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It's natural, if not necessarily beneficial, to want exclusive rights to the person you love and want to marry. After all, you are making a huge commitment to them, and it's only natural to want a similar relationship in return. In the modern world in which people generally have multiple romantic relationships before settling down, it's perfectly normal to wonder how much of your partner's past is really in the past, and for your partner to have the same kinds of questions about you.

In the United States in the twenty-first century, it's considered passé to apply a double standard to men and women; if a man can play around, then so can a woman. However, in many parts of the world a double standard still exists. My advice would be to get over it. You don't marry someone for their past alone. You marry someone for their future with you. You mutually resolve to make commitments to each other for the present and the future, but you simply accept the past because you really, really look forward to the future. If you have jealous feelings, you own them, maybe you talk them out and maybe you don't (I tend to believe it's usually to let negative feelings dissipate without sharing them if you can), but you keep jealously secondary to your goals in your relationship.

There are a few times jealously and anxiety really do signal that it's not a good idea to go into a relationship. Here are some examples:

  • You think someone is perfect for you and then you start finding all kinds of faults, or the other person has told you they think you are perfect for them and they start finding all kinds of faults. This is like being put on a pedestal only to be knocked off.
  • You have almost given up on ever finding love and you're obsessed with the idea that this one person is your last chance for happiness, or they have that attitude toward you.
  • You have to be with or keep tabs on your significant other at all times, or they have to be with or keep tabs on you.
  • Either of you expresses jealous rage--even once.
  • You catch your partner in white lies, even about things that don't seem to make any difference.
  • Your partner has threatened to end it all if you leave the relationship.

If either you or your partner exhibits any of these characteristics, it may be time to call it quits. You don't do your partner or yourself a favor by tolerating any of these things. They are all signs of needing psychiatric help, and also of having a condition that psychiatry can't do a lot to treat. By the time you and your partner are, say, 60 years old or thereabouts, assuming you survive that long, then most people with this condition called borderline personality disorder begin to mellow out (although some never do). The problem is, your life will have been a living hell for decades before there is likely to be any improvement. 

A little jealousy is normal, and probably healthy. It shows you care about yourself and you care about the relationship. Jealously combined with fear of abandonment and failure and not being to keep on living is not healthy for either partner. If you don't know whether your potential partner suffers something like borderline personality disorder, seek psychological advice. A need to be needed can also be unhealthy. Some relationships just won't work out, but if all the problem is that your partner has been with other people before you came along, let the past remain in the past.

There are still some things you can do to manage milder cases of jealousy.

  • Decide whether you believe your partner. If you realize you are just a doubting person (maybe you have your own baggage that your are bringing to the relationship), you can act like you believe them, if only to be polite, for their feelings, not for yours.
  • It might be a terrible thought, but think about what you would do if you lost your beloved. If you have enough self-esteem to realize how you could find love again, then maybe you have enough self-esteem not to be jealous.
  • Don't play games. Don't flirt with others to make your partner feel uncomfortable. Don't threaten to leave your partner for someone better unless you really intend to do just that.
  • Don't compare yourself to ex's, except to note that you are the person who is their life now.
  • Lengthen the leash. If your partner has an attractive coworker, don't try to stop them from talking if they run into each other in public. 
  • Let your imagination work for you, not against you. Visualize your partner doing all the things that make you feel jealous, and responding with calmness and detachment, not anger. Practice keeping peace in your relationship in your mind and in your dealings with your partner.

Jealousy is primarily a problem for the person who feels jealous, not the other partner. The more sure you are of your own worth, the less likely you are to cling to your partner. The more secure you help your partner feel about your relationship, the less you will have to deal with their jealousy.

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