What Is Jealousy?

Jealousy is a complex emotion consisting of multiple components ranging from insecurity and suspicion to rage, feeling humiliated, etc. Romantic jealousy is fundamentally a mix of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to the threatened loss of a significant other to a real or imagined rival. Said in more simple terms, it is a manifestation of fear that we might be not good enough, not attractive enough, that another person might become more important to our partner than we are.

Anyone can feel jealous in the context of romantic relationships, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. So if and when jealousy strikes you, you should know that you’re not alone. Most people experience it at some point in their lives. Jealousy is a universal thing; people of all cultures can experience it. However, it varies depending on cultural values and beliefs. Cultural learning can also influence how individuals view socially acceptable expressions of jealousy and situations that trigger this emotion. Some people sentimentalize and idealize jealousy by saying it is a sign of love. However, as disappointing as it may be, jealousy does not equal love. It's actually a sign of deep insecurity and possessiveness.

If you want to discover whether you are prone to romantic jealousy, we suggest you take this reliable Multi-Dimensional Jealousy Test. Incidentally, jealousy is recognized as one of the major causes of marital tensions, relationship breakdowns, and even murders, sometimes euphemistically referred to as “crimes of passion”. Yes, it can get very serious. But worry not - in this article, we will give you some tips on how to overcome this emotion and stop letting it affect your relationships and overall life in a negative way.

Types of Jealousy

Note that jealousy is a broader concept than just romantic jealousy. It can affect workplace environments too - for instance, an employee may be jealous of a coworker if the latter has managed to impress the boss more than them. Some employees can also be jealous of their employers - for being more socially successful than themselves. Sibling jealousy occurs when brothers and sisters compete for parents' attention and love. Friendship jealousy is also real. It may occur when an individual is threatened by a close friend's new romantic relationship. However, a study conducted in 2021 shows that jealousy experienced by individuals towards their friends is actually not as negative as other types of jealousy because it may help protect friendships.

What Is the Main Cause of Romantic Jealousy?

Cause of Jealousy

Scientists are still working on discovering the exact reason for jealousy. However, there are several theories on this emotion. According to some evolutionary psychologists, jealousy is an evolutionary trait humans have held onto through centuries. We are genetically predisposed to be afraid of things that jeopardize our safety. And deep down inside, we still operate on these animal instincts when it comes to partnering with someone or having our “tribe” that helps us feel protected - emotionally or, in some cases, physically too. Said in scientific terms, jealousy is a biologically wired basic adaptive mechanism.

According to researchers who specialize in evolutionary psychology, males and females experience jealousy differently. Men tend to react more negatively than women to their significant other having sex with someone outside the relationship. However, if the wife just spends time with another man without having sex, the husband might be okay with that. And it is not hard to explain: if a woman is sexually unfaithful to her partner, it ultimately means he might have to use his resources to raise another man's children.

Women are always sure that the child is theirs. So their jealousy stems from other things. Females tend to react more negatively than men to their significant other having feelings for another person. In fact, if the husband says it was just sex, many women are less likely to see a third party as a threat to their relationship and often turn a blind eye to their partner cheating. According to a 2017 survey, 60% of women had previously forgiven a partner for infidelity, while just 38% of men said they would be okay with forgiving their significant other if they found out their partner had cheated. The thing is that historically, a woman could suffer a loss of financial resources and status for herself and their children if the husband left her for another female.

Why Are Some People More Prone to Jealousy?

A recent study found that young individuals tend to be more jealous. As people age and get more settled into their romantic relationships, jealousy usually fades away. Jealousy has a lot to do with how an individual was raised, too. If their parents were attentive to their emotional needs when they were children, they develop healthy attachment in romantic relationships as adults. But if someone’s parents have been too busy to care for them or distracted by things like constant lack of finances, alcoholism, drug use, narcissism, and/or other unhealthy things, they most likely develop an insecure attachment. Insecure types tend to be more anxious about their relationships and get jealous if something threatens their connections with their partners. Low self-esteem also causes higher vulnerability towards excessive, sometimes even obsessive, jealousy.

Jealousy Vs. Envy

Everybody knows that jealousy and envy are synonyms. Yet, these two emotions are not the same. Jealousy always involves a third party an individual perceives as a rival. It is basically about holding onto something or someone you already have. Envy occurs between two people. Essentially, it is when someone wants something they don’t have but someone else has. For instance, an individual may feel envious of someone else’s wealth or attractive appearance.

How Do I Handle Jealousy?

If you are prone to jealousy, especially in romantic relationships but also in the workplace or between friends, here are some useful tips on how to deal with it healthily:

  • Identify your insecurities: be real and honest with yourself about what your insecurities are, where they come from, and what you could start doing today to get rid of these limitations;
  • Let go of self-judgment: you might be surprised, but jealousy is not always a bad thing; it signals our unhealed wounds, so it can be helpful for us to get to know ourselves better and heal;
  • Communicate openly: consider discussing your experience with your romantic partner; if you open up about your feelings, it can help them understand where you are coming from and if necessary, adjust their behaviors for you to feel safer within your relationship;
  • Try self-therapy exercises like saying positive affirmations and/or grounding exercises for overall anxiety relief.

If you still have a hard time handling romantic jealousy, consider talking to a therapist specializing in relationship issues. They will help you work on building trust with your partner for a closer, happier, and emotionally safer relationship.