Jealousy – Facing the monster with CBT

October 2013

If you suffer from jealous feelings in your open relationship, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be an effective method to control this monster and even turn the red thoughts around into green thoughts.

Jealousy in an open relationship (1) – The red thought

After 23 years of marriage, I knew what I had when it came to my husband.

Until we started an open relationship. Sometimes I didn’t recognize myself and seeing the reflection of this green monster that lived in me. Luckily a part of me still knows that my husband is there so jealousy doesn’t take over. Because jealousy is not a pleasant feeling to have.

How do you prevent jealousy from dominating your open relationship?

If you suffer a lot from jealous feelings in your open relationship then Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be an effective method to control these feelings or even turn them around.

Cognitive behavioral therapy assumes the following 5 G’s:

  1. Event. There is an event (situation).
  2. Thought. A thought arises about that situation.
  3. Feeling. That thought leads to a feeling.
  4. Behavior. That feeling leads to behavior.
  5. Consequence. That behavior has a consequence.

The 5 G’s can give you insight into the influence you can exert on events around you. Usually you cannot change or influence the event itself. But by influencing your thoughts about it, your feelings and behaviors change along with it.

At CGT for children we visualize this thought change and talk about changing from red thoughts to green thoughts. Not so hard to remember when you see jealousy as the red devil ;-).

Red and green thoughts in my open relationship

It’s summer. We enjoy a day on the sailboat. The sun shines on the water. Everything is just perfect.

Until we pass a sloop. I see what my husband sees: a beautiful woman on the boat. Young. Sporty. Slim. And she looks very sweet.

I’m looking at her. I’m looking at him. They’re definitely not looking at me.

The red thought is lurking. Have a look with me:

Event: Beautiful woman and my flirty husband.
Thought: I’m not as cute as that beautiful woman.
Feeling: I feel the inferior one. I hate this feeling and I hate my husband.
Behavior: How can he even think about flirting with another woman while I’m sitting next to him!?
Consequence: I would become exactly the undesirable woman I didn’t want to be.

Can you picture this? That’s the way it could have been. But it was different. It took me some practice too, but what matters is that you recognize the red thought in yourself.

Once you realize that, the green thoughts come naturally. We start this movie again, but this time with a green thought.

Event: Beautiful woman and my flirty husband.
Thought: That’s weird. Normally when we’re together, my husband’s really with me.
Feeling: Something’s not right here. I’m getting curious.
Behavior: I’m going to investigate this. What happened last week? I start asking him questions.
Consequence: A nice intimate conversation about jealousy.  My jealousy and his jealousy.

Now 7 years after writing this blog:

My husband and I are still jealous, but less than when we first started, 10 yrs ago (my first blog was written three years after we opened our relationship). We have grown closer, feel safer. It has become like an old friend and we don’t judge it, we have learned how to manage it. And even how to laugh about it. Eventhough I find EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) a better way to deal with jealousy, I didn’t want to withhold CBT from you, as this has often been a major help too.

Jealousy is often seen as a negative, bad emotion. If jealousy turns into obsessive jealousy and controls your thoughts, of course, it is not good. But a healthy dose of jealousy shows love, passion and desire. That is exactly what an open relationship needs.

What is your experience with jealousy? Do you ever feel jealous, or your partner? And how do you deal with it? Please write a reaction. I’d love to read about your experience.

With kind regards,

Rhea Darens
EFT-relationship counselor for couples in an open relationship
Are you getting stuck in your relationship? Don’t wait to long and contact me for an appointment (online or face-to-face).

2 thoughts on “Jealousy – Facing the monster with CBT

  1. Alessandra Neumann

    I was very surprised when I discovered that people in open relationships, even polyamourous, are jealous sometimes. How can it be? I always thought that Jealousy comes from the fear of losing something, your partner or certain experience with them. But if you are in a open relationships you don’t have to worry about that, so how come people are still jealous?
    I’m not jealous generally and when I’ve been jealous, it was because I was not sure of the feelings of my partner, and later I was proven right.
    I’m in unilateral non monogamous relationship, my husband is an happy monogamous man who has no intention to waste his little precious free time chasing ladies, but if the occasion arises, maybe…
    So, I have no reason to feel jealous of my husband, and well regarding other partners I’ve been jealous of monogamous ladies, when they appear I know that my days are numbered.

    1. Rhea Darens Post author

      Dear Alessandra, thank you for your response. You are the first to have taken the time and effort to write. I wrote these columns 7 years ago, when my hub and I were already having an open relationship for like 3 years. And was I jealous in those days. But I noticed, the closer my hub and I were, the less feelings of jealousy I experienced, even the opposite: the more giving I became. So I started to wonder, if jealousy was actually the problem in non-monogamous relationship, or that it was a lack of secure emotional bonding. I truly believe it is the latter and it has become my main focus in my relationship counseling: creating a safe an secure attachment between partners. Right now, I hardly feel any jealousy, but it is the question if I have grown over it, or that it is due to our circumstances, having a stable relationship with hardly any changes. My husband has a steady girlfriend for almost 5 years now. If he would start dating again, I guess I might feel jealous again from time to time. But again, if my hub is there with me, I really can deal with anything.


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