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

What’s Wrong with a Little Bit of Jealousy?

The surest way to begin the end of a relationship is to fill it with doubt and neediness.

What Do Singles Really Want?

By Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. on February 20, 2018 in In the Name of Love
Married people envy singles for their romantic freedom. Do singles envy married people for their serious relationships? A recent Match study indicates surprising trends.

Your Partner Cheated, Now What?

By Andrea Bonior Ph.D. on February 19, 2018 in Friendship 2.0
In infidelity's aftermath, you may feel like your world has been shattered. As you take a breath, here are some steps to help you cope and find a path forward.
 Rene Asmussen/Pexels

Is Jealousy a Sign that You are Neurotic?

By Robert L. Leahy Ph.D. on February 13, 2018 in Anxiety Files
Are you neurotic or simply human?

How to Keep Jealousy From Sabotaging Your Relationship

Can jealousy be a positive thing? What if it could actually improve your relationship and bring partners closer together? Here's how psychologists say it can.
This image, which was originally posted to Flickr, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on 5 May 2010, 16:53 by Mindmatrix. On that date, it was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the license indicated.

Food Is Love

By Rachel Herz Ph.D. on February 12, 2018 in Our Senses and Emotions
How sweet food tastes to your lover could tell you how they feel about you.

Is Jealousy Hijacking Your Relationship?

By Robert L. Leahy Ph.D. on February 12, 2018 in Anxiety Files
Do you find yourself worried that your partner is interested in someone else?

Using Envy to Your Advantage

By Katharine Brooks Ed.D. on February 04, 2018 in Career Transitions
Envy can be the first step to a happier future. Instead of comparing yourself negatively to others, develop a plan to make your life one that others will envy.

Is Jealousy a Sign That Your Partner Will Be Unfaithful?

By Robert Burriss Ph.D. on February 01, 2018 in Attraction, Evolved
Why are some people more jealous than others? New research suggests that many of us have distinctly Freudian motives.

Aging Envy

By Mario D Garrett Ph.D. on January 27, 2018 in iAge
Among older adults envy has a special place in identifying the difficulty we have with accepting aging, especially when others do not conform to our own aging experience.

Is Facebook Spying on an Ex-Flame The New Normal?

Has Facebook stalking become the new normal? Research indicates that post-break up covert monitoring of an ex-flame after a breakup is increasingly common.

How Jealous Partners Use Facebook to Monitor and Manipulate

Partners do not always make good Facebook friends. How digital surveillance, manipulation, and mate-retention strategies can be harmful to your relationship.

Why I Envy Yeezy, Diddy, Ozzy, Fergie, Sting, and Flea

By Anneli Rufus on January 05, 2018 in Stuck
Nicknames are gifts you can't give yourself.

Are Emotions a Product of Human Design?

In individualistic but not collective cultures, positive high-arousal affect, such as love of power, is held in high esteem. Paradoxically, this triggers misery and dysphoria.

How Jealousy Can Jeopardize Your Romantic Relationship

By Wendy L. Patrick, Ph.D. on December 26, 2017 in Why Bad Looks Good
Some romantic partners mistakenly believe that jealousy is good. Research, however, links jealousy with controlling behaviors as well as intimate partner violence.

Tax Bill Blowback

By David P. Barash Ph.D. on December 22, 2017 in Pura Vida
Pundits have been busy opining about the impact of the newly passed tax bill. They've ignored the impact of the psychology of envy and of relative good fortune.

Envy and Your Facebook Feed

By Susan Biali M.D. on December 16, 2017 in Prescriptions for Life
Do you feel envious when scrolling through Facebook? Might others feel envious when looking at what you post? Here's why both matter.

Adoption and Sibling Relationships

By Susan McQuillan M.S., RDN on December 06, 2017 in Cravings
What role does adoption play in the development of bonds between brothers and sisters? Researchers are looking for answers.
Joshua Sazon

How to Cope When You’re Envious of a Friend

By Miriam Kirmayer on November 28, 2017 in Casual to Close
As we move through life, the more our paths diverge from those of our friends, and the more important it becomes to learn how to manage feelings of envy.

Why Undergo Cosmetic Surgery?

By Robert Burriss Ph.D. on November 13, 2017 in Attraction, Evolved
Two new studies investigate why women decide to undergo cosmetic surgery. How influential are partners and the culture we live in?

Some People Truly Don’t Feel Jealousy

Some people in long-term polyamorous relationships initially report that they do not feel jealousy, but over time many of them encounter jealousy triggers in their relationships.

52 Ways: What Motivates Others Who Threaten a Relationship?

By Roni Beth Tower Ph.D., ABPP on November 12, 2017 in Life, Refracted
A couple's relationship can be threatened by others. To minimize potential damage, explore conscious or unconscious motives that a third party might have.

Avoiding the Comparison Trap

By Atalanta Beaumont on November 08, 2017 in Handy Hints for Humans
How to celebrate the uniqueness of you.

My Mother Has Too Many Boyfriends

By Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. on November 07, 2017 in The Teen Doctor
How To Deal With Your Mother's Boyfriend Choices.

Male Monkeys Show Neural and Hormonal Correlates of Jealousy

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 01, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Male titi monkeys who form strong pair bonds with their mates show neural and hormonal changes indicating jealousy when their partner is observed close to a strange male.

Power: Five Non-Traditional Views

By Robert Enright Ph.D. on October 30, 2017 in The Forgiving Life
Is your basic life-orientation to seek power over others or to use what power you have to be in service to others? Five ideas are presented to help you self-examine power.

What's Going On in a Jealous Man's Brain

By Christopher Bergland on October 23, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
A first-of-its-kind study on the neurobiology of jealousy in monogamous monkeys sheds light on how male jealousy operates in humans, too.

Feeling Like a Phony, an Imposter, and a Fake? You Can Stop.

It doesn't go away, but if you work at it, usually with a good therapist, feelings of being a fake come less often, pass more swiftly, and do less damage.

We Project Onto Romantic Partners Our Own Desires to Cheat

We are often convinced that mistrust of our romantic partners is well-founded. Sometimes it is, but research suggests that suspicion also comes from our own attraction to others.