This guest article from Psych Central was authored by Suzanne Phillips, PSY.D.
For as long as there have been men, women, and relationships, there has been jealousy—the fear of losing the person you love to a rival. Romance and literature throughout the ages have extolled jealousy as the sign of true love. “He that is not jealous, is not in love,” said St. Augustine.
They have also associated jealousy with pain, distrust, anger and anguish. “There is no greater glory than love, nor any greater punishment than jealousy,” said Lope de Vega.
In the actual lives of couples, jealousy is a complex emotion with varied causes and different consequences. While it can re-affirm love and even create enticement, it can also assault self-esteem, reflect betrayal, justify possessiveness and cause violence.
Where does jealousy fit in your relationship? Is it experienced in a constructive way? Understanding the jealousy you feel may be a point of information, reflection, evaluation and healing together.
Start by recognizing some realities.
Wired for Jealousy
According to David Buss in Why Jealousy Is as Necessary as Love and Sex, both men and women are wired to be jealous as a solution to the problem of reproduction and survival. Earliest man had to keep his partner from sexual activity with a rival to ensure ownership of offspring. Women physically “know” their own children, so they needed to keep man’s attention and love from a rival to ensure protection and survival. The modern translation seems to ring true. Buss found that in studies of men and women in sexually committed relationships, men reacted with more jealousy to sexual infidelity; women responded with more jealousy to emotional infidelity – the thought that their partner could “love” someone else is the most upsetting aspect of betrayal for women. Though with a different slant, both men and women are jealous!”
This is a culture that escalates jealousy and fear of the perfect rival by an endless bombardment of icons and images of hyped sexual perfection and opportunity. Set against the back-drop of high divorce rates, we are continually reminded that the things that belong to us are disposable and replaceable. “Not worth fixing!
Connection and affirmation become invaluable in this cultural context. In a workshop of many couples, everyone reacted to the vignette of the husband thumbing through the lingerie catalogue that had arrived in the mail and his wife’s negative reaction to his suggestion that she place an order: “For the girl or what she is wearing?”
In processing this, it was immensely helpful for the women to hear the men affirm “Yes we like to look – but we want to be with our own partners.”
Are you Feeling Jealous? Is Your Jealousy Realistic?