How to overcome jealousy and insecurity
By psychologist Angie Willcocks
One of the common issues facing FIFO couples is jealousy and insecurity, and in my experience these feelings occur equally in those working away as those left at home. I'm often asked if infidelity is more common in relationships where one person works away. The answer is I honestly don't know, and I haven't seen any research to suggest it is. I do know that lots of people contact us here at Mining Family Matters asking for advice - not about cheating, but about fears that their partner might cheat.
As a feeling, jealousy is pretty similar to fear, and it's based on the idea that someone you love is (or will) cheat on you or be unfaithful to you in some way. Jealousy and insecurity can occur when there have been past issues of infidelity, but this isn't always the case.
If you frequently feel jealous or insecure and there's no reason for this within your current relationship (because your partner has never given you any reason to doubt them) you'll need to have a look at your past history to determine what is leading to jealousy now. Previous partners, friends or parents who have been unfaithful are all obvious reasons why you might be insecure.
Less obvious reasons are uncertainty about your own ability to be faithful, poor self worth (causing you to think that your partner will easily find someone better than you), or the banter of workmates on site. Whatever the reason, it's vital that you take action to deal with your jealousy before it damages your current relationship.
Using a previous bad experience (yours or someone else’s) as an excuse to be constantly insecure and jealous might seem logical, but it isn't. There's a slim chance you'll protect yourself from hurt, but you might also drive away a wonderful partner (and drive yourself slightly crazy while you're at it!) Jealous accusations might even invite the very behaviour you're so afraid of. I can't tell you how many times I've heard things like "Well, if they're so convinced I'm always cheating, I might as well go ahead and do it," from women and men constantly accused of unfaithfulness.
Seek professional help from a psychologist if jealousy is constantly getting the better of you and you don't know why.
If you have unresolved issues within the current relationship that have led to jealousy (like a previous episode of cheating) it's really important to deal with it as a couple. This is an issue that you must both deal with, and both of you need to commit to rebuilding the relationship. This can be a lengthy process. For more information have a look at my previous column on cheating and also at the great book After the Affair, by Janis Spring.
The following tips will be helpful for anyone trying to get a handle of their jealousy:
- Keep a 'jealousy diary' for a few weeks. In your diary, rate the intensity of the jealousy feeling from 0-100 a few times a day. Make note of what you're doing and what you're thinking about. Note when jealousy is low as well as high. Over time you'll get a clearer picture of your jealousy, and this is the first step in overcoming it.
- If frequent communication while away is not possible (some sites only have one public telephone) be creative and look for other ways of connecting and showing your love. Post letters, leave notes around the house (or in socks and jocks) or pre-arrange small gifts to be unwrapped at tough times.
- Remember that trust has to be earned in all relationships, and trust is built up not just by 'not cheating' but also by day-to-day honesty, respect and accountability.
- Don't pay attention to other people's stories of cheating. For some reason, many miners on site seem to be particularly vulnerable to these sorts of stories and 'teasing'. Some people think it's fun to rib each other about how their partner is probably cheating on them back home. Just tell yourself "Everyone's got a story and their story is not my story". Change the subject or leave the conversation altogether. Would you really believe some random bloke who doesn't have your best interests at heart over your own partner?
- Watch your thinking about your partner and relationship while you're apart. If there are relationship issues to be dealt with, make a list as they come up in your head, briefly think of some possible solutions, and don't dwell on them. You'll only go around and around and get yourself in a state of upset. When I've asked clients to do this, they often find that their list of 'issues' are either resolved or less important when they look at them again later. Obviously, if the same issues keep appearing on your list, you'll need to address them.
To read other columns written by Angie Willcocks during her six years with Mining Family Matters, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.