How To Deal With Jealousy (Relations)
If you were to stop and think about all the bad emotions you could feel, jealousy is such a strange one.
I imagine that if bad feelings like frustration, anger, contempt, etc. were like weapons in an arsenal, jealousy would be like the chemical and biological weaponry.
Jealousy in the context of a relationship is different than the kind you feel if you were dumped for someone else. In a relationship it can be a manifestation of insecurities, a method of control, or it can very well be a genuine insight into the failing of the romance. In healthy amounts it can be a sign of a real bond or an aphrodisiac.
After a girl dumps you or there is cheating, jealousy takes on a different face. During or after a break up you are feeling jealous for one of the following reasons:
You’re jealous because you know for sure she cheated on you with a guy that you both know.
You’re jealous because you know for sure of a guy that she cheated on you with, whom she knows and you don’t.
You’re jealous because you suspect she cheated on you or she left you for another guy.
You’re jealous at the very thought of her every being with anyone else.
There’s hardly a time when I don’t get some kind of stifled emotional reaction from a guy once I bring up the topic of the “other guy”, real or imagined.
Losing a girl that we really like to another guy really ignites powerful visceral anger inside of us…but it doesn’t stop there.
There’s the humiliation part of it. Somehow it’s easy to imagine our manhood being mocked and ridiculed by our ex and her new lover (real or imagined) as well as our social group.
Also our insecurities seem to rear their ugly heads. The idea of being rejected for a new lover has this way of yanking out all of our insecurities and displaying them for us all over again in an even bigger spotlight.
Then there is the helplessness. Once your ex has made a choice, and you are past the part of protesting; now it feels like there is nothing you can do about it.
And my favorite part is when they all stack. You get jealous, and then you get pissed off because you’re feeling jealous. Now you’re angry at your ex, but there isn’t anything you can really do, so you feel helpless which then seems to be a good start for you to start ruminating on where you fall short. And before you know it, you’re pissed off again…
Oh, and the guilt. There is a part of our cultural programming that tells us that jealousy is somehow “wrong” or “bad” or that it is a display of weakness so we question ourselves for feeling it.
People often think they if they admit to feeling jealousy that they admitting some kind of personal flaw.
I have been impressed over the years at how many people I have met that claim to “not get jealous” or so they have told me. These are usually the cases that I would be the most suspicious about, and I personally treat that as if they are saying “I don’t get angry.”
I am sure there are cases but I’m personally convinced that wherever there is strong attachment/attraction/love there will always be some jealousy in there somewhere.
Jealousy is an emotion. It is just as natural as any of our other unpleasant emotions.
You Ancestor’s Were All Jealous
So now that I have described what it feels like, what the hell is it and why do we have it in the first place.
Despite what we have been taught to think or what the culture tells us, it isn’t just a result of being insecure or being in an unhealthy relationship.
Jealousy is an emotion, and that emotion is a kind of adaptation.
All of it really comes from two basic facts about male and female behavior in humans, and funny enough, all over the animal kingdom.
Females want access to resources (food, shelter, territory, etc.), and control over their reproduction.
Males want access to resources, and control over female reproduction.
Now keep in mind when I say “want” here I mean that as “our emotions are designed in a way that make us want”.
Animals of all species handle this conflict of interest with all kinds of physical and behavioral adaptations.
Yep, you guessed it, one of which is jealousy. Apes, chimps, dogs, yaks…you name it, all have some kind of “mate guarding” behavior. And it evolved pretty much across board in animals.
Now I want you to imagine yourself with an attractive girlfriend in a little tribe in Africa 150,000 years ago. Everybody knows everyone. Young, healthy, fertile women are rare and the competition for them is fierce among the men.
But in this scenario you happen to not feel jealousy. You lead a relaxed, trusting and peaceful existence, and you let your girlfriend do her thing and you aren’t motivated to keep an eye on what she is up to.
On the other hand, the rest of the men in your group do have a drive to watch and guard their wives. On top of that, they are looking to take any of the side opportunities they can, so these men are also eyeing your girlfriend as well.
So, out of all the people in the village, you are the mostly likely to end taking care of a child that is not your own.
