Researchers are actively torn between two theories, some claim that jealousy is a universal trait and is actively seen in all cultures. While others claim that jealousy is a culture-specific emotion. Yet all agree that jealousy is a so typical experience in human relationships, as it has even been observed in infants as young as five months.
Scientists from different backgrounds have been working together in a very complicated workflow each offering a milestone in the path to defining jealousy, identifying its causes, and dictating the best protocol to overcome or deal with it, trying their best in an attempt to enhance people’s life.
For example, Psychologists, over a century, collectively have proposed several models to study the processes underlying jealousy. They have successfully identified several possible psychological factors that may reflect jealousy as an emotional consequence.
In addition to that they have conducted several studies on the wide spectrum of reactions to jealousy and identified behavioral patterns with the goal of shaping a reasonable scientific understanding to those reactions and behaviors.
In the meantime, Sociologists worked very hard to demonstrate that cultural values and religious beliefs factually play an important role in determining what can trigger jealousy and what may be considered a socially acceptable reaction to or expression of jealousy. On the other hand, Biologists and medical researchers have identified some factors that may unconsciously influence the expression of jealousy.
Attempting to answer the question of how does these factors may differ between humans and animals? As they are both part of the same biological kingdom. Collectively they have found out that there are many biological determinants of jealousy. The very basic one is evolutionary explanation which is based on a very animalistic point of view, thus condescending but it will shape the outline of the process.
Evolutionary jealousy was a necessary trait for the male so he can extend his genes. If he cannot get jealous, another male could overpower him and “take over” his female partner this would drive the expression of anger and rage in the male that usually result in inflicting harm to his rival or himself and sometimes his partner.
Unlike animals, people do not express jealousy through a single emotion or a single behavior. Different backgrounds and cultures play an important and obvious role in how some express their feelings and guess what?
To a human’s comprehension, humans’ culture cannot be more diverse, yet it is. Thus, the diversity in emotions and behaviors to be expressed. This wide range of diversities in emotions and behaviors makes it kind of impossible to form a scientific definition of jealousy or an absolute idea about how should we classify it.
What is jealousy?
From social perspective jealousy is any aversive or unpleasant reaction or response whether it is cognitive, emotional, or behavioral to a possible relationship threat. It can be an emotional jealousy if you feel threatened by your partner’s emotional involvement, love for instance, with someone else.
It also can be a sexual jealousy if this feeling of threat is arising from knowing or suspecting that your partner had or even desire to have any sort of sexual activity with someone else. So, Jealousy is the threat you feel when you sense that your relationship is in jeopardy, any form of threat it can be directed to the existence or the quality of your relationship or even directed to your self-esteem.
This emotion is usually followed by the mental creation of a personal rival, which can very much be imaginary too. This definition of jealousy applies to any type of relationship you have or might have in the future whether it is a closed or an open relationship.
Jealousy, a feeling or an emotion?
There is a fine line between feelings and emotions. People often get confused and take the easy way out but choosing either of them to describe their experiences with no regards to the technical differences between them.
Now would be a very good opportunity to find out if we should treat jealousy as a feeling or an emotion. Feelings and emotions are just types of sensory feedbacks that our brains receive and translate into states that would drive actions or reactions that might be suitable for the situation.
The difference between them is in the nature of the origin, meaning that the cause of the feedback differs in its origin which maybe physical or psychological. Any sensory feedback of a physical origin is to be considered as a feeling; on the other hand, all feedbacks of psychological origin is considered as emotions.
As we can all agree that jealousy is feedback to a psychological or mental factor then it is most definitely an emotion not a feeling from a technical point of view.
Jealousy can either be reasonable or unreasonable. Reasonable when your partner is crossing an agreed upon line and exploiting your rights or trust. Unreasonable when your expectations of your partner exploit simple rights, like keeping your partner from hanging out with people for no reason other than your own trust issues, or for the sake of just being in control.
Also, jealousy can be suspicious or reactive. If it is a suspicious jealousy this mean that you may have noticed some red flags, it does not necessarily mean that there is an actual something, cheating or perhaps fooling around, going on between your partner and someone else without informing you or getting an agreement like a hall pass of something.
It is a well observed fact that many of the suspicious jealousies arise form inner insecurities and have nothing to do with the relationship or the partner’s behavior. Yet a good partner should give you assuring signals with being considerate of your feelings and your concerns and should never gaslight you in to thinking you are most definitely getting some sort of hallucinations, and nothing is really going on.
