seems distant and pre-occupied, you might imagine he’s thinking about a budding affair.
If you can recognize the role that your thinking is playing in intensifying your jealousy, you can start to take steps to get it under control. Here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Remind yourself of all the ways your partner has proven trustworthy in the past. Make a list. How have they kept their word and followed through on commitments? What do they do to show love and appreciation for you?
- Stop comparing: If your jealousy is linked to one particular person, chances are your comparing yourself to them—stacking up their strengths against your weaknesses and feeling like you’re coming out the loser. Stop! Redirect your thoughts and dwell instead on how you feel about your partner and how they love you.
- Shift your focus: When you find yourself caught up in a mess of jealousy and negative thoughts, work hard to shift your focus and “switch channels in your mind”. Deliberately imagine positive scenarios instead, go do something active, or deliberately focus on something completely different.
4. Stop playing games. And stop snooping. Right now.
Jealousy is a feeling (or rather, a complex mixture of feelings), but it spills out in behavior. Feeling jealous is very uncomfortable. Some people react to that discomfort by doing things to try to make their partner just as uncomfortable (an “I’ll show them how this feels mentality”). They flirt, or stay out late, or deliberately don’t keep their partner updated with their whereabouts.
Don’t do this!
Hang onto your dignity and take the high road. This sort of game playing rarely helps. If you find that you are deliberately trying to make your partner jealous because you feel so jealous (rather than talking about the issue and strategizing together about how to tackle the problem) this is a sign that your relationship is in serious trouble.
Also, speaking of destructive behaviors to stop doing pronto… snooping. If you think your jealousy is irrational then you have no business snooping behind your partner’s back to check their text messages, read their emails, etc. Any relief you get from not finding anything incriminating will be temporary, and the urge to monitor your partner can become obsessive and unhealthy. Stop it before it becomes an obsession.
5. Talk with your partner
When you admit your jealousy and face the fear that underlies it, it will lose some of its power over you. You will also shake off some of the shame that jealousy breeds. Chances are, if you can talk things over with your partner you’ll feel even better.
Does the thought of talking about this with your partner make your stomach turn? You’re not alone. This is a hard topic to broach. Here are some tips on tackling this issue with your partner:
- Don’t start with accusations: Try to approach your partner gently, without being confrontational. If your partner feels accused, they may get defensive and shut down on you.
- Own your feelings: Admit that you are feeling jealous. Tell them that you realize you are probably being irrational and that you know it is up to you to learn how to stop feeling jealous.
- Ask for their help: Remember that your partner loves you. Ask for their help in figuring out how to overcome your jealousy. Brainstorm together about things you could both
- Tell your partner how they could help you: Share ideas with your partner about specific things they could do to help you. Don’t make demands. There is a place for ultimatums in relationship, but in general you’ll get a lot farther if you tell your partner how he or she can help you rather than making demands (i.e., “it would really help me if you’d give me a quick call to say goodnight. How would you feel about doing that?”)
6. Talk to your friends
Don’t talk to your friends instead of talking to your partner, but when you’re working on overcoming jealousy it can be helpful to share your feelings with one or two trusted friends and ask for their thoughts. Sometimes a friend can provide an alternate perspective that will help you see things differently.
Don’t forget that using a good friend as a sounding board means asking questions and listening to their input, not just talking at them. So remember to ask for your friend’s input and ideas instead of just dumping the whole sorry saga of your jealousy woes on them.
7. Go out at the same time
It’s hard to be jealous of your SO spending time with their friends when you’re busy having a blast with your own! The next time your partner tells you they’re going out with friends, see if you can’t make plans with your own around the same time.
If you’re in different time zones, this may take some manoeuvring, but you can make it work! Going out at the same time not only keeps you distracted, it also allows you to empathize with your partner by reminding you of how important friendships are.
8. Keep in touch while you’re out with friends
This is a trick that works wonders to stave off the jealousy before it can sink its claws into you.
Whenever you’re with friends, just step out for a quick call or shoot your SO a text to let them know you’re thinking of them. Your partner could be worried that you’ve forgotten about them or that you don’t miss them.
Checking in with them every so often is a great way to help your partner feel loved and respected.
9. Learn how to say no
Sometimes, no matter what we do, someone is going to feel neglected and left out. This is understandable; we hardly get to see our partners, and sometimes we just can’t bear the thought of them spending that precious time with anyone else.
Friends are for life, but hopefully your partner is, too. There may be times when you have to say no to friends to spend time with your SO.
10. Don’t give up your routines
If you and your partner have agreed to do certain things at certain times – maybe you always talk right before going to bed, or they watch Game of Thrones with you first thing in the morning – don’t give them up just because you’re out with friends!
Those routines were established to help the two of you connect and stay close to one another. When everything else about your relationship is up in the air, that consistency is something worth holding on to.
11. Introduce your partner to your friends
Lastly, don’t hide your social circle from your partner! While no one is “obligated” to share every detail of their lives with their significant other, your partner may appreciate you keeping them in the loop.
If they know your friends and get a chance to interact with them, even if it’s just a quick wave on a video call, it can help them feel included and a little less jealous.
How Will You Deal With Feeling Jealous in Your Long Distance Relationship?
These strategies are a great place to start if you want to stop feeling jealous. If these feelings continue to be a problem for you, make it a priority to learn more.
Don’t be afraid to go to a counselor.
A good counselor can help you learn to leash your jealousy before it poisons your happiness and your relationship. And if you love your partner, and they love you, that’s definitely a skill worth learning.
If you want help from others that have had similar experiences, we recommend joining our free LDR Support group. You can ask questions and get advice from other long distance couples that have dealt with jealousy and how they were able to overcome it.