Monday, January 14, 2013

Irrational Jealousy and Borderline Personality Disorder: Part 2

What causes irrational jealousy? 

Like so many things in life, the things that cause our irrational behaviors can usually be traced back to a time where it was a very rational behavioral response to a threatening situation. Except when the situation where the rational emotional response ends… those feelings don’t end with it; they stay behind. They hang on. They sit on your shoulder ever at the ready for the next time. Hoping to spot a threat before it becomes too damaging. Trying to protect the greater Self. 

From Excel At Life we get this explanation :

“Frequently, an individual who is prone to irrational jealousy may have problems with low self-esteem, feelings of insecurity, fear of vulnerability, or fear of abandonment. A person with low self-esteem may feel so undeserving of being loved, that he can't believe that his spouse could possibly remain faithful to him. Perhaps these feelings stem from some abusive past relationship in which he was unloved and made to believe that he was at fault. For instance, if a teenager is told, "If only you were more like your brother, then maybe you could get a girlfriend" he comes to believe that there is something wrong with him. Many times we are given messages, some subtle and some not-so-subtle, as we are growing up that shape our beliefs about ourselves.

Feelings of insecurity may stem from the low self-esteem or may be related to instances in which we have previously been hurt. The same is true with fear of abandonment. When we have experienced profound loss from which we haven't had an opportunity to recover, we may develop an extreme fear and avoidance reaction to similar circumstances. However, as indicated earlier, this avoidance may bring about the abandonment that we fear.

A fear of vulnerability is the inability to let our guard down, to let another person know us completely. This fear usually derives from a fear of rejection due to the belief that if we let someone else truly know us, we will ultimately be rejected. Again, the fallacy in this belief, is that if we don't allow our spouse to know us, if we don't allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are preventing the development of emotional intimacy which is essential to any relationship.

Emotional intimacy is the most important type of intimacy in a relationship. It is required for the relationship to fully mature. Without it, all we have is the initial surface attraction to the other person which cannot be maintained indefinitely. However, when we find emotional intimacy with another person, we discover the most intensely fulfilling experience that exists. And that is, the full acceptance of our self by another person. 

Finally, the individual needs to determine if there are certain behaviors from herself or from her spouse that may contribute to the development of these fears and beliefs. For instance, perhaps a spouse is reluctant to share personal information because he will then be subject to questioning and accusations. As a result, emotional intimacy in the relationship declines. The person who is jealous will often take this as further evidence of cheating in the relationship, when, in fact, it is a result of the questioning and accusations. Or, for example, a jealous person has repeatedly harmed relationships through his accusations which he takes as evidence that women can never be trusted.

The more you are aware of your behaviors and other's behavior that may maintain the beliefs, then you will be able to make better choices that can allow you to control the jealousy. In fact, the development of awareness can't be emphasized enough. You may need to spend some time at this point to assess your jealousy, the behaviors, and the outcomes based on the behaviors.”

I’ve talked about the Threat of Intimacy before. So often what we crave is true emotional intimacy but because there’s so much fear and vulnerability surrounding that process instead of trying for the real deal we just try to get close enough instead. Close enough to not feel alone, but far enough to remain protected.

It’s so strange that all of these dysfunctional behaviors come from a sense of self-preservation that has taken itself too far. Given the environmental nature of abandonment, neglect, and abuse that often accompanies the inborn chemical sensitivity of BPD it’s no wonder it runs away with itself. When everything is black or white, good or bad, self-protect or self-destruct… figuring out how to find a happy medium feels like foreign territory that our brains aren’t programmed to navigate.  

Jealousy isn’t envy. It’s not about wanting something you don’t have. It’s about holding onto what you already do have.

Irrational jealousy is the fear of abandonment Acting Out. 


  1. Thank you, Haven :)

  2. My girlfriend has a severe and persistent case of irrational jealousy. I am a devoted, loving, loyal, faithful, and caring guy. My previous relationships up until now have all been generally quite healthy. However, for the first time in my life, I find myself with a girl who has no control when it comes to jealousy, and I believe she has no real understanding of a healthy relationship. She makes up a "reality" in her head, typically an assumption or set of assumptions, which is completely detached from actuality. She then treats me and talks to me as if I had participated in this "reality" even though the "reality" is absurd... something I would never do or consider doing. When she gets into this state of mind, she doesn't even *ask* me "did you do x or did you do y..." She instead goes immediately to the assuming... beyond assuming... actually believing that I did something that I didn't do and wouldn't ever do. And then I'm forced to have to defend myself for a "crime" that I didn't commit, wouldn't commit, and didn't even come anywhere near committing. Furthermore, even when I tell her "No, I didn't do x, y, or z," she still talks to me and treats me as if I did. It's as if she just doesn't even hear what I'm saying, and so I can't even effectively diffuse the situation because in her mind I've committed the "crime." There is nothing that I can say or do to convince her otherwise. And to be clear, these are not situations where I do shady things like go to clubs and flirt with strange girls and then come home and pretend that nothing happened. I'm not that type of guy. The "realities" that she invents are completely fabricated out of her own fears. She even one time woke up out of a dream and started yelling at me for doing something in the dream, as if it had happened in real life. Again, there was this child-like irrationality. She knew that she had dreamed the situation, yet clearly the distinction between waking and sleeping wasn't fully realized on some level. It wasn't until the next day that she realized how crazy she had acted. We've been together for about 8 months, and these irrational jealous episodes occur 2 to 3 times per month.

    ...continued in next comment due to char limit

  3. continuation of above comment due to char limit...

    I'm not the "jealous type," and so I can't even really comprehend this behavior. It's completely foreign to me. I've been "studying" her and the whole concept of jealousy to try to get a better grip on the situation to see if there's anything I can do to improve it, but at this point I feel hopeless that she'll ever change. We are both in our late 30s, and it seems to me that if she hasn't evolved beyond these jealous outbreaks by this point in her life, there is little hope for much improvement. She has never mentioned to me any diagnosis of BPD, and I know that she was seeing a behavioral therapist at one point a few years ago, who she says helped her immensely (not specifically with jealousy, but I guess just with being a better person and that sort of thing). She definitely does have a fear of abandonment, and I think she also thinks that she doesn't even deserve me, so I'm sure that all plays into it. However, I don't believe these feelings come from past relationships as much as they come from a difficult childhood, including a somewhat loony mom who took her to a different country for a few years, leaving her unable to see her father etc etc.

    At this point, I'm simply not able to cope anymore with her jealousy. It's totally destructive to our relationship, even though so much else in the relationship is great. And even though I know she's being irrational, it still takes its toll on me since there doesn't seem to be any way to talk any sense to her when she's in these jealous states. I believe she probably needs some deep psychotherapy to really make any progress, but even then I'm doubtful that she'll ever get to a healthy enough place for the two of us to move forward. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations aside from the obvious option of breaking up with her? Do you think she has an undiagnosed case of BPD? Thanks!


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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