The Truth about Jealousy

If you’re one of the increasing number of people who is married and looking, jealousy could seem to you like a primitive emotion best done away with. But if it’s purely destructive and can provide no benefits, why have we evolved to feel it? Should we sometimes listen to our jealousy? Here we take a look at five popular myths about the green-eyed monster.


Jealousy is Destructive


What kind of images first spring into your mind when you think about jealousy? If you’re thinking of popular literature or television drama, they’re almost certainly negative. We’re used to encountering representations of obsessive jealousy and there’s no doubt that this can be destructive. It can wreck the stability of otherwise happy relationships or even, as in Shakespeare’s Othello, lead to crimes like murder. But does it have to be like this?


If you feel jealous because your spouse is married and looking, you could be seen as introducing a destructive factor into your relationship; but is that fair? Isn’t it really your spouse who is doing that? Don’t let yourself take the blame unfairly. Sometimes jealousy is a constructive force aimed at protecting a relationship. It can empower you to say to your spouse: no – you can’t be married and looking – you can only be married and mine.


Jealousy is a Form of Emotional Blackmail


We’re often told that jealousy is a form of passive aggression, a means of trying to control somebody else. Why shouldn’t you be married and looking for other partners? Isn’t it your right to make decisions about how you handle your own sexuality?


The truth is that marriage is about compromise. When we enter into it, we give up some of our individual rights. If you have a right to be married and looking, you have to accept that your spouse has a corresponding right to be jealous. If you’re going to have a healthy relationship, you’ll need to negotiate a middle ground. This doesn’t mean that jealousy has to win all the time – you might agree that it’s okay to be married and looking at other people but not acting on your urges, for instance, or you might give your spouse a veto to use on particular occasions – but it does mean that a jealous spouse has a right to be heard.


Jealousy Only Hurts the Jealous Person


Is jealousy self-destructive? There’s no doubt about it: feeling jealous isn’t much fun. But in situations where people are married and looking it can be difficult to avoid. Even if you and your spouse have made an agreement to relax the rules of your relationship, it can be difficult to control your feelings if you discover they’re been visiting a site like


What can you do about this? It doesn’t seem fair that you should be the one to suffer because your spouse is married and looking. But a spouse who loves you will not remain unaffected by your jealousy. When you love someone it’s always painful to see them unhappy. You may be the only person who is hurt directly by your jealousy, but, if you are honest about it, it will emerge as something that’s an issue for both of you, and for your marriage itself.


It’s important not to blame yourself if your jealousy places a strain on your marriage, and not to try to take all the burden of that jealousy upon yourself. Somebody who is married and looking has a responsibility to make sure their spouse isn’t suffering because of it. It’s not good enough to say “Don’t be jealous,” when jealousy is beyond your control.


Jealousy is about Insecurity


These days it’s common to blame jealousy on insecurity. Of course it might be argued that it’s perfectly reasonable for your spouse to feel insecure if you’re married but looking for other sexual opportunities, but that’s only part of the picture. Why, if you repeatedly assure your spouse that you love them and have no intention of ending the marriage, does jealousy sometimes persist? How can it continue to be there even after you’ve been married and looking – with no ill effects – for many years?


To understand this, you’ll need to realise that jealousy isn’t just about insecurity, it’s also about self esteem. We all want to be valued by our partners. We want to feel special, and when we’re married we want to feel more special than anybody else. This can be difficult if your spouse describes themselves as ‘married and looking’, especially if it happens in public. People can feel humiliated; they can feel that they are less worthy than peers who have monogamous spouses. This naturally causes distress.


Jealousy is Unnecessary


In the modern world, where we have all sorts of tools available for negotiating our relationships, has jealousy become outdated? If there’s no rational reason not to be married and looking, why should be still have to deal with an emotional one?


It’s easy to dismiss the negative experiences that we can’t control. We try to suppress physical pain, yet if we ever succeeded in preventing ourselves from feeling pain completely we’d be in trouble, as we wouldn’t know when we’d injured ourselves – indeed, diseases that kill off the nervous system often lead to people suffering serious injury due to unnoticed accidents. We can look on jealousy as a sort of emotional pain. Sometimes it lasts for far too long and causes unnecessary distress after we’ve already become aware that there’s a problem, but it can be necessary to draw our attention to the problem in the first place.


Jealousy can be a natural response to situations in which people are married and looking, just as pain is a natural response to cutting your arm. It can provide a warning that the lifeblood of your marriage is leaking out. It can let you know that it’s time to apply a bandage and cut short the activity which is causing the injury. We might not like it, but sometimes the green-eyed monster is on our side.

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