by Justin Hite
(Original Article by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today)
There is much debate as to what jealousy is, and what it is not, according to the beliefs of our society. Many observers agree that jealousy takes control of our relationships, and can even be the demise of one. Some skeptics disagree, however, saying that jealousy is merely a “guardian of love.” Exploring the spectrum of beliefs, we find several interesting components that exist in this still-unresolved mystery as to what the actual meaning of the emotion really is. Seemingly, we find the very instinct to be a reflection of our envy towards the “rivals” who have attained that which we have not yet. We also find jealousy to be a living threat to our domain, our property, and our future selves.
Professor of Psychology, Richard Smith (University of Kentucky) actually stakes his claim that jealousy is not envy. Smith says, “Jealousy teaches us about ourselves.” This supports the theory of inward emotions being expressed by anger and rage, fueled by that very insecurity, above-mentioned. Seeing an outside intruder pay close attention to our spouse, for example, would mean nothing if we weren’t somehow envious of that “rival” outsider. This supports the fact that jealousy and envy aren’t the same, but in fact, closely related. We obviously listen to our instincts, and this is where the jealousy stems from. Something inside of us is saying, “this isn’t right.”
Interestingly enough, divorce rates have continued to rise over the years, as population has also increased by the millions. Could there be correlation between the
two? Such evidence suggests my theory: Perhaps we’re losing interest in saving our
relationships. Could it be that our natural selection process is being altered by the increase of our possible mates? Perhaps jealousy isn’t such a bad thing. It may even be one of the remaining factors to hold our relationships together.
Psychologist Steven Stosny has his own theory. “The formula for jealousy is an insecure person times an insecure relationship.” Stosny says that some jealousy is beneficial and even healthy to a relationship, especially one in it’s early stages, (before trust has been developed). “In small doses it’s an expression of caring. Jealousy is like a way of testing whether it’s safe to invest more emotion. Jealousy is a fear of losing something you perceive you have— the affection, the fidelity of another person. The threat of losing it is a test of how much you value it.” However, if something were so valuable, I’m not sure we would leave it for others to gain access. Then again, if it leaves, was it truly our to begin with?
You may be wondering where this uncontrollable, yet supposedly necessary emotion comes from? University of Texas Psychologist David Buss believes that jealousy is deemed “quite necessary” to reduce the odds that their partners will stray. Buss (and a colleague from Spain) conclude that “the individual inclination to jealousy” is strongly influenced by factors such as neuroticism (emotional instability), and such emotions as anger, anxiety, and depression. Their theory is that the higher the level of instability in a person, the more prone to jealousy they become. I don’t see much of a chance for those clinically depressed, or with a history of mental health issues, if this “research” proves to be accurate.
French psychiatrist Marcianne Blevis agrees with the notion. She contends,
“feeling unlovable is the heart of jealousy.” However, she also alleges that jealousy is not the guardian of love, but rather it’s destroyer. After all, jealousy does cause us to act irrationally, to say the least. One such story, as reported within the Psychology Today article, explains how astronaut-in-training Lisa Nowak, at the age of 44, drive a thousand miles nonstop from Houston, TX, to Orlando, FL, wearing a diaper to avoid stopping for bathroom breaks, to kidnap the new girlfriend of an astronaut with whom she had recent affairs with? Such behavior is driven by an inner-emotion, triggered by something deep, according to the panel of experts. Could it be that, which we call, “jealousy?” Perhaps this could be why we attribute the emotion as one of the leading causes of homicide. Now the article is saying if you’re depressed, you are more likely to be jealous, and possibly even kill someone over it. In some cases, I guess it’s true. In general, it may be a bit far-fetched.
Stosny’s theory would correlate with this evidence. He reports, “People use jealousy as a signal to try to control their partner, only making things worse.” It would seem that after losing the upper-hand in the relationship, they would try to compensate themselves by demonstrating supposed “power” over their mate, in jealousy. Such behavior only pushes our mates away, as Blevis claimed. In the article, Blevis speaks of a patient she once had who dared not pursue her own dream career of becoming a doctor, and came to realize that the jealousy she had for a rival was simply masked feelings she felt for not ever pursuing her own dreams. The patient’s boyfriend left her, and after the initial heartbreak, the patient had an epiphany. She soon returned back to school to “fix” the problem. The patient may have lost her boyfriend, but her inner-insecurities were now being resolved. This seems a lot more practical. Jealousy ruined a relationship, one which simply wasn’t meant to be. And great lessons were learned. Now, we’re getting somewhere.
Instead of blaming our partner for their actions, (some even intentionally provoked), we must find the strength to look within ourselves, where we find the source of insecurity, that which only makes our rivals seem that much more superior. This may seem hard to do, seeing as fourty percent of women deliberately provoke a bit of jealousy in a partner to get a reading on the strength of a bond (according to Buss). Such leading examples are talking about an ex, noting being attracted to other guys, dressing provocatively, smiling and flirting, and even failing to answer phone calls for no other reason than to leave the impression of being on another date. Stosny attests to this theory, claiming that people use jealousy as a signal to try to control their partner, only making things worse.” This would explain the bizarre behavior many males have reported in relationships from females. What can now be said to represent the irrational behavior from the male population? We are now lead to believe that only females create this conflict in our relationships. Perhaps only male’s are prone to this formula, and females have built an immunity of some sort.
To conclude the theories and evidence gathered, we also find another interesting fact. Over fifty percent of both Males and Females report having deliberately tried to steal another friend’s mate. This is proof that competition exists, even among friends. Now, it becomes even more clear as to what purpose jealousy may in fact have within a relationship. It is not only an emotion, but also a defense mechanism. It is what we do with jealousy that dictates what happens next to both us , and our relationship. “Secure people handle disappointment without feeling like a total loser,” says Stosny. Yet, as Buss adds, “The more emotionally stable you are, the higher your mate value.” So the jealousy war rages on, as we struggle to sort ourselves out, from the inside.