Jealousy is one of the strongest, the most painful and devastating emotions, which is familiar to everyone. At some point, we all experience this unpleasant feeling connected with our fear to lose someone we love very much. Men usually feel jealous when their wives or girlfriends start flirting or paying a lot of attention to other men. The same can be said about women, who can feel pretty much jealous even when their husbands or boyfriends communicate with other people more than they usually do. In our times, jealousy is considered to be among the leading reasons of divorces and break-ups.
However, jealousy is not an issue connected only with romantic relationships or marriages. Very often, young children can not cope with their high levels of jealousy when a new baby is born to the family. Sometimes, young students feel jealous when their teachers pay more attention to other classmates, who are more talented or successful. Therefore, according to Peter Salovey, jealousy can be defined as “..an emotion experienced when a person is threatened by the loss of an important relationship with another person (the “partner’) to a “rival” (usually another person, but not necessary so)” (Salovey 15).
Many people are convinced that jealousy is a negative feeling, but there are types of this emotional condition, which have no signs of possible negative effects. Moderate levels of jealousy can be an indication of true love and concern about the partner. Sometimes, jealousy can be caused by an awkward behavior or a lack of good manners, and expressing jealousy in such situations can help prevent similar incidents in the future. Besides, jealousy is frequently caused by some suspicious behavior of a partner or certain changes in his or her daily routine. Such type of jealousy is justified, and expressing jealousy in this case can assist in solving the issue without any negative consequences.
However, any type of very strong, obsessive and unjustified jealousy is, undoubtedly, very harmful to the relationships and mental health of the partners. It causes excessive nervousness and anxiety, concentrated hate, anger and rage, suicidal thoughts, as well as other negative reactions. Moreover, obsessive jealousy frequently turns into emotional abuse and terrorizing, which are accompanied with violence and aggression. This can last for very long time, and if one of the partners has reached this stage of jealousy, there are almost no chances for the relationships to continue.
Jealousy is a very complex emotion, which is usually revealed through several internal and external factors. In her book Romantic Jealousy: Causes, Symptoms, Cures, Ayala Pines underlines that internal factors include our personal thoughts or mental reactions on the situation, such as anger, despair, grief, hopelessness, fear and so on. The external factors include our physical reactions on jealousy (such as sweating, rush, fastened heartbeat, insomnia, depression, etc.) and our behavioral patterns (crying, panicking, screaming, ignoring the situation, looking for the ways to retaliate, and so on). At that, it is much easier to control our external reactions than the internal ones (Pines 3).
Psychologists also point on the fact that usually men and women react on jealousy in different ways. Generally, going into depression or looking for revenge is a common reaction of women, and anger is a reaction typical for men. This phenomenon can be explained by the differences between male and female psychology. Women are more sensitive, emotional and insecure, that is why they tend to feel jealous when their husbands spend more time with their guy friends or at work. Any woman is likely to believe that the less her husband thinks of her and spends time with her, the less he loves her. This is one of the main fallacies, which causes jealousy in women (Saltz).
At the same time, men experience jealousy not as often as women do, and the context of their jealousy is more sexual rather than sensual. As a rule, men have a tendency to express more intense emotions, more anger and rage connected with their hurt feelings. Such a man can not just be jealous of his wife spending time with her friends, but he demands constant proves of her infinite love to him and frequently turns her life into hell. Unfortunately, such jealousy can result in a strong desire of the wife to get out of the husband’s control. Moreover, in many situations excessive jealousy of the husband drives his wife into a real affair and brings their marriage to the end (Saltz).
Thus, jealousy is caused by possessive calls in our mind and certain drives of our subconscious to keep the people we love under our total control. When we love or respect someone very much, we want to feel the feedback of the same strength and intensity. Therefore, we feel jealous when that person pays attention on other people. More specific causes of jealousy include a lot of various emotional components and factors, such as insecurity, fear of being abandoned and lonely, fear of being betrayed, competitiveness and envy to the others, desire for power and domination, and even fear to lose own dignity.
In addition, a lot of people have a certain predisposition to being jealous. Those individuals, who have a family history of constant jealousy accompanied by violent outburns, or spent the childhood living in the shadow of more talented and successful sibling, or had to cope with the difficulties connected with the parents’ divorce, have a great predisposition to feeling jealous. Besides, those people, who had to face a real betrayal of the partner, are more likely to experience jealousy in the future. From this perspective, our social and cultural environment plays an important role for developing such predisposition (Pines 16).
Therefore, jealousy is a complex feeling, which emerges in the context of certain relationships of two partners. There is nothing wrong about moderate and healthy jealousy, but it is very important to keep this feeling under control, because when it is progressing, it can lead to losing a very important link that holds the partners together: their trust in each other. Trust is a pillar of many romantic, friendly and other relationships, and losing this connection between the partners can bring to endless misunderstandings and fights, mutual resentment, and eventually cause a break-up.
Overcoming such strong emotion as jealousy requires making changes in own perception of the relationships and getting a new angle on the situation. Specialists recommend reevaluating the motifs behind jealousy, changing the attitude toward the partner and trying to be happy for his or her success, development, achievements, social appreciation, etc. Another effective technique is trying not to get focused on own personality and own problem, but looking for some other interests or activities, which could divert the person’s attention from jealous thoughts and suspicions.
Besides, when one of the partners is trying to cope with jealousy, communication between the partners is crucial. It is necessary for the person who experiences jealousy to talk openly to the partner and express own feelings in order to see the partner’s reaction and understanding of the situation. Usually, it is possible to solve the problem together by discussing the feelings and setting up some new clear rules for the relationships. Sometimes, it is effective to use some help of a third party: for example, a friend, who can evaluate the behavior of both partners and give a fresh opinion (Cape).
Finally, those people who feel jealous of someone should remember that positive thoughts and actions always precede good fortune. That is why, in order to break free from jealousy, the person has to concentrate on positive things: for example, start looking for ways to use own special talents and skills. Despite any difficulties and emotional stresses connected with jealousy, it is possible to combat this green-eyed monster, leave all negative feelings behind and find more room for both of the partners to move on toward new beginnings in their relationships.
Cape, Anthony. “Overcoming Jealousy in Relationships.” Ask Men. IGN Entertainment, Inc. 29 Nov. 2008 <http://www.askmen.com/dating/curtsmith_60/78c_dating_advice.html >.
Pines, Ayala Malach. Romantic Jealousy. New York, NY: Routledge Press, 1998.
Salovey, Peter. The Psychology of Jealousy and Envy. New York, NY: Guilford Press, 1991.
Saltz, Gali. “Jealousy: Is It the Same for Men and Women?” MSNBC. Today Show. 27 Oct. 2007. 29 Nov. 2008 <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15436286/>.