"I find myself having irrational thoughts of jealousy or get jealous for no reason. It upsets my gf and in turn I am upset that I caused the conflict. It is a repeating cycle of me thinking she will go elsewhere because she is unhappy with me, but I'm the one making her unhappy. I know that I have no reason not to trust her - and I can rationally think about it - but it's like a compulsion comes over me and I act out on it. I know I shouldn't and don't want to but I do it anyway."
~ Possessive Partner
Possessive Partner: The Roots of Jealousy
Possessiveness and jealousy are learned coping strategies. As a child we formulate all sorts of ways to cope with the family dynamics we are subjected to (and I say subjected to because as a child we don't have any choice about the environment in which we live - we are expected to simply live with it). So the first line of inquiry into your feelings of possessiveness and jealousy need to begin with your childhood. The question I encourage you to ask yourself is this: "When, as a child, did I feel possessive and/or jealous?" Maybe it was jealousy of a sibling. Maybe it was possessiveness of one of your parents that you felt insecure or anxious without?
Once you identify some of the roots of these feelings, begin to examine the need for them. We are complex creatures, yet we don't often develop coping skills (effective or not) that we don't need. At some point in your life it was necessary to feel jealous and possessive. Uncover that reason and deal with that issue.
Once you gain some appreciation for, and respect for this aspect of your personality - the possessiveness and jealousy, you won't have to fight it. As you mentioned in your question, it's as if you feel irrationally compelled to respond to thoughts that you have, which might not be rooted in the truth. However, it's also possible that there are shades of truth to your fears. It's possible that in the big picture, you are partnered with someone who is not fully committed, 100% present, or reliable in the ways you need her to be. Do not quickly discard your intuitive feelings about your relationship. Frankly, most people error on the side of ignoring their intuition, not by honoring it.
Possessiveness and jealousy are also anxiety-related emotions. When you are jealous, or when you are feeling possessive, the core feeling stems from an anxiety that something bad may be happening, or is going to happen. The feelings are created directly from your thoughts. The process of breaking down your thoughts, examining the "facts" - what supports these anxious feelings is critical. Uncovering the roots of our feelings is much like solving a mystery. We are constructed to automatically protect ourselves (basic fight, flight, freeze, submit, hide strategies) much like an animal would. Unfortunately, though, we are sometimes so automated that we respond with one of these strategies (fight, flight, freeze, etc) without knowing what it is that we are threatened by. The challenge is to discover whether or not your reaction to what is going on is a reaction to something real, or perhaps more akin to a dog who is reacting with fear to its own shadow.
Lastly, from my work with couples, it has been my experience that it is the partner who is least secure, most jealous or possessive, that is prone to behaviors that are not trustworthy. The fears about your partner, in a case like this, stem from your own thought process. Are you as trustworthy as you wish her to be? Often we gain security by becoming more trustworthy.
by Michele O'Mara, LCSW