In fact, this is another flag, yes gaslighting is a massive red flag and you should never ignore it, but that’s a topic for another time.
Is jealousy an illness or an inferiority complex?
Now to the most questionable question, is jealousy considered an illness? Is it just a reflection to an existing inferiority complex, nothing more? For that you can be very much assured that it is not an illness. In fact, considering any emotion whatsoever as an illness is a very demeaning practice.
Everyone experiences jealousy in the span of their lifetimes, as long as they are older than five months. Yes, the situations differ drastically from one to another but that does not give anyone the right to belittle someone else’s situations based on the concept it is not as huge as mine, so it is not that important of a situation.
Actually, the only people that might not experience jealousy are the real ones suffering from illnesses that can be, mentally challenged people, narcissists, and psychopaths.
Thus no, jealousy cannot be considered as an illness and most certainly not always a reflection of possible inferiority complex. Considering this outcome some would argue if jealousy was not an illness so why does it feel bad? Why does it usually lead to the detriment of the relationship and diminishing the trust between partners?
Jealousy vs Envy
There is actually a huge difference between envy and jealousy, both are considered to be very complex high-level emotions. Yes, they often get confused together as in some situations both might be on the table. But try not to get them confused if you are searching for a way to redeem yourself or to deal with them as both actually have very distinct ways to be dealt with.
Envy is the emotion you have when there is something or someone you want but you do not have or cannot have for whatever the reason. Jealousy is kind of the opposite as it is the emotion you have when you are afraid to lose someone or (rarely something).
Both of them should and always will lead to a series of consequential emotions that maybe collectively somehow close and undistinguishable but sequentially they are, so the difference will be very clear in the order of these consequential emotions.
Take jealousy as an example, you will find that it always starts with doubt whether it is based on real evidence or imaginary one. All it takes is one small flag and poof, all of your trust in your relationship or your self-esteem disappear just like that, as if it was nothing.
After that jealousy transforms into reflecting other emotions like fear, anger, disgust, and most of the time it ends with hate towards either your rival or partner or perhaps both. While envy usually start with desire or lust and maybe pass by several emotions like grudge, anger, spite, rivalry, and it also might end with hate.
To put it as simple as it can be jealousy arise from doubt of the existence of a possible threat to your relationship while envy arise from your desire towards something you do not have or someone you are not with. So now as you know the difference between jealousy and envy, you can identify which of them you are experiencing in certain situations in your life and this will most definitely help you to decide how you are going to approach it and whether you decide to confront and deal with it and its consequences or you decide to ignore it or overcome it and stop thinking about it, do not be ashamed of your ways.
Your approach in these kinds of situations is an essential part of your persona and personality. You should never be ashamed of your choices as for what really matters is that you are the result of these choices, and you deserve to be appreciated for your existence and loved as you are.
To accurately respond to the first statement of these two arguments concerned with why jealousy feels bad if it is not an illness, simply we should point towards two different examples can be studied as models that will help clearing the picture more so you can form your opinion educatively.
Let us take pain as the first model, it can be considered a feeling or an emotion depending on the origin of the cause. If we treat it as of a physical origin, then it should be categorized as a feeling. Surely all of us should find that pain feels very bad, except for “Algolagniacs” and people with other masochistic tendencies.
We all should unanimously agree that pain is a crucial concept and an extremely important lifesaving feeling that plays the role of the alert or the indication that there is something wrong in our bodies, without the ugly bad feeling of pain we will have no clue what so every that our lives are threatened or one of our organs is at risk.
With no doubt our mortality rates would increase for folds if it was not for the existence of pain, the bad feeling. Another example is sneezing, guess it is not a common thing to think about how does sneezing make us feel.
It is just something that happens every now and then with no regard to its impact of our feelings or emotions, but we all know for fact that is it very useful and protect our lungs and airways form dust and pollens so it must be a good thing regardless how it makes us feel, good or bad.
Based on these models we can say that the picture is most certainly clearer that if something feels bad this does not necessarily mean it is bad in nature or evil, it can be very much a crucial tool saving our lives or alerting us that there is a possible risk ahead.
For the second part of the argument that is concerned by the most common outcome of jealousy, ending the relationship. We must ensure that if it has resulted in ending your relationship or altering your feelings towards your partner then most probably this relationship was toxic in nature and should not have been there to begin with so jealousy would be doing you a favor ending it.
