Jealousy is most often caused by low self-esteem, insecurity, and fear of abandonment. The fact that jealousy is caused by personal fears explains why divorced people so often feel jealous of their ex-spouse, even though the jealousy makes no logical sense. After all, divorced couples have no emotional connections with each other, so why feel jealous? In spite of being an irrational feeling, feeling jealous of an ex-spouse happens all the time, especially when he or she begins dating, gets engaged, introduces his or her new love to the children, or gets married and starts a new family.
Causes of Jealousy
Feeling jealous is associated with high levels of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” Men most often feel jealous when their ex-spouse begins having sex with another man, while women feel jealous when their ex-spouse becomes emotionally involved with another woman. Individuals who are insecure, anxious, or fear abandonment experience more jealousy than people who are personally secure.
Jealousy and Control
Jealousy is difficult to handle between divorced people because it makes little sense. After all, what is there to be jealous about? The divorced spouses are no longer married, and they have no emotional relationship that can be threatened, so why should the fact that an ex-spouse has started dating or become engaged make any difference? The reason an ex-spouse feel jealous is related to a need to control others to make ourselves feel safe. Jealous divorced persons are trying to manage their own fears by exerting control over an ex-spouse. Jealousy isn’t about love, it’s about the jealous person’s own anxieties and insecurities.
When an ex-spouse discovers you are dating or getting married, he or she is likely to bombard you with communications to push your buttons and make life difficult. This behavior is unreasonable because any rights he or she had over your life went away when you divorced. Your ex-spouse is no longer your partner, lover, or friend, and he or she has no right to interfere with your life. If your ex-spouse is being disruptive, avoid him or her. Establish clear boundaries after the divorce to keep your new life separate from your ex-spouse. Get a protective order if necessary and ignore his or her attempts at controlling you.
Interfering with Relationships
If your ex-spouse tries to interfere with your new relationship by saying “I don’t like him/her,” or “I don’t want my children around him/her,” ignore the complaint and go on about your business. Jealousy is your ex spouse’s problem. Don’t pay any attention to what your ex-spouse says. He or she has no right to interfere with your life. Don’t engage or argue with your ex-spouse about your new relationship, because that will encourage him or her to continue trying to control you. As a single adult, you are the only one in a position to determine who you date or marry.
Dealing with Jealousy
The best way to avoid jealousy between divorcing spouses is to opt for a collaborative divorce rather than litigation. Couples who choose a collaborative divorce feel less anger, learn to communicate with each other, make better co-parents after the divorce, and are less emotionally damaged by the divorce process. But, if your ex-spouse becomes jealous, what can you do? First, realize that his or her jealousy is caused by personal insecurities, not your behavior.
The best strategy is to disengage, set clear boundaries, and get on with your new life. Let your ex-spouse deal with his or her feelings of jealousy on their own. What should you do if you are feeling jealous of your ex-spouse? Avoid situations that are likely to arouse your feelings of jealousy, such as monitoring what your ex-spouse is doing or talking about him or her with your children. Avoid interacting with him or her as much as possible so you can focus on developing a new life for yourself.
Feeling jealous of an ex-spouse is difficult to control because it’s caused by irrational anxieties and fear of loss. If you are in a serious relationship with another person, there may be legitimate reasons to feel jealous. However, if you are divorced, even if it wasn’t your idea, that relationship is over, and you need to get on with your own life. Focusing on a lost relationship is neither healthy nor productive. If you are feeling jealous of your ex-spouse, it’s probably because you are feeling insecure, dependent, or fear being abandoned again. Your best strategy is to see a counselor. Once you feel better about yourself, the jealousy will disappear.