Jealous of Success Do you ever feel jealous of your spouseís success? Donít let it sabotage your relationship. BY FRANCINE KIZNER
Are you jealous of your spouse's career success?
When youíre supporting your spouse in going back to school, getting a promotion or achieving an important goal, your marriage couldnít be better. Youíre a teamóand more important, youíre the mentor. But once that goal is reached and your sagely role is a distant memory, you may start feeling jealous that your spouse has overshadowed your accomplishments. And if the wife is the new achiever, this scenario can be particularly devastating because of the societal pressure men are under to achieve and excel.
In this situation, things can go two ways, "Either she backs down and lets go of her confidence so he can still be helpful to her, or she moves ahead and throws the marriage into a real shakeup," says Karen Gail Lewis, Ed.D. marriage and family therapist and author of The Secret to a Solid Marriage (www.drkarengaillewis.com).
Jealousy can cause some nasty behaviors in people, from major outbursts to outright career sabotage, but most common are small put-downs, says Lewis, who sees the situation of jealously frequently in her practice and finds it can eat away at your spouseís confidence and at your relationship.
Starting the Conversation
While the first step to overcoming a jealousy problem is discussing it, sometimes itís hard to find the right words. Debbie Mandel, a stress-management specialist and author of Turn On Your Inner Light (www.turnonyourinnerlight.com), says, "The partner who is most upset should air out the issues and take the lead."
Unfortunately, sometimes the jealous partner may be suppressing their feelings or misunderstanding them. In that case, Mandel says the other spouse could initiate the discussion by bringing up "the meaning of success."
Being able to talk about your situation can help things considerably. "For the person who is jealous, just verbalizing your feelings makes them more objective and real, which leads to moving on to a better place," says Mandel. "For the listeneróthe object of jealousyócompassion can reframe the situation."
Learning to Cope
Beyond talking, there are other techniques that may help you get past this rough spot, whether youíre the jealous spouse or the object of jealously.
If youíre jealous of your spouse:
Work on your self-empowerment. The good thing about jealousy, says Mandel, is that it can motivate you to do better. "Sometimes we need contrast to restore balance," she says.
Increase your physical strength. Mandel says strength training is a good tool to increase your self-empowerment because you can "calibrate and quantify your progress, increase your focus and achieve greater balance."
Read about the roles of males and females in society, including male self-help literature, says Lewis, who adds it can shed some light on your situation.
Think of yourself as a team player. Mandel says to remember that everyone has a different skill set and you and your spouse should have a clear division of responsibilities.
If youíre the object of jealousy:
Donít sabotage yourself. "If a woman sees she is up for a promotion, she may quit, ask for other work, switch departments or in some way make herself seem smaller if she sees she is growing taller than her husband," says Lewis. Think very carefully about what youíre doing so you donít feel resentful later on.
Let your spouse know heís special to you. Even if your spouse is no longer your career mentor, let him know how he helps you out, says Lewis.
Assure your spouse you donít think less of him. In many cases, Lewis has found that once a husband realizes his wife didnít think less of him, heíll feel relieved that he doesnít have to work so hard and start looking at the thing heíd really like to do, like pursue another career, develop a hobby or be a stay-at-home dad.
Remember that youíre partners. "Donít be CEO at home," says Mandel. "And donít forget to be generous, respectful and kind to your spouse."