What causes jealousy & how to know when it’s time to let go of it

Psychology of jealousy: what’s behind it & how to know when it’s time to let go of it

Olga Nechaeva, a writer and the creator of the Femosophy platform, talks about the reasons for jealousy, modern standards of loyalty that help ease the burden of our emotions, and private discussion with a partner as the most efficient means of overcoming jealousy.

How do we experience jealousy?

After a steamy goodbye kiss in a cab, an overall exciting date, and hot sex, we simply said good night and went home alone, both dreaming about meeting soon, or so I thought. Unfortunately, later in the night, I find that his dating app profile is showing “now online.”

He's on the lookout for somebody else. I am not his only date. Am I not enough? My hopes are dashed, everything he said seems a lie, and the more I think about it, the more anger and resentment flare up.

I find myself thinking: why do people get jealous, what really causes it, and how can we stop it from happening?

Pure dating — here, now with no shame!

What causes jealousy?

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Why do people get jealous? According to scientists, this is a normal emotion closely related to how we select and keep partners. As personal strategies evolve differently for everyone, jealousy also differs in many ways.

Fatherhood was essential in Agrarian society with the hereditary transmission of pieces of land; therefore, men are more hurt by physical betrayal. For an Agrarian woman, the key was to keep a partner with her to provide for herself and her offspring, so physical betrayal hurt less, but mental, threatening to leave hurt more.

But we no longer live in an Agrarian society, women provide for themselves, and even monogamy has evolved from "one partner for life" to "one partner at a time." And there are doubts about whether monogamy is possible at all, too.

How jealousy manifests itself in men and women

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Evolving emotional reactions do not change as quickly as societal environments, creating a psychological paradox: feeling jealous but discouraged from showing it.

More precisely, we can, but only for decorative purposes. "It must have been your other girlfriend," can be said exclusively with a pout, followed by faking being mad, just to show that you’re not as unapproachable as it seemed. Acts of jealousy can be interpreted as clingy or hysterical behavior in women.

Acts of jealousy can be interpreted as clingy or hysterical behavior in women. Feelings of pain and humiliation in women are more often transformed into self—hatred, in men - into a threat to masculinity and, sometimes, revenge

Male jealousy can prompt assertive behaviors, like raised brows, to challenge love rivals and increase the romantic pursuit of their love interests.

These cinematic passions, of course, have little to do with experiencing jealousy. Science is almost certain: the opinion that jealousy equals love has no proof.

Scientists have investigated revenge fantasies associated with jealousy in men and women, finding a gender difference. Men are much more likely to fantasize about revenge (judging by criminal statistics, they are much more likely to carry it out). Women also experience resentment and pain but often find revenge meaningless. The reason is the public expectations of "masculinity" and "femininity.” The latter is stereotyped as: gentle, understanding, loving, and soft. Cutting up his suits and beating his new girlfriend is not “ladylike.” Masculinity is expected to be earned and maintained by assertive and violent behavior promoting rival superiority. Sociologists know that the number of jealousy-related crimes directly correlates with how society is built on a rigid hierarchical competition of men.

As Voltaire said: "Jealousy commits more crimes than greed and ambition together."  We live in the XXI century, and fighting your competitors to win a beautiful lady’s heart is no longer romantic but criminally punishable. Changes in societal norms show that jealousy is connected not only with the partner's behaviour, but also with what is considered acceptable.

How to get rid of jealousy: new social norms

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A hard pill to swallow is that you don’t own anyone. Thanks to my experience with dating sites, I learned that the norms of "fidelity" vary greatly. In the UK, where I currently live, it is considered not only customary but also very reasonable not to quit dating before the conversation: "Would you like to be exclusive?". And even this question is inappropriate before a couple of months of dating. Attempts to demand exclusivity after the first sex are perceived as wildness and lack of boundaries. 

This means that many believe it is acceptable to see multiple partners at the beginning of dating someone.

Jealousy is really pushed out of the early dating period due to perceptions like "my body - my choice” and "sex is not the same as a relationship." We stopped getting married as virgins: I would find it extremely weird if some man negatively reacted to the fact that I am not a virgin.

Expand your border. There are more and more variants of non-monogamous relationships: from open marriage to swinging, from polygamy to polyamory. People are constantly looking for a solution to preserve a financially savvy relationship and revive the attraction naturally fading in a long-term relationship. Polyamores go the furthest in an attempt to find a cure for jealousy: they explore the concept of compersion, namely the enjoyment of the fact that your loved one experiences pleasure. Until an exclusive relationship is officially established, you must understand potential partners may choose to see other people.

Speak up. Perhaps that wonderful day will come when the world of "Who is she!" meets the world of compersion. Still, until that happens, it is important to remember that jealousy is based on our self-esteem and expectations from the relationship. And if the first is our personal thing to deal with, then the second should be discussed with your partner. So do it. Otherwise, you’ll end up staring at their “online” status in the middle of the night, overthinking why this is happening.

Olga Nechaeva


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