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Why is My Partner So Jealous?

Updated on December 4, 2012
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Is jealousy a modern romantic emotion? Or is it the sound of a genetic alarm from our past?

If you have ever experienced the emotions from the “green-eyed monster,” you know the powerful and painful feelings jealousy can evoke. Crimes of passion are estimated by researchers as the third most common motive for murder, and the number one cause of spousal homicide. Many people with no history of violence have murdered their beloved in a jealous frenzy, and claim the act was out of a broken heart. How can such a powerful and destructive emotion be experienced by a modern and civilized society? Is jealousy a part of our evolutionary DNA?

Primal Response

Evolutionary scientists believe jealousy developed as a survival technique in our ancient ancestors from living with scarce resources. Each gender performed different roles that contributed to survival. Jealousy alerted them to respond with fear to the potential end of an intimate and beneficial relationship. Most likely, humans pair-bonded during the extremely hard times of the ice age, and discovered two parents increased the chance of the children’s survival.

It is also believed our ancient ancestors where polygamous. There is no evidence to support that ancient males ever controlled females in harems, as primates do. Living in social groups, we moved in and out of relationships with others, possibly being in monogamous relationships for periods of famine, extreme weather, or the purpose of raising children. Since babies are so helpless at birth, the possibility of losing a mate to another was a major threat, and the display of jealousy may have influenced a pair to stay bonded.

Humans are not the only ones influenced by jealousy. Animals in pair-bonds respond with rage to interlopers moving in on their mates. A bird may chase off another male showing interest in his mate, and then turn on her with anger and violence. Chimps practice an aggressive display of mate-guarding that can turn into a brutal fight.

Modern Envy

Envy is a desire for something that someone else possesses. Although envy can be motivating and expressed as admiration, it can also be described as resentment. Some men and women may react with negativity to the greater fortune of others, more expensive cars, or a bigger and newer house. Status is defined by material gain, and anyone with more than you is held in higher esteem. People with more money, success, or attractiveness are perceived to be more valuable. Although some have murdered for envy’s sake, the act is usually more calculated and premeditated, and doesn’t compare with the spontaneous rage of jealousy.

Jealousy: Differences in Men and Women

Within couples, men and women experience jealousy equally when their mates show interest in the attention of more attractive, successful, or exciting people— but for distinctly different reasons.

Men become jealous when they suspect sexual competition. They experience an intrinsic fear of investing time and resources into the raising of someone else’s offspring. Men are more likely to leave and refuse to forgive an adulterous relationship. No matter how physically painful, they would rather suffer the separation and loss then risk the possibility of supporting another man’s genes.

Jealousy in women is activated by emotional betrayal. Fear of their mate devoting time and resources to another, and possibly to her children, threatens survival. Women are more likely to reconcile a relationship if their mate has been unfaithful. Perhaps because women are always aware that there children belong to them, and their children’s welfare is the ultimate goal.

Pathological Jealousy

Of course, jealousy and romantic love are complicated by diverse emotions, and at the extreme, can destroy a relationship. Self-centered people, who treat their relationships as possessions, cannot tolerate the loss of their partner. Egotists who believe they are entitled to their relationship, no matter what the circumstances, may engage in a violent rage when threatened by rejection. Certain people with personality disorders cannot tolerate abandonment at any cost, and may react with volatile emotions to a break up.

The sum of our Ancient Past

It’s obvious that we have evolved from ancestral beings that captivated the attention of a partner long enough to successfully raise children. These qualities developed over thousands of years that allowed our species to survive. Complicated by our emotions, the uncomfortable feelings of jealousy still alert us to a potential disaster in a world of free will and desire. We continue to be propelled by the stirrings of our beginnings.

Do You Control Your Feelings of Jealousy?

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    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hey tips, how are you? I just got back from a 2 week seminar and am working hard to catch up with everyone. It was a killer! Thanks for stopping buy and it's always great to see you!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      Very interesting to think of jealousy from an evolutionary perspective. It does seem reasonable to believe this emotion can help with survival.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Simmy, jealousy is a very powerful emotion.Thanks for visiting.

    • Simmy George profile image

      Simmy George 5 years ago from India

      An interesting topic again.. an emotion that is so diverse, wide and powerful... intense. nice job at it..and I hope that I would be able to take control of the emotion rather than let it take control of me.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      You and me both, but some people carry it all through their lives, making people (and themselves) miserable. Ultimately it destroys their relationship. They can't control their paranoia. I wrote this to try and help people understand how jealousy is a part of our evolution, and they don't need to act on it. Thank you Jelly, see you soon.

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 5 years ago from USA

      UGH... I remember those days, and I'm sooo glad they're gone!

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thank you Jamie, I'm glad your jealousy is mended, I hope you found some comfort in the fact that jealousy is a normal emotion in humans, just like all negative emotions, how we handle it is key. All are lives we reach for progress, not perfection. I love you latest, about the firefly especially. You are a very creative and wonderful writer. Thank you for your comments and sharing your thoughts with me.

    • Jamie Brock profile image

      Jamie Brock 5 years ago from Texas

      eHealer- I once heard that jealousy is all the negative emotions rolled into one. It truly is a very painful emotion.. I used to have a horrible problem with it in my past but thank Goodness, it's been quite some time now since I've had to feel that way. I know that mine stemmed from extreme insecurity and self-hatred. I actually had an experience where it was taken from me and It has never been much of a problem ever since. I guess you could say I was healed. I love your screen name by the way :)

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Pagesvoice for your great comments. Self esteem and immaturity has a great deal to do with jealousy. Looks like you have your under control. Thanks for visiting.

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Voted up and interesting. I think jealousy is tied to immature feelings and a lack of self esteem. Why someone feels they need to control/own all of the attention of another is beyond me. I am also baffled by the mentality of "If I can't have you, then no one else will have you either." What an inane attitude that is. I also believe that as people age they "grow up" when it comes to insecure feelings of jealousy.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks snowdrops, thanks for visiting and glad you liked it!

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 5 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      This green eyed monster can also be avoided. Well written hub, informative too!

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Hello Elijah, thanks for reading. I always enjoy yours.

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      Elijahokelley 5 years ago

      Very intriguing article, I certainly enjoyed it.

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      thank you Xstatic for your interesting comments, and thank you for following me. I look forward to reading more of your hubs today.Thanks!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Really interesting discussion of jealousy, its roots and problems it causes.

      I just read a hub of man/woman friendship by a new Hubber, Kate Carlton that might interest you.

      This is very well written about a subject that has affected us all at one time or another. Up!

    • eHealer profile image
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      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Thanks Mhatter, there are some really good perks to getting older ( I am happy to report), getting rid of jealousy is one of them. I just think it's important for people to understand there are other forces involved in our emotions and you can deal with them. In this case, it's an inborn reaction. Thanks for visiting my hub.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      I don't know if it was age or confidence but in our 40s (for sure) there was no more jealousy in our relationship. good job