Understanding Jealousy

Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses feelings ranging from fear of abandonment to rage and humiliation. Jealousy strikes both men and women and is most typically aroused when a person perceives a threat to a valued relationship from a third party. The threat may be real or perceived. It is not limited to romantic relationships but also can arise among siblings competing for parental attention or in friendships. Jealousy is distinguished from envy in that jealousy always involves a third party seen as a rival for affection. Envy occurs between two people and is best summed up as "I want what you have."  Although jealousy is a painful emotional experience, evolutionary psychologists regard it not as an emotion to be suppressed but as one to heed—it is a signal, a wake-up call, that a valued relationship is in danger and steps need to be taken to regain the affection of one's mate or friend. In this regard, jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds. It motivates people to engage in behaviors that maintain an important relationship.

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