The topic of jealousy seems to pop up every now and again and seems to be a hot topic at all times, especially on self help forums centered around relationships.
This is a article written by a friend of mine, Mike where he makes a good assessment as to what jealousy actually is and why it has such an occurrence in day to day life.
It’s a topic that we as a society have to deal with a lot but there’s not much information about it so I’m going to try to put out some understanding to it.
I’m not a psychologist or an expert in the matter but it is something I’ve seen and observed a lot and I do have some insight and info about it which I’ll also type up.
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
-William Congreve, The Mourning Bride , 1697
When it comes to relationship Jealousy (which is the kind we deal with) you can’t have the Jealousy without attraction.
At some point in all our lives we have had to experience this feeling and In its most intense forms it is a horrible, tormenting obsession.
Love and Jealousy are two of the most strongest and most powerful emotions we as humans have and experience, at it’s strongest people have killed, ruined relationships and lost the things they’ve held most dear to them.
Something along the lines of 20% to 35% of all murders involve a jealous lover.
A third of all couples in therapy have a problem with jealousy. It is common for a jilted lover to threaten suicide, and some do it.
Certainly power is involved; we want the power to keep our lover to ourselves exclusively, Just as falling in love seems “natural” and unlearned, so does jealousy, It just comes over us when someone or something (like work, TV, or sports) threatens our love relationship.
Of course, it isn’t always painful and crazy-making, sometimes it’s milder and fun–a tease– which is the kind a pivot can help with, and a sexual turn on.
In the most extreme case’s, swapping partners.
FEAR AND ANXIETY
The first fear we come to is fear of loss.
Jealousy sees many things that can be lost. The fear of loss of the lover is the greatest. The rest of the fear around jealousy is in fact anxiety, that is to say, it does not have a real object.
The first anxiety comes from the loss of self-esteem. All kinds of self-doubt come up. You don’t have enough money. Something’s wrong with your body. You start projecting your own inadequacies on the other’s actions. If your self-esteem is low, a jealous episode is going to be used as an occasion for proving that you are unlovable.
In spite of Congreve’s famous quote, there is some evidence that men have a more intense jealousy response to losing a loved one than women do, and they take more time to get over it (Mathes, 1988).
There are five stages of jealousy (White, 1981; Brehm, 1985):
1. Suspecting the threat: If you are insecure about a love relationship (not necessarily about yourself in general) and very dependent on your lover, you are likely to be jealous. You may see “signs” of disaster when none are there. Conversely, some people overlook very suggestive signals. In reality, 45% of the people in the Psychology Today survey had cheated on a partner while pretending to be faithful. Men are more likely to deny feeling jealous; women more readily admit it. If the threat to our relationship–the competitor–is attractive, intelligent, successful, etc., we will be more threatened and more disturbed. If we have or want an exclusive sexual relationship with our lover, we will be more threatened by a competitor than if we were in a non-sexual relationship. If we ourselves have been unfaithful to our partners, others might expect us to be less jealous if our partner also has an affair, but research shows that some unfaithful spouses are more jealous (perhaps, in these cases, the greatest threat to the relationship is when both partners have had affairs).
2. Assessing the threat: We may spy on our lover and the rival; we probably lie awake nights worrying about the situation and reviewing the evidence, “Did she come on to him?,” “I wonder if he has talked to her?,” “Does he love her?,” “Wonder if everybody but me knows about it?” Women are concerned about their partner becoming attracted to other women by sex, intelligence, and other attractions, and dissatisfaction with the current relationship. Thus, women feel multiple threats. Men are consciously more concerned about their partner finding someone who will offer a more secure, committed relationship. Men are more concerned (than women) about protecting or re-building their egos if they are “beaten out” by another man; they worry about their partner having sex with someone else (but they’d probably blame the partner if that did happen). Men see a threat and feel jealous first, then worry that something is wrong with them. Women are more concerned with maintaining the relationship; they worry about losing love; they feel inadequate first, then jealous. It is in this intensive worry and spying stage that we go crazy, see the discussion of irrational ideas in chapters 6, 7, and 14.
3. Emotional reactions: If we decide there is a threat to our love, we can have a very wide range of responses: clinging dependency (more women but many men too), violent rage at the competitor or the partner (more men), morbid curiosity, self-criticism, and depression with suicidal thoughts (more women), hurt and resentment of the partner’s lack of devotion and resistance, social embarrassment, selfish–sometimes realistic–concerns (“I’d better take the money out of the bank”), urge to “get back at” the partner, fear of losing companionship, loneliness, regrets at giving up all the future plans, etc., etc
The 1950’s advocated “family togetherness.” In the late 1960’s and 1970’s there was an “open marriage” movement (O’Neill & O’Neill, 1973); we were told that jealousy was a sign of inconsiderate possessiveness and immaturity, that we were selfishly restricting our partner’s love for everyone. Certainly many people tried gallantly to suppress jealous feelings while being open and modern “swingers,” but many failed. At the same time, there were arguments that jealousy was a natural, inevitable, and useful reaction (Mace, 1958; Harrison, 1974). Surely, a couple deciding on exclusiveness in their love and sexual life is not always a master-slave relationship, not necessarily one-sided possessiveness. Yet, love is scary. We can be hurt; the lover has power over us; we need to be #1 in his/her life. How does someone become so important in our emotional life? In the same way The Little Prince loved his rose bush (Saints-Exupery, 1943). It’s a neat part of a story.
4. Coping response: There are two basic choices–desperately trying to shore up the threatened relationship or trying to protect or bolster your sagging ego. Men are more likely than women to become competitive and/or have angry reactions, often including getting drunk or high. Women more often become weak and depressed; sometimes they act like they don’t care; more often, they cry, plead, and blame themselves (Brehm, 1985). Bar talk suggests that recently rejected lovers are sexually on the make and/or sexually “easy.” An interesting study by Shettel-Neuber, Bryson, & Young (1978) suggests that men and women, when threatened by an unattractive competitor, are about as likely to go out with “someone else” and be sexually aggressive. However, when threatened by an attractive competitor, men felt an even stronger urge to make it with “someone else,” while women didn’t want to get involved with any other men at all.
5. The outcome: It is important to know if particular emotional and coping responses help or harm threatened relationships. Also, do these responses build or destroy self-esteem? Both self-esteem and love are important. For instance, a threatened lover, who temporarily keeps his/her partner (and protects his/her ego) by threatening violence or suicide or by frantically begging, will probably lose the lover’s respect in the process.
Interesting post on jealousy. I believe that every person has some level of jealousy within them, and weather the weight of it is emphasized more towards relationships, the workplace, or any other situation, it is best for you to gain a active conscience understanding the next time you feel jealous and make the effort to separate yourself from those feelings.
I do not advocate a removal of the feeling all together, because as Mike says, jealousy acts a form of threat assessment, which is useful. However, I do believe that the minute you are overcome with jealousy is the minute that you stop living in the present and begin to amplify bad personality traits. It is better to keep your best self forward, and maintain a positive outlook when jealousy rears its head.