Jealousy is and always has been an emotion that society has accepted as a logical consequence of love. Luis de Góngora and Prince have written about it. Even the Bible mentions jealousy as a natural part of love, the part that makes you suffer. In the book Song of Songs it is mentioned in the following way: “Strong as death is love; Tough as Sheol is jealousy”.
Literature, religion, and tradition have converted jealousy into a romantic, tragic, painful and inspiring behavior which automatically goes together with desire, love and relationships. It is so strongly inoculated in our society that you can easily hear sentences such as “He/she can’t help themselves, they love their partner so much they can’t be but jealous of her/him”, “He/she is jealous because they love you”, “they’ll stop being jealous when they’re not interested in you anymore”… and many more like these.
However, Obsessive Jealousy, is not a sign of passionate love but of the irrational fear of losing someone that you belief “belongs” to you. The fear of losing someone you feel a lot of love and affection for, together with a constant feeling of danger and a fear of abandonment. These sensations come up when someone has previously suffered from anxiety, and this anxiety has become instilled in the person.
Obsessive Jealousy is similar to other kinds of OCD in terms of the symptomatology, but an important difference is that the obsessive, intrusive and oftentimes delirious thoughts center around the theme of their partner being unfaithful. This causes the person to feel the compulsive need of checking and controlling their partner. They might investigate their partner’s social media, check their email, ask them questions about what they’ve done, with whom etc., read their agenda, their mobile phone, checking and/or relating any kind of behavior of their partner (getting ready, dressing up, being happy, sad, arriving home late, shaving…) with the possibility of cheating or being unfaithful.
The obsessive thoughts usually take up more and more space in the relationship, oftentimes causing a break-up. Even though you’d suspect the break-up to be the end of obsessions, this is not the case. People with these kinds of problems usually stay depressed and anxious accompanied by feelings of loneliness after a break-up. Disappointed with the finalized relationship the feelings of abandonment grow in strength and they start doubting even more about whether or not an infidelity could have been the cause of the break-up.
Fiction and reality go hand-in-hand and the behavior usually gets repeated in future relationships, which are usually started in order to fill the internal emptiness the last break-up left.
Obsessive jealousy is typically defined by the idealization of love, the creation of huge expectations about the (new) relationship and what it should be like. Another characteristic is to experience every new step of the relationship very intensely, especially in the beginning when everything is still volatile and passionate and where the explosion of feelings and signs of affection can cover up the dependency and the need of having someone around who can “give themselves to them completely”.
Their dependency and control need to be fed constantly by displays of affection, presents, messages, kind words, doing everything together… However, this all comes at a price; the person is actually compulsively testing the love of the other one. When the other one doesn’t show the same (high) level of affection as in the beginning of the relationship, the person will start fearing that their partner doesn’t love them any longer.
After that he/she will fall into the trap of thinking that this normal decline in intensity of the relationship and their fear of losing the relationship can only be caused by an infidelity and not by the fact that they aspire an unrealistic kind of love. Why does this happen? Because if it were up to them they would permanently live in the initial phase of love. Accepting the love of their partner on a day to day basis is to admit that they are worthy of their love for who they are, and not because they’re making a huge effort, and that scares them.
In the case of obsessive jealousy it is common for the person to be guided by their emotions and the need of a complete and selfish devotion from the other one, in exchange for a false sense of security which will never be satisfactory to them. Also, oftentimes the partner is more and more controlled and restrained in what they do, since the person feels they need to control the behavior of the other one in every single aspect, in order to “catch their partner” at the first sign of infidelity.
If there are no signs of danger in the relationship, it is common for the person who suffers from obsessive jealousy to start investigating the past of their partner. They compare their idyll to previous relationships, which they give a lot of importance even though they don’t have it anymore.
Conflict will be an inevitable part of the relationship if no appropriate measures are taken. As any other kind of OCD, obsessive jealousy causes a lot of pain and misery in the people who suffer from it, as well as the in the people in their close environment, oftentimes leading into unsustainable situations.
What causes Obsessive Jealousy?
Jealousy is nothing else but an alarm signal that warns us for danger. Therefore we should ask ourselves what kind of danger the person has perceived throughout their life that caused them to constantly live under these circumstances. What do they fear they might lose and what causes these obsessive thoughts that situate them in a constant state of fight or flight?
Obsessive Jealousy, like the rest of the obsessive disorders, has a common denominator: the inhibition and the repression of certain aspects of the personality, due to a rigid and controlling education, as well as traumatic experiences. These antecedents cause the intrusive and reiterative thoughts, however many people and professionals forget about these antecedents and only focus on treating the symptoms. This approach has a lot of similarities to the way we see an iceberg at sea. We see the top of the iceberg but what’s below the water is what sustains it.
What is behind Obsessive Jealousy?
Each and every patient suffering from Obsessive Jealousy has their unique story and experiences, but there are certain common factors.
People with obsessive jealousy live with a constant sense of emptiness, which leads them to a process of over-adaptation. They over-adapt to people to the point in which this behavior causes dependency because it makes them feel good. In therapy it is important to work on personal activation in order to cut off the total devotion to their partner. The person confuses their needs and wishes and they start to overlap each other, independently from their motivation. The relationship ends up being the central part of their life and the main source of happiness and fulfillment, even though this steadily wears off due to the obsessive thoughts.
This apparent well-being the person perceives is often nipped in the bud due to the fear of loss and the excess of control. These feelings and behaviors are fueled by insecurity and low self-esteem. The frustration caused by these feelings become the motor behind the person’s anxiety and is often redirected to the partner.
Some other important factors that can cause this kind of OCD are a very rigid upbringing, as well as a lack of affection and positive reinforcement. Oftentimes the parents can be misogynistic. The “father role” is often absent and compensated by an excessively controlling mother, with a depressive and/or anxious state. This state often gets manifested in strong dependency and emotional neediness towards the children. This causes the child to develop an extreme need for attention, which needs to be covered and of which the jealous person is usually not aware.
The idealization of love as a compensation mechanism for suffering is often developed progressively. A romantic and unrealistic view on relationships, which causes the object of desire, to be interchangeable, and the same kind of behavior to be repeated over and over again.
If we analyze the psyche of the people who suffer from this disorder even more profoundly, we can observe how easy it is for the person to project their own fears, desires and drives onto their relationship, thereby converting the partner in the one who’s somehow “responsible” for these feelings.
It is also common for the person who suffers from obsessive jealousy to have a strong temperament and a strong sex drive.
How can Obsessive Jealousy be cured?
In order to cure obsessive jealousy, we start with an analytical process which aids us in understanding what happened in the life of the person that caused them these obsessive thoughts. We explore what their true personality is like; what their archetype is. We investigate possible traumas. Also a profound anamnesis is made in which the life trajectory, the present, the past and the person’s ideas about the future are explored.
Once the analysis is completed, we proceed to work on those parts of the personality that have become inhibited and blocked, until the person is able to recover their authentic and congruent identity.
It is, in a way, necessary to heal their life trajectory: the attachment, the dependency and the self-esteem and to create a point of flexibility in the rigid psychological mechanisms they’ve evolved, which are in conflict with their more passionate personality. This is why we involve both the unconscious and the more rational conscious part of the psyche and work on creating awareness about the blocked needs and desires.
Within the AFOP® method we start with some physical and body-focused exercises which help awaken the instinct in the person. In the analytical part of the sessions we work on the psyche and its male and female aspects in a profound way, in order to bring them in equilibrium with respect to the true personality of the person.