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Is Jealousy a Sign of Love?

Jealousy might be misinterpreted as an expression of love and devotion by some.

Key points

  • Jealousy is a common human emotion, but in some cases it can be unhealthy.
  • Morbid jealousy involves paranoia, delusion, and obsession over a partner's perceived betrayal.
  • This is a cause for serious concern in a relationship, possibly escalating to abuse and violence.

Joanne’s new boyfriend texted her constantly to find out what she was doing (and who she was doing it with). He was jealous of her male friends, accusing her of flirting with them and even cheating on him. Joanne was flattered by his jealousy. It made her feel wanted and special. She interpreted it as a sign of his love. Her friends, however, saw his jealousy as unhealthy and a red flag for the relationship.

The green-eyed monster

Jealousy is a common human emotion. Experiencing flashes of the green-eyed monster is normal. It’s natural to feel a certain amount of jealousy in response to a threat, either real or imagined, from a third party. Such a threat might include someone flirting with our significant other, or when our significant other flirts with someone else. Jealousy rears its ugly head at some point during most romantic relationships, but it’s usually temporary, a fleeting pang. In small amounts, jealousy can suggest that our romantic partners are still interested in us and that they don’t want us to be with anyone else.

In some cases though, jealousy can be unhealthy. A person can become preoccupied with the irrational fear that their partner is being unfaithful, leading to behavior that is overprotective and possessive. This can manifest as stalking, snooping on their partner’s phone and computer, monitoring and controlling their activities, and even isolating them from their friends and family. The jealous person may repeatedly interrogate their partner and recurrently accuse them of infidelity, even if their suspicions are unfounded.

Jealousy might be misinterpreted as flattery or an expression of love and devotion by some. When it becomes extreme, jealousy is toxic. The idea that jealousy is a sign of love is just a myth. In truth, it’s a sign of a dysfunctional relationship.

Jealousy often stems from insecurity, low self-esteem, or feelings of inadequacy. It can come from trauma or a fear of abandonment. Jealousy may also be caused by past experiences in which previous relationship betrayals created a hypersensitivity to perceived threats. For some people, their jealousy can grow into paranoia, delusion, and obsession. Severe jealousy involves having persistent, intrusive thoughts about a partner’s infidelity. This may be accompanied by outbursts of anger, hostility, and violence triggered by perceived betrayals.

Othello syndrome

When jealousy turns pathological, it is called delusional or morbid jealousy. In this form it can become destructive and even dangerous. In popular usage, morbid jealousy has been dubbed "Othello syndrome." As the name suggests, it was inspired by the Shakespearan character Othello who murders his wife Desdemona in the false belief that she was unfaithful. (In the play, however, Othello is deceived about his wife’s alleged infidelity, rather than being deluded.)

Morbid jealousy is a cause for serious concern in a relationship. If the situation escalates, it may lead to verbal threats, abuse, and domestic violence.

This type of jealousy often occurs in the presence of mental health conditions, including delusional disorders, schizophrenia, borderline or narcissistic personality disorders, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders. Being a target of jealousy can also lead to mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Those who see themselves in this article, both sufferers and victims of morbid jealousy, would benefit from professional help. While there is no “cure” as such, many individuals can manage their symptoms effectively with the appropriate treatment.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


Jesus S, Costa AR, Almeida M, Garrido P. The Green-Eyed Monster: A Brief Exploration of the Jealousy Spectrum. European Psychiatry. 2023;66(S1):S1002-S1002. doi:10.1192/j.eurpsy.2023.2128

Ahn ES, Hobbs JA. Othello Syndrome: Delusional Disorder - Jealous Type ≠ Violence. CNS Spectrums. 2021;26(2):160-161. doi:10.1017/S1092852920002588

Kar, S.K., Singh, N. (2021). Morbid Jealousy. In: Shackelford, T.K., Weekes-Shackelford, V.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

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