The best way to combat extreme jealousy is never to let it happen in the first place. But if you or your partner are the jealous type, there are ways to keep the green-eyed monster from destroying your love.
"Whenever possible," advises Jerilyn Ross of the Roundhouse Square Psychiatric Center in Alexandria, "be clear from the beginning in a relationship how you feel so there are no surprises -- or at any point in the relationship if you haven't done it already. Your spouse may not be aware of what his or her actions are doing. This holds true for the jealous spouse as well.
"If you are in a relationship where your mate feels a lot of jealousy," says Ross, "try to control it by not arousing suspicion and by being honest and open."
Philadelphia psychiatrist Dr. Mary Ann Bartusis feels one preventive treatment of approach is to improve your self-esteem. "Feel good about yourself," she says, "so even if there is another person in the picture, you know someone else would find you attractive."
If possible, adds Ross, "work on the jealousy problem together in therapy. Remember it's always an interaction situation. When one says, 'I don't like the way I look,' the other can say, 'You look good to me.' "
"People underestimate how long it takes to work on jealousy," says Ross, particularly when there is an actual cause, such as infidelity. "Once trust is broken, it's very difficult to get rid of jealousy. You're always on the lookout. In therapy it has to be more than the jealous person, it has to be both of you."
Dr. Bartusis also contends that an individual's therapy for jealousy can be long-term and complex. "In extreme jealousy, where rational discussion doesn't work, we have to go into the deeper regions of original conflict. That takes time and patience."