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Jealousy - Can it have positive impact?

August 04, 2017 Psychology Enakshi Dasgupta

If you search ‘Jealousy’ on Google, it defines the word as – the state or feeling of being jealous.

It is the feeling a person gets when they resent someone’s achievements or possessions. But is that all it is?

Jealousy is a dangerous feeling. One might have romantic jealousy, in which they resent their partner’s friends or previous relationships. Jealousy can also be platonic. One might feel jealous if they feel that a close friend is not giving them enough time and instead spending it with others.

Jealousy is a taboo emotion in most societies. It is considered a negative emotion. But taboo as it is, it is also a completely normal emotion. Most of us feel jealous of someone or the other, at least once in their life. It is a universal emotion, it is part of the experience of Love, which in itself is a multi-layered experience.

Jealousy is the emotional reaction to a real or perceived threat to one’s relationship – romantic, platonic, or otherwise.

The emotion of Jealousy, however, has a purpose. Evolutionary psychologists have defined it as a mechanism to ward off mate-poaching. Jealousy results in the person engaging is actions that interfere with the partner going somewhere else.

A little bit of jealousy may even be a positive thing. Jealousy indicates that the partner cares about you, and is worried about you, or that he/she wants to make the relationship work.

However, excessive jealousy can be extremely damaging. It is one of the leading causes of homicide among partners, especially the women. It also leads to people to attempt to control you in different ways, monitoring their whereabouts, cutting you off from friends and family and so on.

Research indicates that both men and women can experience jealousy with the same intensity and frequency, however, male jealousy is significantly more damaging. A study conducted in western countries say that 50 to 70 per cent of murdered women die at the hands of a boyfriend, husband or ex, while only 3 per cent of all murdered men die at the hands of a wife, girlfriend or ex.

Men and women can also be triggered by different things, situations and scenarios.

In the case of men, the prospect of a physical betrayal is usually more upsetting, while women are more likely to be disturbed by any emotional infidelity. Evolutionary psychologists have attributed this difference to the distinct relationship insecurities men and women face. Men tend to worry more about sexual betrayal because it might lead to them having to devote care and resources to children who aren’t theirs, while women tend to have an interest in ensuring that their mate is emotionally invested enough to stick around and help raise their children.

This does not mean that women cannot be upset with physical betrayal or that men do not care about emotional fidelity. Both sexes are extremely and equally upset by both forms of betrayal, but men tend to key in more heavily on the sexual aspects and women on the emotional aspects.

Jealousy can be an electric force in a relationship. It can be either productive or destructive. To benefit from the signals embedded in the feeling, Scheinkman says, it is important to set some boundaries, and the specifics do not matter as long as both parties are comfortable with them.

Living with uncertainty in a relationship is a stressfulexperience. You are never completely sure that you won’t lose a partner to someone else. But you can make uncertainty work in your favour by keeping yourself from becoming complacent and reminding yourself, in the best way possible, that no one can ever truly possess another person. One can only hope to connect, for as long and as deeply as possible.

Couples therapist Michele Scheinkman says, that when one partner begins to feel jealousy, it can launch a cycle of accusation and defence. Breaking free requires both partners to shed blame and shame so they can move on from defensiveness to vulnerability.

It starts with admitting to feeling jealous, and then articulating the emotions that cause it—your love for your partner, or your fear of losing him or her.

Trying to work the problems out by talking about your feelings and reasons thereof and finding material and realistic solutions for them is always much more effective that hurling accusations at each other. It also helps a relationship to last longer.


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