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Jealousy: Where does this feeling come from and when does it become a problem?

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Jealousy: Where does this feeling come from and when does it become a problem?

Jealousy is an emotion we all know. However, since this emotion has a very bad reputation, very few people admit to being jealous on a regular basis. However, you could learn a lot by looking into the possible causes.

In the following article, we will therefore deal with the topic in detail. You will learn why jealousy arises in the first place and where the boundary between healthy and pathological expression runs. In addition, we want to give you valuable tips on the way to dissolve destructive feelings of jealousy.

How is jealousy defined?

The term jealousy is derived from the following two old German words:

  • suht: Disease
  • eiver: the bitter

This derivation does not come by chance: jealousy leads in the long run to inner bitterness and sometimes even takes on pathological features.

Jealousy can appear in any interpersonal relationship. For example, at a young age we are jealous of the siblings who get more attention from their parents. Jealousy within a friendship is also not uncommon. However, when we talk about jealousy in general, we usually mean the conflict within a couple relationship.

Someone who is jealous feels set back by someone close to them because they have paid more attention to another person than they have to themselves. This is usually experienced as very painful. We begin to fight against this third person, who has become Relationship urged to hold a grudge. Jealousy goes hand in hand with missing Affection and love.

How does jealousy arise?

Jealousy is basically a perfectly natural emotion that arises when you fear for the loss of a trusted person. With this person you associate a Love Claim. This is very important: Without this inner claim attitude no jealousy develops! If the love claim is disappointed supposedly or actually, this causes a mental insecurity or injury.

The threshold for jealousy is different for each person. While some
already feel an unpleasant rumbling in the stomach when the partner talks too long with an attractive man / woman, others become jealous only after a fling has actually taken place.

The following risk factors contribute to the rapid development of jealousy:

  • lack of Self-esteem
  • traumatic (loss) experiences in the Past
  • Imprints from childhood
  • emotional (and possibly also material) dependence on the partner

The cause usually lies in childhood

Many of the highly jealous people have experienced attachments as insecure in their childhood. Even as adults, they constantly fear being abandoned. This fear is so dominant that it manifests itself in delusions of control and jealousy. Unfortunately, the affected persons achieve the exact opposite of what they want to achieve by their behavior: Nobody likes to be controlled and constricted.

As a result of his pathologically jealous behavior, the affected person is actually abandoned by his partner at some point, which closes a vicious circle. What remains is the inner conviction of not being lovable and having to permanently fear for the partner's love and affection in a new relationship as well.

fight jealousy

Has jealousy always existed?

The so-called instinctive jealousy, which can be observed in small children and even in some animal species, has its raison d'être from an evolutionary point of view: If there were too many competitors in the vicinity with whom one had to share food and affection (e.g., if there were numerous siblings), one's own survival was threatened in earlier times.

Jealousy thus functioned as a warning signal to assert one's own needs with vigor. But romantic jealousy is not a modern phenomenon either. Our ancestors in the Stone Age were already jealous of each other. The greatest goal of early humans was to distribute their own genes as widely as possible. To achieve this, they had to drive away potential rivals.

By the way, this applied equally to both sexes: No Stone Age man wanted to risk feeding someone else's children for years. Women at that time were still dependent on their husbands to provide for them. An unfaithful companion meant, in the worst case, starving to death together with the offspring.

Even though the circumstances have fortunately changed in the meantime, jealousy is still deeply rooted in us humans. However, in addition to the primeval influences, other factors such as the environment, personal experiences and culture play a role today.

Are men or women jealous faster?

Which gender becomes jealous more quickly cannot be clearly proven. However, scientists have been able to determine that both men and women are jealous of different way and off various reasons feel.

For example, in the case of emotional infidelity offended more quickly, while for men physical infidelity represents the worse breach of trust. Women are also more inclined to Digital jealousy than men. In our modern age, social media in particular are a frequent trigger. A case of digital jealousy would be, for example, if the man constantly "likes" bikini pictures of other women and the partner dislikes this.

Is jealousy a sign of love?

We have already mentioned it at the beginning: Without an inner claim to love, jealousy does not arise. But to evaluate this as a sign of love in reverse is difficult. Love is based on trust. Strongly jealous people have lost the latter: They trust neither themselves nor their partners. Rather, pathological jealousy is about possessiveness and protecting self-esteem.

However, the complete absence of jealousy within a relationship is just as critical as excessive jealousy: If you are completely indifferent to what your partner is doing, you should reconsider the meaning of the relationship.

The question of whether jealousy is a sign of love can therefore only be answered with an admittedly rather unsatisfactory statement: It depends on whether it is of normal or pathological proportions. In order to shed a little more light on this, let us now take up the differences.

