Jealousy: Destroyer of couples

What is jealousy?

Jealousy is define as an emotion that makes the person suffer when they are afraid that they will be replaced or cheated on by their partner when they seek exclusivity from that person. It is different than envy which is an emotion that demonstrates lust for someone else’s happiness. In other words, jealousy is the fear of losing what we already have and envy is the wanting of things that we would want. The envious person is in state of lacking something who seeks to fulfill that need (envy of a kiss, a touch, of being love, of having sex, etc.). On the other hand, people who are jealous are fearful of losing a state of well being that they already have with another person.

A Universal Feeling but Ultimately Useless!

Jealousy is a universal emotion among human beings that we have all felt one day or another. That small or very big sensation in our stomach that makes us feel uneasy, even though sometimes we wish it wasn’t there. Jealousy is extremely present in loving and sexual relationships, where it can even be glamorized as something good. Although even if it is universal, jealousy is completely useless in loving relationships. We can find that there is a difference in that aspect regarding genders (Harris, 2003; Weghosrt, 19882). More specifically, men tend to be more threaten by sexual conquest of their partners, while women are more scared of losing their partner’s to another lover. This tends to be changing in recent years with gender roles evolution.

Myths On Jealousy

Proof of someone’s love

We often hear people justifying their jealousy by advocating it is a demonstration of one’s love towards their partner’s. First, we must make a point very clear: jealousy is not a proof of love. On the contrary, it is a lack of love for one’s self. A person who feels jealous demonstrates a lack of self-confidence and imagines that they will or can be replaced when the opportunity might present itself. This implies that we consider others to be a menace to the stability of our couple. We show our worries, our fears and apprehensions when we express our jealousy in front of our partner. Inversely, a person with a high self-esteem (no-jealousy) has a feeling of security in their relationship and they demonstrate their love (seen by the satisfaction in the couple) rather than by jealousy (feeling of being insecure).

Being Jealous Protects me From Being Cheated On

Some will explain that their jealousy protects them from been cheated on by their partners. Once again, this could not be further from the truth. Jealousy brings interrogations, unjustified suspicions, constant surveillance and a lack of trust between partners. A perfect recipe for an unsatisfying relationship and constant bickering and fighting! These behaviors tend to push away our partner towards another person because they become dissatisfied with the relationship with the jealous person. We can then attest that jealousy creates the worst fear and what they are trying to ultimately avoid: losing their partner to someone else. It is not unlikely that partners constantly barraged by the other’s jealous behavior wants to leave the relationship and sometimes by cheating. Therefore, jealousy can sometimes cause someone to cheat. Of course, the decision remains in the hands of the one who committed the act, but nevertheless, jealous partners should consider how they might have pushed the other into their own worst fears.


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Complete absence of jealousy demonstrates a detachment and indifference

« I love that my partner is jealous, it demonstrates how they are concerned about me». This typical citation is as false as saying jealousy is a proof of love. Couples who seek to make their partner’s feel jealous are searching to be falsely reassured about their relationship. They seek attention when they feel there is a distance being created between them. We, therefore, believe that our partner showing their jealousy is demonstrating attachment towards the relationship and that they aren’t indifferent to us. When we think about it, there are healthier ways of demonstrating our attachment towards each other. Considering that jealousy is a feeling that makes us suffer, why would we ever want our partner to feel it in any way, shape or form and more precisely in the name of love? Sounds contradictory doesn’t it…well it is! In a stable and healthy relationship, we feel love and attachment towards each other in a good way, not by feeling insecure and scared of losing the other person, with destructive behaviors of jealousy.

I trust my partner, I just don’t trust other people

A lot of jealous people will affirm that they trust their partner, but not the people surrounding him such as friends, colleagues and the like. We imagine that if someone flirts or tries anything with our partner, they have no other choice but to cheat. It is a strange way to think indeed. We must come quickly to the conclusion that we always have a choice in our lives to do or not to do something. If someone flirts, tries to kiss you or any other thing related to affection or sex, there is always the possibility of telling that person that we are in a committed relationship and ask them to stop. This responsibility is solely of the person who is engaged in a relationship. Our partner’s are not territories we need to protect from outside intrusions. They can do that by themselves.

We must also consider that the commitment that two partners have taken together about being loyal in the relationship is only between those two people. First of all, others might not be aware of this loyalty between you and perceives your partner as free game. Secondly, they don’t have the obligation to follow the loyalty you have put forward as they never committed to it, your partner did. Thirdly, we have no control over what others do, and that includes your partner. We must therefore trust your partner that he will put the limits required by your engagement to be loyal and not commit adultery.

If you don’t trust your partner to put those limits, maybe you need to have a serious talk about it with them or reflect by yourself the importance of your commitment towards each other in that regard. A few questions to ask yourself about this issue.

  • How do you imagine your partner in a situation where they are being flirted with?
  • How do they react? Do they cheat?
  • How would you react in the same situation (you being flirted by someone)?
  • Do you put your limits or would you cheat?

Depending on your answers to theses questions, you might have realized that you would have cheated if placed in a situation where you could do it. Sometimes, the person that is jealous is actually projecting on their partner their own desire to cheat and they need others to put limits on them so they don’t cross the line. But most of the time, they restrict their partners instead to soothe their own anxieties, rather than learning to establish their limits in similar situations.

What you need to remember

In conclusion, it is important to understand that feelings of jealousy will probably always be present in one way or another. Rarely will we see a person that is entirely confident in every aspect of their lives and never feel jealous. We all have experiences where we were hurt and made us feel bad about ourselves and it created jealousy.

Although, what is also very important to understand is that our feelings must not decrease our relationship satisfaction because we feel insecure about ourselves. We must all learn to self-sooth our feelings and let our partner be who they are, rather than limiting each other in different aspects of your lives together. It is fundamental that you work on these issues rather than justify your jealousy as being a good thing for the stability of your couple, as it does the complete opposite of that.

Learn more about the author

Francois Renaud M.A.

Sex therapist & psychotherapist in Downtown Montreal
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Harris, Christine. 2003. A Review of Sex Differences in Sexual Jealousy, Including Self-Report Data, Psychophysiological Responses, Interpersonal Violence, and Morbid Jealousy Personality and Social Psychology Review. Vol. 7. No. 2, 102-128.


Weghorst, Suzanne. 1982. Male Sexual Jealousy. Ethology & Sociobiology Volume 3, Issue 1, 11-27.

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