Jealousy is rarely a black and white issue, and it is rarely objective, either. What counts as jealous behavior to one person might be viewed as sweetly protective by another. And what counts as a pleasing lack of jealousy to one person might be viewed as indifference by another. Similarly, what might be viewed as an inappropriate amount of jealousy in one context may be entirely understandable in another. In other words, jealousy exists on a spectrum, and it’s not something that you need to eradicate from your life — it’s merely a matter of finding the appropriate amount of jealousy for the situation.
(FYI, we recently published an article on this site by Dr. Craig Malkin about how narcissism exists on a spectrum — and either end of this spectrum is a rather unhealthy place to be. That’s how we first stared thinking about this idea of jealousy existing on a spectrum, too. If you’re curious where you lie on the narcissism spectrum, you can take Dr. Malkin’s quiz here.)
So, how can you tell if you’re exhibiting too much… or too little jealousy? Like we said, jealousy is both contextual and subjective, so we can’t offer you any hard and fast rules. Instead, we can give you eight questions that you should ask yourself. The answers to these questions will help you figure out whether or not you’re in a healthy place on the jealousy spectrum for your current situation.
1. If the situation was reversed and my partner was the one feeling jealous, would I think they were being reasonable, or a little cuckoo?
Sometimes this is all it takes to temper your jealous feelings, by realizing that you would tell your partner they were being ridiculous. If, however, you think your partner would be insanely jealous, too, then maybe your jealousy is appropriate. Note: Couples don’t always feel jealous about the same things, or in the same amount, so this is more of a guide than a hard and fast rule.
2. If I confided in my best friend about my jealous feelings, would they say I was being reasonable, or a little cuckoo?
Again, this is just a helpful way to get a little perspective. Even better if you actually confide in your best friend — but make sure it’s a friend who is comfortable telling you hard truths, and not just someone who’ll tell you what you want to hear.
3. Is there anything about this situation that is under my control or my partner’s control?
For example, if the situation is simply the unchangeable fact that your partner has a sexual history before you, then chances are your jealousy may be crossing a line. But if the situation is that your partner is rubbing your face in their sexual past, then maybe your jealousy is right on the nose. Again, this varies from relationship to relationship, but it’s a reasonable barometer to throw into the mix.
4. Am I tempted to stalk or snoop on my partner?
If you are, we’re guessing your jealousy might be of the ugly, controlling variety. Unless, of course, your partner has given you very good reason to suspect them of something! That’s your call, not ours.
5. Do I resent my partner for their work friends/guys’ poker nights/ladies’ nights?
Huge red flag if you ask us. And you did, right?
6. Do I resent my partner for the way I feel?
We’re just asking, and you should, too. Because thinking about this can help you get to the bottom of your jealousy. Is there something you wish your partner would do differently — or do you just wish that the world was different? And do you blame your partner, or do you think the jealousy is simply a result of your own insecurities?
7. Do I want the best for my partner?
This may help tell you whether your jealousy is coming from a healthy, protective, totally natural and understandable place… or whether it’s coming from an insecure desire to control and stifle your partner.
8. Do I think my partner wants the best for me?
This can just help put things into perspective, especially if you can admit that your partner isn’t really doing anything wrong — or, at least, doesn’t really mean any harm. Sometimes it’s good to be able to remind yourself that your partner does, actually, have your back. And if they don’t? Well, there’s an answer of sorts right there.