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.

Recent posts on Jealousy

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By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on October 19, 2017 in ExperiMentations
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By Isadora Alman MFT, CST on September 27, 2017 in Sex & Sociability
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Sharing the Love: Research Shatters Myths About Non-monogamy

By Michael Aaron, Ph.D. on September 20, 2017 in Standard Deviations
New research employing personality theory and moral psychology shatters myths about consensual non-monogamy.

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By Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. on September 14, 2017 in The Teen Doctor
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By Andrea Bonior Ph.D. on August 28, 2017 in Friendship 2.0
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Seeing patterns objectively—yours and the narcissist's—is as important as acknowledging your feelings.

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By Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. on August 07, 2017 in The Teen Doctor
Assuming others live perfect lives is problematic.

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astarot/Shutterstock

How to Deal With Your Partner’s Jealousy

By David Ludden Ph.D. on July 07, 2017 in Talking Apes
If your understand your own and your partner’s attachment style, you can effectively resolve the inevitable conflicts in your relationship.

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“The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not." —Susan B. Anthony

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University Leicester, flickr

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Can Envy Ever Be a Positive Emotion?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on May 12, 2017 in Talking Apes
Envy lets us know about our rank in the pecking order. But how we respond determines whether the outcome will be destructive or help us become better people.

Is Monogamy Really the Key to Happiness?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on April 28, 2017 in Talking Apes
The common wisdom is that open relationships are less satisfying and more prone to jealousy than conventional matrimony. But the data say otherwise.

Animal Envy, by Ralph Nader: A Review

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on April 17, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Ralph Nader's visionary fable, Animal Envy, was motivated by his mostly unknown but obviously longstanding concern for animals. The core message: Animals and humans need one other.

Toppling the Boss

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on April 12, 2017 in How To Do Life
Learn ethical ways to oust the bad and to protect yourself if you're the good.

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Do Narcissists Make Their Partners Jealous on Purpose?

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on April 03, 2017 in ExperiMentations
What motivates narcissistic people to make others jealous? Research sheds light on why some narcissists do it on purpose, and others out of insecurity.

What Toxic Jealousy Reveals

A wound that never heals repeatedly gets re-injured, leaving a person to feel entirely powerless. Ask yourself these 3 questions to begin escaping the toxic jealousy spiral.

The Science of Schadenfreude

By Joseph A. Shrand M.D. on March 27, 2017 in The I-M Approach
Sometimes we laugh at someone else’s misfortune. We’ve all done it, even if we aren't proud of it. But once we know why we do what we do, we can choose to do something else.

4 Sure Signs of a Toxic Relationship

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Facebook got you down? A shift in perspective may be the answer.

Do Cleaner Shrimp Get Jealous?

By Peter Toohey Ph.D. on February 17, 2017 in Annals of the Emotions
The jealous triangle is usually reckoned to be one on one, with the prize, say, a lover. But it’s not all sex, it’s not all one on one, and it’s not all humans.