If you're reading this article, chances are that at some point you have felt emotionally vulnerable in a relationship. Well, we all feel that to one degree or another—it's part of putting ourselves out there and living. But have you ever felt so afraid, so worried and so on edge that it affected your whole life? Have you ever been so consumed with the details of your relationship that it literally felt like a life or death situation?

I have. And in looking back on it now, it seems ridiculous that I would have allowed myself to do what I did and stay in a situation that was bringing me such intense pain. But our emotions are not ridiculous; they are what make us human. They are wonderful! And when they consistently trigger us to feel pain, we better pay attention.

On one of Oprah's last shows, she talked with Shania Twain about her new book, From This Moment On, and it was quite shocking to hear Shania reveal the personal toll it took on her self-esteem when her long-term marriage dissolved. How could fabulous, talented and gorgeous her ever feel less than?

Well, we only have our view of her—not hers. No matter what the world says, it's the emotional wiring within that's calling the shots. The story she shared about growing up in an abusive home and then becoming caretaker for her siblings when her parents were killed in a car accident illustrates that fact with painful clarity. She, like all of us, had insecurities and emotional issues to be reckoned with.

Most of us can relate to some of the feelings she described. I certainly could. The ending of my own 25-year marriage—and the painful rollercoaster rebound relationship after it—very nearly destroyed me.

Since I'd met my husband when I was 15—and married at 18—my emotional muscles were pretty weak to begin with. And having grown up in a codependent and abusive family dynamic, it was perfectly natural that I would choose a mate who would continue to provide me with the experiences that felt normal. (If you haven't read Harville Hendrix' classic, Getting the Love You Want, do so.)

I was used to living with jealousy, fear, abandonment and a deep underlying lack of self worth so it makes sense that I would struggle with those issues in both relationships. Also true to my preselected script, I was told repeatedly that I was wrong for having those feelings. They weren't doing anything wrong; I was just seeing it wrong—I was being childish.

Like I had been trained, I believed them—everyone could see the real truth except me—and I made everything that felt bad to me in the relationship my fault.

Years later when I looked back on my choices, I frequently said that if I'd had a shred of self-respect I wouldn't have done what I did—I wouldn't have allowed myself to be treated as I was. I would have seen the people and the situations for what they were and I would have gotten myself out of them—fast.

However, like Shania, I had to be "broken open" and do the inner work that I'd neglected to understand how I became who I was—and how I could change it.

If you are feeling jealous and afraid in your relationship—if you don't feel emotionally safe in your relationship—the truth is, there are really only two reasons. Either you're projecting past experiences and pain onto someone who isn't reading from your old script. Or, you're with someone who is and you have good reason to feel what you're feeling. And, if you're wondering how to tell the difference, the latter will feel exponentially worse than the former. And really, if you'll be honest, you know.

Here are some facts, people with high self-esteem and self-respect don't get themselves into relationships where they feel less than or feel that they will be nothing without the relationship. Jealously and fear have no place in a healthy relationship. Period.

In The Hardline Self Help Handbook, I use two simple questions as an important filter for decisions—even decisions on how you're going to feel about a situation. If I had known these two little questions back when I was in constant angst, turmoil and confusion over relationships, I could have saved myself many years of pain. Give them a try:

• Would a person with high self-esteem and self-respect do what I'm doing, think what I’m thinking, accept what I’m accepting? Why or why not?
• Does this get me closer to what I really want? Why or why not?

Here's a tip for working with that last question: wanting a particular person to be or stay in your life (or love you) will put you in an infinite loop of confusion and pain—and it isn't even what you truly want.

Whether you realize it or not, what you actually want is a feeling, a feeling you think that one particular person can or should give you. What you really want is to feel love, feel at ease and safe in a relationship, and to have peace, joy and happiness, right? So keep that in mind when you look for your answer as to whether what you're doing is getting you closer to what you really want.

We are each responsible for our own feelings and our own happiness—and our choices. It isn't up to someone else to make you feel anything. If you don't like the answers that come up when you use the two filter questions, it is time to start figuring out what you're going to do about it.

If you want to free yourself of jealousy and fear, the most important thing you can do is make sure you are a happy and healthy independent individual, leading a happy and healthy life that you love and that brings you joy. Only then can you attract the same kind of person and have a happy and healthy relationship.

So, get busy right now being the best you possible—and feeling emotionally safe with yourself. Then, you'll naturally attract someone who reflects and complements that script. And before you know it, you'll wonder why you ever put up with people and situations that made you feel anything but great.

Live your joy!

Author's Bio: 

Paula Renaye is a certified professional life coach, motivational speaker and trainer, regression hypnosis practitioner, award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction and consultant.

Her latest book, The Hardline Self Help Handbook, has been called "a tough-love Chicken Soup for the Soul with a do-it-yourself road map for getting unstuck."

Visit http://hardlineselfhelp.com/ for more practical tips on living healthy and happy in all areas of life.