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03/22/2019 16:35 EDT | Updated 03/22/2019 16:47 EDT

Jealous Of Your Partner's Best Friend? Here's What To Do

"Jealousy tends to make people do a lot of dumb stuff," according to one therapist.

In "My Best Friend's Wedding," Jules (Julia Roberts, right) tries to sabotage the relationship between her best friend Michael (Dermot Mulroney) and his fiancée Kimberly (Cameron Diaz).
Ronald Siemoneit via Getty Images
In "My Best Friend's Wedding," Jules (Julia Roberts, right) tries to sabotage the relationship between her best friend Michael (Dermot Mulroney) and his fiancée Kimberly (Cameron Diaz).

There's a cultural trope we're all so familiar with now that it's become a cliché. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl struggle. Boy realizes girl was never right right for him, because he's secretly in love with other girl, his best friend (she's beautiful when she takes off her glasses). She was right under his nose the whole time!

But what do you do if you're worried that you're that first girl? (Or boy, or non-binary person, or whoever you are. I don't know you.) How can you deal when your partner has a close friend in the gender(s) they're attracted to? What are you supposed to do if you're jealous of your partner's best friend?

The first part of the answer, says Toronto-based therapist Bronwyn Singleton, is what you should do in almost any situation where you feel overwhelmed by a particular emotion: just sit with your jealousy and try to understand it.

"Ask yourself: what is your jealousy telling you?" she says.

Watch: Learn how to handle jealous feelings in the first episode of our new series "Navigating," with host Kait Howell. Story continues below.

Jealousy on its own isn't a bad thing, Singleton told HuffPost Canada — it's normal, and it can actually teach you a lot. In fact, she wants to "rehab its image" a little, she says.

"A lot of people — particularly my clients in their 20s and 30s — are really quick to disavow jealousy," she says. "And I think that that is potentially really harmful."

Jealousy "in and of itself isn't a harmful emotion," she says, but "jealousy tends to make people do a lot of dumb stuff."

Reflect on your feelings first

Reflecting on your feelings before you talk to your partner will help you discover if there's a real problem or not. If it's early in a relationship, or before you've defined what you are, it might be telling you that you cared more than you thought you did, Singleton says.

"You don't have jealousy until you've formed a bond, and there's something worth protecting."

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If you're in a new relationship, feeling jealous of your partner's close friendship with someone else could be a sign that it's a good time to have a conversation about where you're going.

Maybe once you consider the situation rationally, you'll recognize how much you care for this person, and you'll discover that your jealousy is unwarranted. That happens a lot, and you shouldn't be ashamed of feeling jealous. Sometimes, "you just have to pull back and self-soothe because there's nothing there," Singleton says.

Have the conversation

But if you feel there might be a real problem, don't dwell on it on your own for too long.

"Jealousy likes to undertake a lot of detective work," Singleton says. That can often take the form of scrolling through Instagram, looking for clues, reaching for connections.

"If you believe you've been betrayed you start marshalling micro-evidence, which is not terribly useful," she says. "It can get cleaned up a lot quicker by having a conversation."

Or maybe there is something not quite kosher in the way your partner interacts with their friend. If there are particular things that bother you — if they text back-and-forth every night — then "this might be one of those opportunities to have a conversation," she suggests.

"If someone has a super-close relationship with their bestie, they may have to re-negotiate those borders a little bit to be respectful of the new relationship."

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But if that's the route you take, it's important to remember to have a conversation that's "conducted purposefully, at the right time, with a bit of consideration," Singleton says.

Don't talk about it when you're in the heat of the moment, and you might start yelling at the slightest provocation. Don't talk about it when your partner is headed out the door on the way to work — something that Singleton says happens surprisingly often.

To be productive, these have to be "conversations that come from your adult self, not this knee-jerk reactive self," she explains.

She lets her clients know that jealousy is actually "a pretty enlightened emotion," one that evolved later than primary emotions like fear or sadness. "There's something about this moment in the zeitgeist where [jealousy] seems a bit unenlightened or it seems a bit immature," she says.

But that isn't the case at all, she adds. It's just about how you deal with it.

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