Romantic jealousy – is it a lovely compliment or is it dangerous?

Romantic jealousy
Romantic jealousy
Romantic jealousy in marital relationships;
“With his very last strength … he collapsed on the doorstep of the pharmacist’s house, and when he went outside, he told him that someone had stuck a sword in his head. “A personal illness that has no cure and early signs and every person who suffers from it is doomed to seek its own long term.”
Elijah, who is morbidly jealous of his wife and does not even allow her to stand by the window of the house, is an extreme example of the destructive power of romantic jealousy. Most jealousy relationships are not that extreme, but jealousy is a significant cause of marital distress and difficulties.

Normative jealousy versus pathological jealousy

If you have experienced romantic jealousy in your life, you can surely attest that the dictionary definition of the term does not reflect the acute pain and distress it entails. Romantic jealousy is a response to a real or imagined threat to an important and meaningful relationship, and it may include emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral components: emotional components may include anger, humiliation, sadness, etc .;

Thoughts may include guilt, self-comparison to a competitor, and physical reactions may include sweating, tremors, difficulty sleeping and eating, and so on. Also, jealousy can lead to behaviors of anger, crying, leaving, violence and so on.

The experience of jealousy is already described in the Bible and Greek mythology, and seems to be familiar to almost everyone. However, there are a number of metrics that distinguish between normative romantic jealousy and pathological romantic jealousy:

Nature of the threat: Normative jealousy arises in response to an actual threat (the partner spends long hours chatting, the partner indicates that she is not satisfied in the relationship) and excessive jealousy tends to arise in response to a fictitious or minor threat (in response to conversation with a neighbor, standing too close to another woman, “a hunch feeling” etc.).

Intensity of response: A normative response to romantic jealousy may include distress, guilt, etc., but a powerful response (violence, spousal surveillance, etc.) indicates excessive romantic jealousy.

The effect of jealousy on the relationship: Normative jealousy may be an effective protection of the relationship (e.g., expectation that the partner will not see each other long and intensely with his or her former partner) but pathological jealousy tends to limit and destroy it (jealousy is in distress and suspicious partner , And this dynamic leads to repeated quarrels).

It is important to emphasize, then, that similar to other emotions that arise within a relationship, the emotion of jealousy may move over a broad and normative range for the most part.

Even when romantic jealousy evokes powerful emotions and fantasies (“I wish his secretary was dead,” “I would break his face”), it is not necessarily pathological romantic jealousy, as long as it does not lead to extreme behavior and significant and prolonged distress.

However, at extreme levels of jealousy, jealousy may be diagnosed as a delusional disorder of the jealousy type or perceived as one of the criteria for diagnosing a paranoid personality disorder.

Romantic jealousy
Romantic jealousy

The causes of romantic jealousy

Already in the early days of psychoanalysis, Freud tried to explain the causes of the formation of romantic jealousy. According to him, romantic jealousy is normative and inevitable, since it originates in our childhood, in the Oedipal psychosexual stage: the child falls in love with a parent of the opposite sex and competes for his love with the parent of the same sex.

This struggle leaves a mark of frustration, helplessness and even anxiety that arise in situations where we experience a threat to the object of love in adulthood. Also, this stage may be the source of extreme tolerance – a state of extreme lack of jealousy for the spouse.

Apart from the normative romantic jealousy, Freud identified two other types of jealousy: Projective jealousy is jealousy in which a person experiences an urge to cheat, but this urge evokes guilt and therefore undergoes a process of repression and projection – the desire to cheat is placed on the partner.

Projective jealousy can be treated through psychoanalytic therapy that will raise the repressed urge to betrayal awareness. The second type of jealousy, the delusional-paranoid jealousy, is also based on the casting of the impulses of betrayal, but these impulses are repressed homosexual impulses.

This claim is not accepted today, but there are theorists who link hallucinatory jealousy to childhood trauma in which the child discovers that his mother is cheating on his father, excessive alcohol use or a sense of sexual inferiority (small penis, impotence and inability to enjoy sex, etc.). That is, projective and delusional jealousy stems from a person’s unconscious attempt to protect himself from threatening or painful memories or impulses.

Psychodynamic approaches focus on the internal mental factors that lead to fanaticism, but the systemic approach offers another alternative for understanding it. According to this approach, jealousy stems from the specific dynamics created between the spouses, and not as a difficulty of one of them:

behavior patterns are established in a way that preserves the jealousy relationship, with each spouse holding a complementary role to the other spouse’s role. Thus, for example, a man may be fixed in the position of “evil traitor” while the woman is fixed in the role of the unfortunate victim.

According to the systemic approach, romantic jealousy may play a role that is not completely negative, such as adding excitement, creating a sense of commitment and love and so on. Also, jealousy (and infidelity) may be used as a means of communication in the absence of the ability to have a dialogue about difficulties in a relationship.