Back in our tribal days human babies were very hard to conceive in the first place, would often miscarry, and the mother or the child (or both) were very likely to die during birth.
If a baby made it that far it would occupy the mother’s full attention for years before she could conceive again. So there is a good chance you wouldn’t get another shot.
So then what happens to your “no jealousy” trait? They get replaced by jealous ones.
Rinse, wash and repeat this process over thousands of generations and you have…well, you have us.
An Emotional Appendix?
Let’s say a family lives on a dangerous steep cliff side that has 4 kids. Three of them are totally unafraid of heights and one of them is deathly terrified.
Over the course of growing up the 3 fearless kids all fall to their death leaving the other one behind. He grows up to have children of his own who are also more likely to be scared of heights.
With each generation of children, the children who are the most frightened of heights, are also going to be the most likely to survive.
Repeat this over a few 100 generations and you end up with a population of people all deathly scared of high places.
The key thing to notice here is that, these people may live a frightened and excruciating existence by those cliffs. But because this “psychological trait” is adaptive (i.e. prevents people from getting near the edges of cliffs) it is the one that is most successful.
Take all the people from our cliff experiment and put them in a modern city. Now, there is no longer the same danger as before because the buildings are all safe. But the same fear response would be triggered anytime they looked out the window of a tall building.
Then there is jealousy. In the modern age the scarcity of mates is no longer the same as it was when our minds were evolving. The conditions aren’t the same, and powerful jealousy is no longer needed to ensure we aren’t a genetic dead end.
But our emotions don’t know that.
Why People Are So Weird About Jealousy.
So why the long explanation of why we feel jealousy?
I really feel like what people in general have a misunderstanding of why jealousy is important and an appreciation of just how powerful it is.
Jealousy was as important to our ancestor’s survival and reproduction as any other emotion.
Back to one of our main ideas, the key to moving past something is accepting it and integrating it. Only then can you begin to manage it, redirect it and move past it.
So it is important to look at jealousy as part of your pallet of emotions, however unpleasant.
Think of a time that you were out with your girlfriend and she started talking to some other guy, and even though you knew there was no threat you could still feel yourself get jealous.
Then when you think about it a few hours later it just seemed kind of silly that you were bothered by it.
But famously, jealousy makes otherwise normal people do stupid things, like rummaging through the other persons stuff, checking cell phones, breaking into email, checking in to see where the person is, etc.
This is usually about as bad as it gets, although it’s no small thing.
Most people say after they have long recovered from a breakup that these are the kinds of things that still make them feel ashamed when they remember doing it.
But when you stop and reflect on the fact that most domestic violence, stalking, and murders involve some element of jealousy one way or another then one can appreciate how powerful this emotion can be. Jealousy seriously makes people do crazy shit.
Crimes of passion are speculated to be the most common reason for murder all over the world, and this is done mostly by men.
I am not saying that people are in any way less responsible for doing things out of jealous, anymore than they would be if they did something because of anger.
Men And Jealousy
Based on what I explained before it makes sense that men and women would have a different experience of jealousy and based on the many studies that have been done on it, they really do.
What makes men far more jealous than anything else is the idea of their lover having sex with another man. Now there are many cultural and societal factors involved but it has been shown that infidelity on the wife’s part is more often the deal breaker for guys for divorcing then it is for women.
With women it looks as though it’s reversed. The idea of their mate developing an EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT with another woman is the most disturbing idea for most women.
We are social creatures, so there is a strong social element to this. Guys especially tend to also take being cheated on as an affront to their social status, and rightfully so.
I think most of us have known that guy at some point or another who had the girlfriend who screwed around on him but he was clueless and was the butt of everyone’s jokes. I think some part of us worries about becoming that guy.
Most of the time the worst thing we do about jealousy is that we torture ourselves with it. All the thoughts that we are already having about our ex can be fueled even more with jealous thoughts.
Imagining our ex with the new guy and picturing her having sex with him. Thinking about whether she is enjoying it or whether we square up to her new lover or not.
We think about the things this new guy might have that we don’t and that stirs up all these other feeling of loss, inadequacy, and insecurity.
Now that we understand that integrating jealousy is important instead of resisting it, we can start to do things that help redirect it.