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Is Jealousy Ever Healthy in a Long-Term Relationship?

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We’ve all seen it in movies – the whirlwind of possessiveness, the accusations, the frantic phone calls fueled by a jealous rage. It’s a portrayal that paints jealousy as a destructive force, a poison seeping into the well of love. But is that the whole story? 

In my decades of experience, I’ve come to believe that jealousy, like most emotions, exists on a spectrum. There’s the all-consuming kind that strangles trust, and then there’s a flicker of possessiveness that, when handled well, can even strengthen a bond. 

So, is jealousy ever healthy in a long-term relationship, especially as we mature into our 50s and beyond?

Jealousy: A Tightrope Walk in Relationships

Let’s face it, a little jealousy can feel flattering at times. It whispers, “Hey, your partner finds you desirable!It can even spark a playful competitiveness, a desire to keep the spark alive. 

In my 50s, an age when I’m supposed to be wiser, I noticed a colleague giving my husband a bit too much attention. A tiny, primal part of me felt a twinge. Not suspicion, but a reminder that even after all these years, he’s still a catch. The key here is that this feeling was fleeting, acknowledged with a smile, and never used to control or restrict him.

According to psychotherapists Gal Szekely and Liron Cohen, founders of The Couples Center, “Jealousy is considered a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds and motivates people to engage in behaviours that maintain essential relationships.  It can come from the fear of losing the relationship and this mild form of jealousy is normal because it’s connected to the love and importance they have for the relationship“. 

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However, jealousy’s healthy side has a clear boundary. When it morphs into possessiveness, suspicion, and constant accusations, it becomes a monster threatening the very foundation of your relationship.

Imagine this: your partner enjoys a friendly chat with a neighbour. Suddenly, you’re bombarded with questions about their intentions and past relationships. This behaviour not only chips away at trust but also diminishes your partner’s sense of self.

The older we get, the more we’ve likely experienced heartbreak and betrayal. These past hurts can make us more susceptible to jealousy’s sting. But here’s the thing – our 50s and beyond are also a time of immense personal growth. We’ve (hopefully) built a secure foundation with our partner. We know their character and their values. This confidence allows us to approach jealousy differently. 

If jealousy is a normal emotion, it’s our responsibility to manage it effectively.

As renowned psychologist Robert L. Leahy writes in his book ‘The Jealousy Cure‘, “Every feeling has a positive and a negative side, and jealousy is no different. However chronic jealousy can lead to isolation, depression, and even violence. It pushes your partner away and ultimately damages the very thing you’re trying to protect – the relationship“.

Ultimately, a long-term relationship in your 50s and beyond is about trust, respect, and a deep understanding of each other. Be prepared to embrace the effect of menopause rage but don’t ever turn into a “Green-Eyed Monster“.

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