I feel the bright sun shining in through my bedroom window. It is a beautiful early spring morning, and my mind immediately turns to the day's adventure. Skiing. I spring out of bed excited for what’s to come. I pass by my wife on the way to the shower as she puts on her morning makeup, then some dreaded words slide ever so slightly out under her breath. “I wish I could just take off and go skiing”.
My excitement shifts to a spin. Wait, what did she say? My shoulders roll forward. Why did she say that? Oh no, she’s upset at me. I planned this trip a month ago. My worst fears are confirmed she resents me (All of this and more whirls around in my mind and body).
Uncharacteristically, I respond back, mustering as much empathy as possible… (oh, I can’t remember what I said)
I step into the shower now in an anxious worry. What can I do, what can I say?
The shower gives me just enough of a break to slowly start to calm myself down and get curious about both my wife’s reaction and mine.
I finish my shower knowing I want to clear the air and get back on good terms with my wife. It will help both of us to have a better day.
As I get out of the shower and dry off, I see some tears coming down her face. She has clearly also been thinking about what she said and how it impacted both of us. She apologizes and acknowledges more directly that she is jealous of what I am doing for the day and the freedom I have to take off in the middle of the week for a day ski trip.
We talk for a few moments. I acknowledge that she feels jealous and that I can understand why she would feel that way. Neither of us intentionally wants to hurt the other person or make the other feel bad.
The Larger Context
It would take a whole book to describe the fullness of our larger context and relationship history, which I do in my book The Healthy Love and Money Way: How The Four Attachment Styles Impact Your Financial Well-Being.
Ann and I have been married for 16 years, and we are busy raising three boys. She owns and runs her own dental practice, and she has been the primary breadwinner for our whole marriage. The nature of running a dental business means you are committed to being there day in and day out, and your patients are booked out 6 months in advance. Taking a “spontaneous” day off requires a lot of planning and interrupts many people’s lives, staff and patients alike, not to mention income for the day.
To her credit, my wife is one of the most responsible people I know. The bright side of that is I can count on her. The shadow side is it is hard sometimes for her to do fun and spontaneous things for herself.
I have managed my schedule and work very differently than Ann, most of the time trying to leave more flexibility in my schedule. I have spent many years in my own therapy, graduate school, and building a counseling practice alongside other business activities that have not been as directly financially beneficial for our family. Sometimes even coming at a financial cost to our family. I had a period of years where my mental health became so poor I was barely functional for work or family. All of this left my wife with added layers of real responsibility for our family.
I bet now that you know just a bit more about the context of our life, the meaning of her jealousy takes on a new form for you. As far as I can tell now as a Therapy Informed Financial Plannder™ that jealousy in an intimate relationship always has a larger context to it. Jealousy is not an emotion most of us are proud of, and many more of us would rather pretend we never feel it.
I can not count the number of times I have felt the pangs of jealousy of my wife over the course of our marriage, primarily because of her real and perceived higher social status as a dentist relative to other work roles I have held. She’s not the only one that feels jealous from time to time, and yes, jealousy has spoiled many moments of great things in our lives, all from a lack of not knowing how to identify and work with it.
Jealousy Shows Up In Intimate Relationships - That’s Not The Problem
Here’s the insider secret. We all experience jealousy. I am well aware there are many religious, philosophical, and psychological teachings about the nature and experience of jealousy. From dire warnings of not acting out in jealousy for fear of destroying another person to far more mild prohibitions around jealousy caught in short phrases like “don’t be jealous”.
The reality is that jealousy is a powerful emotion, but is not one we need to fear, minimize or disown. Rather we need to recognize what it is signaling inside of us. All emotions are signals and sources of information from the perspective of emotional well-being.
Jealousy can be a signal about an area of life that you need to work on. Often times when we feel pangs of jealousy, we initially think it is about what the other person has. And that is true, when we see or experience someone as having something we want, it can evoke jealousy. At the same time we can look inward to discover what is really missing in our own lives and how we can start moving toward that need.
Contentment with what you have is not always the answer, while often given as the answer to resolving jealousy. In reality, sometimes you do need to figure out how to have more time, flexibility, spontaneity, money, social status, intimacy, etc. to accomplish a deeper goal of your own.
Let’s reframe the well-worn phrase “we always want what we don’t have”, which shuts down a self-reflective practice. Instead, let’s think about how the experience of jealousy can be a calling to deeper self-reflection about reorienting our lives to meet our various needs.
Jealousy doesn’t have to sour your most important relationships. Sometimes it takes learning new psychological and relational skills to more effectively navigate life’s situations that bring up the uncomfortable emotions of life, including jealousy.
With years of experience and education behind me, I created The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy to help couples just like the two of you to overcome difficult emotions and enjoy your Ski Days or whatever brings you pleasure in life.
Fortunately for Ann and I, this story of jealousy ended on a good note with a hug and mutual acknowledgment of each other's needs. We both agreed we need to continually explore how to make sure we are both getting our various needs met. This is an ongoing learning, healing, and growing experience for us, as I imagine it is for you.
If you would like to learn more about how Therapy Informed Financial Planning can help the two of you on your journey with jealousy, I invite you to schedule a 30-minute discovery call.
Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,
MBA, MA, MS, CFP®, CFT-I™, LMFT
P.S. Pop in your earbuds and enjoy the most recent Healthy Love and Money Podcast.
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