Jenny can’t stand it when her boyfriend Chris gets jealous. He is a very intense guy which is great when he’s happy. He can be the life of the party and so much fun to be around. But, when he gets jealous, Chris explodes.
She wants to literally run and hide even though Chris has never directed his anger and rage toward her. His shouts, nasty accusations and even physical threats are always aimed at other guys. Sometimes these guys are Jenny’s co-workers or her male friends and other times they are complete strangers who make the mistake of smiling at or being friendly toward Jenny.
Chris’ meltdowns remind her of the way her father often “lost it” when things didn’t go his way or something malfunctioned. She still can vividly see herself as a young girl, terrified, watching her father kick the car door in a fit of frustration because the radiator overheated. Even though his angry outbursts were never directed at Jenny, they were frequent and frightening to witness.
Now, when Chris starts to get red in the face, Jenny knows an angry meltdown is coming soon. Just as happened with her father, a part of Jenny wants to get out of the way and another part of her wants to fix the situation for him.
Every one of us has probably been at the point where we’ve reached our limit. We can’t take anymore, so we blow up.
Even if you know that an occasional meltdown is just part of the human condition, it’s not easy to be around someone else’s meltdown. When your partner loses his or her cool, it can be hard to handle. You might feel fearful and threatened or your own frustration and anger may be triggered.
If your partner has a jealous habit, you may experience more meltdowns from him or her than you can bear.
Maybe you’ve tried to talk calmly and rationally with your partner. You’ve asked him or her to do something about the jealousy. Maybe you’ve offered suggestions for what you believe will help. Maybe you’ve defended yourself and tried to prove that there’s nothing your partner has to worry about.
…But the jealous meltdowns keep happening and there’s nothing that seems to help.
You may feel a whole range of emotions because of this including: impatience, irritation, guilt, resentment and anger of your own . You might even be wondering if you should stay in or leave your relationship because YOU have reached your limit with the jealousy and blow ups.
Make a smart decision about your well-being.
If you are being physically, emotionally or in some other way abused, be smart and get to a safe space. From there, decide whether or not it’s in your best interests to stay in the relationship. Even if your partner’s meltdowns are not being directed at you, do take the time to decide if staying in the relationship is wise for you.
Know that that staying in or leaving the relationship is always a choice, no matter how complicated and difficult your situation is. In fact, when you give yourself complete freedom to choose whether you’ll stay or leave, it can open you up to more clarity and confidence in whatever your next step is.
If your decision is to stay with you partner, stay with the intention to respond differently to his or her meltdowns.
When your partner is having a jealous meltdown, here are 3 ways that you can truly help…
#1: Don’t shut down.
It’s completely natural that your first reaction to your partner’s jealous meltdown is to shut down. You may automatically “tune out” what your partner is saying (or yelling) or maybe your body becomes tight and tense.
Notice it when you shut down and acknowledge that it is understandable. But, don’t let yourself withdraw completely from your partner. Soothe yourself and asses whether it would be best for you both to take a break from communicating or to continue it now. If the intensity has triggered painful memories from your past, affirm to yourself what is true in this moment.
If you take a break or “time out,” explain why you’re asking for one– to give your partner a chance to calm down– and set up a specific time when you two will talk again.
If you don’t think a “time out” is needed, you can set boundaries and ask your partner to stop shouting, to speak with different words or in a gentler tone of voice.
#2: Don’t take it on.
A temptation for many of us is to try to fix what seems to be upsetting the one we love. Maybe this happens for you too. This urge to absorb or “take on” the angst expressed by your partner might lead you to say or do things that aren’t true for you or that aren’t actually okay with you.
You might feel or accept guilt for something you did not do. You may willingly make your partner’s jealousy “your fault” when it’s not. You may isolate yourself from friends and family because you want to do anything you can to prevent another jealous meltdown from your partner.
As well-intentioned as you are, you can’t “fix” your partner’s jealousy. In fact, your efforts might erode trust and make things worse in the long-run.
Notice it when you feel that urge to “take on” your partner’s jealousy and re-direct yourself back to you. Find out what you need to stay calm and clear and then ask your partner if there’s a way you can support him or her in calming down.
#3: Hold space.
There is a practice called “holding space” that can be very useful when your partner seems to
be losing it. He or she doesn’t have to be told that you are doing this and it can still have a positive effect.
When you hold space your partner or anyone else, first calm yourself and focus your attention inward as you breathe deeply and slowly. Do this for a few moments with your attention mainly focused within yourself, to your own center.
Stand or sit with your arms loose at your sides or your palms extended toward your partner. Once you feel a certain stability and relative quiet within, imagine that sense of calm moving out to your partner who is having a meltdown. You can visualize love, well-being, comfort, safety, ease (or whatever seems appropriate to you) surrounding both you and your partner.
When you hold space, you are helping in a very powerful way– this may not be obvious to or even known by your partner. You are creating a safe bubble or place within which your partner can feel truly supported and encouraged to return to his or her center.