The differences between healthy and pathological jealousy

Psychologists differentiate between three different types of jealousy:

  • 1. reactive jealousy: jealousy due to a concrete real occasion.
  • 2. distrustful-anxious jealousy: jealousy coupled with fears and feelings of inferiority without actively influencing what is happening.
  • 3. possessive jealousy: jealousy coupled with anxiety and feelings of inferiority, with influence on the partner (control, outbursts of anger, prohibition of contact with persons of the opposite sex).

As you can probably already imagine, only reactive jealousy is a healthy form. In this case, you are reacting to a real situation that you consider threatening to your relationship. Whether there is actually a danger is secondary here.

Example of reactive jealousy:

You notice that your partner has been wearing fancy perfume lately, is doing more sports, and is constantly working overtime at work. If he is even more reserved towards you than usual, it is not surprising that the alarm bells are ringing. A Change of character of the partner can certainly give rise to healthy jealousy. After all, you are not indifferent when he / she changes.

In addition to the change in the partner's nature, impressions or concrete observations can of course also make you jealous, e.g. if the partner flirts shamelessly with others or you even catch him / her kissing. However, jealousy by no means has to be accompanied by fear of physical infidelity. It can already be very hurtful if the partner confides his/her worries to someone else.

The pathological forms of jealousy

A clear indication that it is a case of pathological jealousy is the mental suffering of the jealous partner. Most of the time, the partner is aware that his or her reactions are exaggerated. Nevertheless, the person feels unable to change his or her behavior on his or her own. The jealousy develops a dangerous momentum of its own, which massively endangers the partnership.

The following signs or behaviors indicate possessive jealousy:

  • open mistrust
  • Constant accusations
  • emotional overreaction at the slightest occasion
  • permanent control (reading mails and SMS, control calls etc.)
  • Spying on the partner (e.g. by hiring a third party)
  • Constriction within the partnership
  • Prohibition of social contacts by the partner
  • constant demand for proofs of trust and love

The following signs or behaviors indicate distrustful-anxious jealousy:

  • Fear of loss
  • Nightmares
  • Sleep disorders and other psychosomatic complaints
  • constant reassurance with the partner (Do you still love me?)
  • brackets
  • Mistrust
  • emotional blackmail of the partner
  • Pleading for expressions of love
pathological jealousy

What does jealousy say about you?

If you are often jealous, this may indicate a lack of self-esteem. You may have experienced insecure attachments in your life. The good news, however, is that you always have a chance to work on yourself and gain positive attachment experiences.

Important: Being jealous does not mean that you are a bad or unlovable person. There are reasons for your jealousy that you should get to know in order to change something.

6 tips against jealousy

We have compiled some valuable tips that can help you overcome your jealousy.

1. preserve your independence within the partnership

In the frenzy of infatuation, many people focus completely on their new partner. At the beginning of a relationship, this may be normal. In the long term, however, you should make sure to maintain your own hobbies and friendships. Having your own job also helps maintain your self-esteem.

The more you depend on your partner, the more jealousy can strike. In this case, the loss of your partner would mean the (supposed) loss of your existence and identity. You can avoid this by remaining as independent as possible.

2. do not suppress your jealousy

In the worst case, suppressed jealousy can result in an emotional outburst of anger, which can be very damaging to the relationship. Instead of suppressing the unpleasant feelings of jealousy, you should accept them without judgment and listen to yourself: What is jealousy trying to tell you? What do you miss within the relationship? Actively seek a (factual) conversation with your partner.

3. increase your self-esteem

We have already explained in detail the connection between jealousy and low self-esteem. Now it's time to improve your Self-esteem strengthen in a targeted manner. One good measure is to keep a diary. Write down every evening what you did particularly well today. Make yourself aware of your personal strengths. Ask friends and family what they particularly appreciate about you.

Also, dare to try something new: What have you always wanted to do? A skydive? Write a book? New positive experiences and a sense of achievement make you more self-confident.

4. distraction

During an acute attack of jealousy, it is advisable to leave the tense situation. Otherwise, you run the risk of saying or doing things in the heat of the moment that you later regret. Even a short walk can help you to calm down your angry emotions to calm down. Creative or sporting activities are also well suited.

However, distraction is not only helpful in acute cases. It is also appropriate when jealousy is quietly smoldering inside you. Once you have calmed down emotionally, you can talk to your partner.

5. leap of faith

Question whether you are jealous for a specific reason. If this is not the case, you should give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Faith that he or she cares about your relationship and will act accordingly. There is no guarantee that you will never be disappointed. Loving another person always carries the risk of emotional injury. You must accept this.

6. do not be afraid to seek help

If you feel a strong pressure of suffering due to your jealousy and/or partnerships have already broken down because of your behavior, you should confide in someone. In the best case, you should seek the help of an experienced therapist. This is by no means a sign of weakness, but shows great inner strength.

If you don't want to confide in a therapist (yet), you should at least talk to a trusted person from your circle of friends or family. An open conversation can have a very liberating effect on your soul.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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