Apart from the personal factors and factors related to the interaction between the couple, it seems that the socio-cultural framework has a great influence on the way in which romantic jealousy is defined, perceived and received:

There are cultures where mutual exchange of sexual partners is acceptable and there are societies where severe penalties are imposed for infidelity; In one tribe an Indian jealousy is considered excessive jealousy to prevent the transition to the next world, and in another tribe the birth of a dead baby is proof of the woman’s betrayal of her husband.

In recent decades there has been a significant change in the way jealousy is perceived in Western society: until the 1970s jealousy was described as a positive emotion indicative of love and commitment, but from that period onwards jealousy began to be perceived as a negative emotion and expression of low self-esteem.

Romantic jealousy
Romantic jealousy

She: ‘You talk to her more than to me’, he: ‘I saw you flirting’ – differences between men and women in the quality and expressions of jealousy

Othello, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s play, suffers intense and prolonged jealousy for his wife Desdemona, which eventually causes him to murder her and commit suicide, when he realizes that his suspicions are unfounded. In contrast, the protagonist of the film “Women on the verge of nervous breakdown” (Almodóvar) reacts hysterically and throws objects out the window due to her jealousy of her unfaithful lover.

These works present extreme female and male stereotypes of reactions to jealousy. In practice, many studies point to similarities in the prevalence and intensity of jealousy feelings in women and men, but there seem to be differences in the expressions of jealousy and the focus around which it arises.

Throughout most of human history it has been the role of women to raise children and the role of man to provide for and protect them. In today’s Western society the division of roles is not as unambiguous as in the past, but the various factors influencing the envy of women and men indicate the effect of this early division.

In general, women tend to be jealous of their partner’s emotional loyalty (does he love someone else? Having a close romantic friendship with another woman?) While men are more sensitive to their partners’ sexual loyalty. This difference may be due, according to the socio-biological approach, to evolutionary reasons: a woman, unlike a man, can be sure that the child in her womb is a girl, so a man who wants to ensure his genetic survival must make sure he is the only sexual partner.

Confident in her motherhood and focused on getting in touch with a stable and protective man. Therefore, sexual infidelity does not threaten to pass on the genes, as long as the man is not committed to another woman and shares material resources with her.

Jealousy over ignoring it, raising the issue for discussion or demonstrating abuse. However, women tend to express the hurt through crying or shouting while men are more prone to outbursts of anger, demand for behavior change and violent behavior.

Romantic jealousy
Romantic jealousy

How do you deal with jealousy?

Naturally we tend to think how difficult it is for the spouse who is the object of unjustified jealousy, but in practice both the jealous and his spouse suffer, and many of the “zealots” would be happy if they could get rid of their jealousy.

Jealousy can be a powerful and desperate experience to the point of despair, but it can be addressed and has resulted in both a marked improvement in the distress it causes and a reduction in its devastating impact on the marital relationship.

The first principle for dealing with jealousy is to recognize it as a problem that is important and can be treated. The jealous spouse must identify the source of the jealousy – is it a fear of abandonment, humiliation, damage to self-worth?

Once the focus of jealousy is identified, its roots must be identified: Does the reaction stem from past experiences (a parent who has left home, a treacherous spouse), social factors (“What will they think of me if they see I allow you have a coffee with a” friend “?) Or a real threat to the relationship ?

Had the awareness of the various aspects of jealousy led to its disappearance, much pain would have been spared from many couples. But in practice the experience of jealousy is so powerful and distressing that most people are incapable of this rational thinking.

Therefore, when the problem of jealousy becomes a prolonged problem that harms the marital relationship, turning to a professional may bring significant relief.

Psychodynamic approach therapies will focus on raising awareness of the causes of jealousy, and understanding the memories, thoughts, and emotions that accompany jealous situations. Behavioral approach therapies, however, do not focus on understanding jealousy but on learning alternative and more effective behaviors than jealousy.

Thus, for example, a patient suffering from jealousy may learn self-calming techniques that increase the tolerance for enviable images and situations. Other behavioral techniques include flooding – re-exposure to enviable images (my wife sleeps with another man, my husband flirts at a party) until these images become less threatening.

Also, in cases where it is a pathological jealousy resulting from a delusional disorder (i.e., the spouse’s functioning is normal apart from his or her erroneous assessments around the jealousy issue), medication may lead to significant improvement.

These treatment approaches focus on treating the jealous person, but another key principle in dealing with jealousy is the understanding that jealousy arises within a particular relationship and in response to certain stimuli.

The systemic treatment approach, for example, offers couple therapy that conceives of jealousy as a common marital problem and works with the goal of identifying and changing the couple patterns that perpetuate jealousy.

Also, couple therapies allow – sometimes for the first time – processing of the experience of jealousy and increasing the understanding of each of the spouses the difficulties of the other spouse.


My name is Nitzan but everyone call me Nitz, I am passionate about writing and especially blogs. I will focus on posts that are related to Lifestyle in general , relationship,dating advices and articles, Hope you enjoy my blog!

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