The Difference Between Being Protective And Toxic Jealousy In A Relationship
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  • Post published:07/04/2021
  • Post last modified:07/04/2021

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the only negative emotion that, as a society. we normalize. It’s even romanticized in pop-culture. We are overwhelmed with memes like “it makes me feel loved when (s)he gets jealous,” “my guy/girl can’t have any (fe)male friends,” and, “my girl can only have three male friends: the father, the son, and the holy ghost.” 

But there’s a different type of jealousy: ownership. Just because you’re dating, engaged, or even married to someone, it doesn’t mean you own them. And even if you think you are just being protective of your relationship, it’s not a justifiable action.

You can’t own another person. You can’t control what another person does or who they hang out with. You can express your concern, but you can’t control their life. Believe it or not, this is a form of abuse and one of the signs of a toxic relationship.

You may be abusive if you find yourself doing these things: 

  • Controlling your partner’s life by telling them who they can and can’t be friends with
  • Getting angry jealous when they text another person
  • Monitoring their Instagram likes

This may be an unpopular opinion, but allow yourself to look at things from a different perspective. Because jealousy is typically caused by these three things:

  1. You or your partner’s needs aren’t being met. 
  2. There isn’t enough clear communication.
  3. You feel as though you’re owned, or you own your partner.

The first type means you need to have a conversation with your partner about what your needs are, and ask if they are able to meet them. The second means you need to learn to communicate better and set boundaries with your partner. Lastly, it’s important to realize that neither you nor your partner are property, and setting clear boundaries can help to avoid that type of jealousy and controlling behavior.

As a society, we have a bad habit of romanticizing toxic traits and emotions. It’s too often that we claim ownership (which is toxic) as jealousy (which is normal). But when we do this, we don’t recognize when the toxicity leads into actual emotional abuse.

Jealousy is a completely normal, manageable emotion that can lead to better communication and a healthier relationship with your partner. But in order to have this healthy relationship, you must notice the difference between toxicity and protectiveness:

1. It’s toxic if he keeps you from having friends of the opposite sex.

Men and women can be just friends. If they attempt to make you delete friends off Facebook, or demand that you allow them to read your text messages, it’s abuse. 

2. It’s protectiveness if she tells you she’s worried about your friend using you.

If your partner expresses that she’s concerned about a friend who is always borrowing money and never pays you back, she’s being protective and trying to help you find people in your life whom you would be better off without. 

3. It’s toxic if she stalks your Instagram and gets upset when you like another woman’s picture.

If your partner gets upset when you finding another person attractive, it’s because they feel they own you and that you shouldn’t be looking at other people. As a human, you’re bound to find beauty in many things, including other people. It’s natural.

4. It’s protectiveness if he tells you that your friends’ sexual advances are unwanted.

If you have a friend that doesn’t have any boundaries when it comes to letting you know they want you sexually, it’s natural for your partner to get uncomfortable. They may ask you to talk to your friend. If the friend continues the behavior, it may be best to cut off the friendship to protect your relationship.

In the end, this can mean the difference between a healthy relationship or an abusive, toxic one. It’s important to know the difference between a partner looking out for your best interest and someone trying to control your life. Noticing controlling behaviors early can help you discuss the unhealthy habits with your partner or get away from someone before things get worse.

Lilithe Bealove is a polyamorous freelance writer on all things sex, relationships, and mental health. To check out more of her work, visit her blog, Lilith Writes.​

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