Jealousy is unhealthy. Contrary to what many believe, jealousy is not necessarily a sign of unhealthy possessiveness or a serious character flaw, according to Dr. Alexander. Feelings of jealousy are most often normal. Some research indicates that, when handled appropriately, it may promote personal growth.
Jealousy is a reaction to a perceived threat--real or imagined--to a valued relationship or to its quality. A nationwide survey of marriage counselors indicates that jealousy is a problem in one third of all couples coming for marital therapy. This helps explain our fascination with stories about the wild things some people are driven to do.
White and Mullen (1989) define romantic jealousy as the cognitions, emotions, and behaviors that follow a loss or threat to self-esteem and/or existence or quality of a romantic relationship. Such threat is "generated by the perception of a real or imagined romantic attraction between one's partner and a (perhaps imaginary) rival" (White & Mullen, 1989, p. 9).
Jealousy develops as we sense that our partner is no longer as closely connected to us as we'd like. It may signal that something else - or someone else - has come between us and is loosening our bonds.
Jealousy is useful if it occurs in a bonded relationship that calls forth behavior that brings the couple closer together, says Frank Pittman in the book "Private Lies" (W.W. Norton, 1990). For example, the two of you go to a party and you notice that your mate is nowhere to be seen.
Appropriate and healthy behavior would be to seek out your partner and make the kind of contact that reaffirms the relationship.
When is jealousy a normal reaction and when does it become pathological? The form in which jealousy is expressed usually separates one from the other. For instance, a woman who shoots her husband when she finds him in bed with her best friend may not have morbid jealousy. But a man who hires detectives to follow his wife's every movement is often suffering from jealous monomania.
JEALOUSY can manifest itself as anger, fear, hurt, betrayal, anxiety, agitation, sadness, loneliness and feelings of exclusion or lack of self-worth and many other emotions too. But above all, jealousy is
about fear. Fear of the unknown and of change, fear of losing power or control in a relationship, fear of loss and fear of abandonment.
A little bit of jealousy, of course, can have a positive effect on a relationship, and indeed, a lack of it can lead to breakdowns. `There are cases where someone will complain about the absence of jealousy in their partners, and within couples you can find behaviours designed to produce such a response. Jealousy is a normal human reaction and only becomes a problem when the fear of losing a partner causes distress, disrupts functioning and threatens the relationship,' says De Silva.
Length of relationship also plays a role in evoking jealousy. The longer the relationship lasts, the less an individual evokes jealousy. These results support the findings of Gate, Lloyd, and Long (1988) who found that relationship rewards are more important than equity the longer the relationship lasts.
JEALOUSY HAS commonly been conceptualized as an interpersonal event that necessarily involves an individual, a relational partner, and a potentially threatening rival (e.g., White & Mullen, 1989). However, jealousy research has typically focused solely on individual and relational antecedents and correlates of jealousy, including sex and gender (Aylor & Dainton, 2001), sexual orientation (Bevan & Lannutti, 2002), and intimacy (Knobloch, Solomon, & Cruz, 2001). One area is still lacking in jealousy research: an individual's reaction to a partner's expression of jealousy.
Some advertising is based on promoting jealousy. Prestige advertising, inviting people to demonstrate their status and accomplishments by conspicuous consumption of some expensive item is designed to arouse the jealousy of others.
When that envy is aroused and the person feeling envious does not have the means to satisfy their desire, feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and antisocial behavior can result.