There are few things that you *definitely* don’t want to show up in your relationship: criticism, fighting, and cheating are some biggies. Another emotion you want to keep from brewing? Jealousy, AKA the green-eyed monster. Unfortunately, it’s not always crystal-clear how to work through it. We talked to professional relationship therapists to find out what causes this super common emotion and how to confront it head-on. Keep reading to find out what they had to say.

Here’s Why Jealousy Is So Bad

It’s pretty obvious that jealousy is a negative emotion, but why exactly does it mess up your relationship in such a serious way? The answer is surprisingly simple: As you probably know, a good sense of trust is essential for a strong relationship. “Trust forms the foundation that a healthy relationship sits upon,” explains Julienne Derichs, a Chicago-area licensed couples counselor with Couples Counseling Today. “Jealousy is a form of mistrust, in others or yourself.” NYC-based psychotherapist Kathryn Smerling, PhD admits that any relationship consistently plagued by jealousy is a tough one to be in: “You’re always going to be looking over your shoulder. There will be three people in that relationship: You, your partner, and your jealousy.” In other words, feelings of jealousy will distract from the core of what your relationship should be focused on — you and your partner.

There Are Different Kinds of Jealousy

While jealousy of all kinds can be harmful to your bond with your boo, there are some types that are worse than others. First, there’s the variety that stems from fear of infidelity. “A partner typically becomes jealous of the time the other is spending with someone else because that takes time away from togetherness as a couple,” reveals Michele Kerulis, who puts her doctor of education degree to work as a professor at Counseling@Northwestern. This time away from the relationship could be with a friend, coworker, or even an ex-partner. Kerulis adds that the jealous partner might feel like the other is losing interest in the relationship, which can lead to feeling not “good enough” and send them into a downward spiral.

On the other hand, Kerulis shares, jealousy that’s related to career advancements, finances, and family life usually stems initially from feelings of inferiority. Imagine both partners in a relationship are hoping for promotions but only one gets a new position. “The partner who did not receive the promotion might begin to fear that the other person will meet ‘people who are better’ than them or think that the advancement will lead the partner to want something else or someone else,” Kerulis points out. She continues, “Both of these types of situations are bad for relationships, and both should be addressed.”

How to Talk to Your Jealous Partner

The most important thing you can do if your partner is feeling jealous about something you’re doing is to talk to them about it… and listen to what they have to say. “Be sensitive to your S.O.’s feelings, and ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I can do to be more sensitive?'” suggests Derichs. Keep your attitude in check, don’t get defensive, and let them get whatever they need to say off their chest. “Keep an open mind that what they are saying isn’t crazy. Sometimes, people need a bit of reassurance that you are as committed to the relationship as they are,” she reminds us. It’s true that the last thing you want to hear when you’re baring your soul to someone you love is that your concerns are all in your head.

If talking through things on your own isn’t working, consider giving therapy a try. “I’m not just saying this because I am myself a therapist,” Smerling reassures us, “but the act of simply bringing up relationship counseling with your partner might open doors. Seeking help can give you a whole new framework, poke holes in your usual routine, and turn the lens a little. Trying something new can bring about a change.”

How to Deal If You’re Feeling Jealous

“Talking to your partner about your feelings is really important,” notes Kerulis. “Take the time to have a conversation with your partner about specific situations after which you felt jealousy, and explain why you believe you felt that way.” The more specific you can get, the better, since you’ll increase the chances of your partner understanding where you’re coming from. Kerulis also recommends that if you recognize a pattern of jealousy in your life — with friends, family members, coworkers, or your S.O. — it’s a good idea to see a professional to work through it: “Talk with a counselor to process your feelings and to get a better understanding of why jealousy plays a role in your life. It is best to address the root of your jealousy and begin working toward healthy relationship and communication skills.” With a pro to help with the heavy lifting, you can deal with the problem and move forward ASAP.

Have you dealt with jealousy in a relationship? Tell us how you worked through it @BritandCo!

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