Let us assume that it was a healthy relationship, yet it has been ruined by you or your partner getting jealous. Then ending the relationship must be a result to how did you and your partner process the situation.
There are some ways or protocols that might save your relationship even if one of you exploited the other either intentionally or not. As long as it is a mistake or a onetime thing that both of you are ready to move past it then there should be good news for your relationship.
If any member of the relationship is not ready to move on then there is something yet to be resolved, guess what? Nothing is going to be resolved on its own by time. There will always be that dark point that can be recalled in any future situation either similar or not.
No one can be happy with living conditionally in fear the exploiting situation might happen or even might be brought up again as a leverage by the partner. So, jealousy as a concept cannot be held responsible for the way you and your partner choose to process the situation.
Can jealousy be healthy?
Based on these facts that we figured up till now we can comfortably form this point of view that is more technical and logical in nature that everybody can get the hang of it easy enough if it was read carefully.
This logical way of thinking views jealousy as a concept or an emotion thus technically it cannot be categorized as healthy or unhealthy. But we can categorize habits, actions, and reactions, so the way in which someone expresses their emotion or reacts upon their jealousy can be in either a healthy constructive way or in a toxic destructive way.
Jealousy itself does not connote heathy or unhealthy, it just exists, and people respond to it in various ways. These ways can either be healthy, positive, and constructive or unhealthy, negative, and destructive depending on the outcome you seek.
Choose which is right for you, from your point of view as it will always be your choices that shape your future.
How to be healthy when dealing with jealousy?
The most perfect approach towards dealing with jealousy is to talk and plan for any possible situation ahead. Some people prefer open relationships as they are fine with their partners having sex with other people and would consider objections to that as unnecessary or controlling jealousy.
While other people can get jealous if their partners are simply getting dinner alone with someone else. The answer is always going to be talking and forming boundaries in relation to jealousy which in fact considered a very smart and healthy technique.
These boundaries are going to vary from person to another depending on the relationship style each is comfortable with. So, it would be every smart of you taking this step as early as possible.
In the beginning of your relationship, you should set boundaries and agree unanimously upon it. Be very clear about what you can handle and express it thoroughly. Make those boundaries very real and visible to your partner so there cannot be space for any excuses. Let your partner know what exactly can end your relationship or ruin it.
This will give you and your partner the right ground when or if it comes to jealousy in the future and will guide you through it safely with no or minimum harm. Remember to always renew your boundaries depending on your adaptive lifestyle.
Planning is really the best possible step you can do right now proactively, and it is one of the most important reasons that open relationships or open marriages thrive and succeed statistically longer than the closed relationship.
That is because there is always a great planning and understanding upon every little detail like what is acceptable and what is not, when, and where can anything be accepted by the partners fooling around. The bottom line is you need to be on the same page as your partner.
If you have mutually agreed upon boundaries, it will always be justified to be upset if those boundaries are breached, whatever they are.
Jealousy is a very complex high-level emotion that can be reflected as feelings or actions that vary depending on your cultural, social, or religious background. Jealousy is not weird or rare, it is experienced by everyone that is emotionally evolved so it cannot be considered as an illness. Jealousy itself does not connote heathy or unhealthy but the various ways people express it or respond to it can be either healthy, positive, and constructive or unhealthy, negative, and destructive.
The best approach in response to your partner getting jealous is to generously express your understanding and show your appreciation towards this concern then talk with reason, logic, and compassion. While the healthiest approach to process or express your jealousy to your partner is to rely on pre-set ground rules and mutually agreed upon boundaries that you and your partner should set as early as possible in the relationship depending on your comfortable lifestyle.
Just remember that Jealousy does not stop cheating so do not rely on being over jealous or controlling as this might drive your partner or loved ones away. Being jealous is not a waste of energy or time if you processed your feeling in a healthy way as long as you are trying to save your relationship, but it will be a waste if you become so obsessed by it and might very much ruin your life. Try channeling this obsession energy toward something useful and mentally cleansing like yoga or palates.
There is no correct answer to how to express your emotions or how to process your jealousy, thus you should always select the most suitable approach based on your point of view. It will always be your choices that shape your future so, you should never be ashamed of your choices as for what really matters is that you are the result of these choices, and you deserve to be appreciated for your existence and loved as you are.