Jealousy is an everyday problem. Unfortunately, many romantic relationships are negatively impacted by this basic human emotion. It may lead to domestic violence, violating the law and eventually to divorce. But not just love relationships are affected. Even friendships and other kind of interpersonal relationships may be damaged by jealousy.
There is nothing more annoying than a partner who constantly spies on the other using every opportunity to find evidence against the spouse. Secretly checking e-mails, social media accounts and unlocked cell phones are a few typical methods to apply.
Yet, it is a common misconception that jealousy is a sign of love. I have recently seen jealousy related quotes on social media, such as: “The people who are really in love get jealous over stupid things.” Based on the username and profile, the author seems to have a psychology background. I was surprised to see this misconception so deeply ingrained that even seemingly psychologically savvy people believe it.
Jealousy can be a major relationship problem—a survey of marital therapists reported that romantic jealousy was a serious problem for a third of their clients. I consider jealousy a leading problem for couples and a valid reason for quitting the romance.
In this blog post, I hope to dispel the myth that jealousy is a sign of love. But if it’s not, then what really motivates jealous responses? Research has linked several traits to greater jealousy:
- Low self-esteem
- Neuroticism: a general tendency to be moody, anxious, and emotionally unstable
- Feelings of insecurity and possessiveness
- Dependence on partner: Even asking people to imagine that they don’t have good alternative partners leads to more negative reactions to hypothetical jealousy-inducing scenarios
- Feelings of inadequacy in the relationship: Generally fear that one is not good enough for his/her partner
- An anxious attachment style: A chronic orientation toward romantic relationships that involves fear that the partner will leave you or won’t love you enough
- All of these factors that relate to jealousy are about the insecurities of the jealous people, not about the love they have for their partner
So what to do if one finds herself in a jealousy dominated relationship? First and foremost, one must realise that the partner’s jealousy isn’t about him/her; it’s about them. Respond to expressions of jealousy by reassuring your partner of your love. Research has shown that those who respond to partners’ jealousy by reassuring them of their interest and attraction tend to have more stable relationships.
What to do if you are the one who’s exhibiting unwarranted jealous behaviour?
How should you deal with jealousy if you’re the one snooping through your partner’s email? Several actions can help you cope:
- Avoid situations that are likely to arouse false suspicions. In one survey, researchers found that those who were jealous tended to monitor their partners’ Facebook activity. The more they snooped on Facebook, the more they would find evidence to worry about, leading to even more spying, and creating a vicious cycle of increased monitoring and jealousy.
- Work on yourself. Work on building your confidence in yourself and your relationship.
- Communicate with your partner. If you are experiencing jealousy, talk about it with your partner—but the way you talk is key: If you express anger or sarcasm, or hurl accusations at your partner, that’s not going to help. You must be direct, but not hostile. Calmly explain your feelings and discuss how to find a solution. This will enable you to be more satisfied and prevent your partner from being confused by your jealous behaviour.
Sometimes jealousy is justified: If your partner has had an affair and has betrayed your trust, for example, that is a serious issue. If you are jealous because you’re involved with someone who doesn’t seek monogamy, while you do, then your jealous feelings may be a good reason to leave the relationship and seek someone whose relationship goals are more compatible with yours. But when you get jealous over “stupid things,“ you’re not showing love; you’re revealing your own insecurities.