HELP FOR THE FAMILY | MARRIAGE
How to Avoid Jealousy in Marriage
A marriage cannot thrive in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. So how can you avoid inordinate jealousy?
In this article
What is jealousy?
The word “jealousy” has different shades of meaning. In this article, it refers to the emotion we feel when we believe that someone is taking an improper interest in our marriage mate or that our marriage mate is taking an improper interest in someone else. We may feel that our marriage is under threat. If that really is the case, then jealousy is normal and proper. After all, marriage is the closest bond between two humans, and a couple should do all in their power to protect it.
Bible principle: “They are no longer two, but one flesh. . . . What God has yoked together, let no man put apart.”—Matthew 19:6.
“If there’s a threat to your marriage, jealousy can be like a smoke detector that alerts you to the danger and impels you to take action.”—Benjamin.
Unwarranted jealousy, however, is motivated by suspicion and fear that have no foundation. Genuine love protects us from such hurtful jealousy. (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7) Dr. Robert L. Leahy writes: “The actions that result [from unfounded jealousy] can jeopardize the very relationship that you want to protect.” a
What causes undue jealousy?
You might be prone to undue jealousy if you were betrayed in the past by a former spouse. Or perhaps your parents’ marriage failed because of unfaithfulness and you fear that the same will happen to yours.
“My dad cheated on my mom when I was young, so distrust has always been a problem for me. It’s an emotional scar that occasionally rears its ugly head in my marriage.”—Melissa.
Another factor: If you tend to be insecure, you might be quick to view others as a threat to your marriage. You could even convince yourself that, given the chance, your spouse would leave you for someone else.
“My husband was asked to be a groomsman at his friend’s wedding, which meant that at certain times he would be paired with a bridesmaid. I was not OK with that. He had to say no.”—Naomi.
Wedding customs vary, and Christians must be guided by Bible principles. Was Naomi being reasonable on that occasion? In hindsight, she acknowledges that her jealousy was unfounded. “I felt insecure at the time,” she says. “I thought that my husband compared me with other women, but it was all in my head.”
Whatever the cause, improper jealousy can move you to suspect and even unjustly accuse your mate of unfaithfulness. The resulting climate of distrust will harm your marriage and possibly even your health.
Bible principle: “Jealousy is like a cancer.”—Proverbs 14:30, Easy-to-Read Version.
How can you control your jealousy?
Build your trust. Rather than look for signs of disloyalty, think of ways that your spouse has earned your trust.
“I think of my husband’s good qualities. If he’s attentive toward someone, it’s because he genuinely cares, not because he has improper motives. I have to remind myself that my parents’ marriage is not my marriage.”—Melissa.
Bible principle: “Love . . . believes all things.”—1 Corinthians 13:4, 7.
Challenge your suspicions. Dr. Leahy, quoted earlier, writes: “We often treat our thoughts as if they are true. Our confidence that we are correct becomes the proof. But believing something to be true doesn’t make it so, and our confidence is not really evidence.” b
“Reading meaning into situations and making assumptions can create a problem that wasn’t there to begin with.”—Nadine.
Bible principle: “Let your reasonableness become known to all.”—Philippians 4:5.
Discuss your concerns. No matter what is at the root of your jealousy, talk to your spouse about your concerns so that the two of you can agree on reasonable boundaries of behavior.
“Approach these conversations assuming that your mate doesn’t want to hurt you and that he or she is trying to figure things out too. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you’re too sensitive and expect too much. Or maybe your spouse doesn’t realize that he or she is not giving you the attention you need.”—Ciara.
Bible principle: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:24.