Family works

Speaking on jealousy

Rob Coombs ID. Min. Ph.D.
Posted 3/5/17

What does jealousy prove?

Many think it proves love.

We’ve all heard statements like: “I know that my boyfriend loves me because he just can’t stand it when I talk to another guy.” …

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Family works

Speaking on jealousy


What does jealousy prove?

Many think it proves love.

We’ve all heard statements like: “I know that my boyfriend loves me because he just can’t stand it when I talk to another guy.” Or, “I sometimes flirt with other women just to get a reaction from my wife. The greater the reaction, the more I know she loves me.” Or, “Love makes you crazy. If you really love someone, I mean really, really love someone, then you want him only for yourself. That means I get really jealous if he is paying attention to someone besides me.” “I think it is kind of cute that he is possessive of me. I like knowing that he wants me and no one else.” “Of course, I wouldn’t think of allowing him to go to a party without me. There would be other women there!”

Testing someone’s love by flirting with someone else or attempting to measure someone’s love by his or her complete devotion to you is not only dangerous business, but also fails to prove love. Jealousy, an aversive response to a partner’s real or imagined involvement with another, often is a more accurate measure of insecurity than it is of love.

It is important to understand jealousy for many reasons, because unjustified jealousy can provoke anger, rage, and grief. Left unchecked, jealousy can burn deep within and explode into a raging fire that has the potential to destroy an otherwise healthy relationship.

Jealousy also has the potential to confuse the one being controlled by another’s jealousy. This confusion may vacillate between seeking to cement the relationship by somehow proving oneself as worthy of trust, or by intentionally betraying the trust in hopes that the jealous person will loosen his emotional grip and move on to another relationship.

Unfortunately, such conditions provide fertile ground for the eruption of violence, should the jealous person sense the other escaping from his grip. If both partners are equally jealous of the other, they may become entangled in one another’s jealousy, weaving a messy web that entraps both of them as they move away and toward one another in ongoing battles, attempting to prove trust to the other but never moving too far from the other to challenge or test that trust.

Is jealousy ever justified?

Of course, quite often the jealous person feels justified. But jealousy is only an appropriate emotional response when a committed partner has violated the trust of the relationship by becoming involved with a third person.

This violation is felt most intensely by marital partners who have assumed a level of commitment between them. Such a violation challenges the basic trust of the relationship and therefore can prove difficult to restore. It is little wonder that we use words such as unfaithfulness, cheating and infidelity to reflect the pain such a violation entails.

Knowing where to draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate jealousy is often confusing.

After a couple has been together for several years, there does seem to be an uncanny awareness of when a third party presents a threat to the relationship. Trusting this awareness can help the couple jointly set healthy boundaries if, and only if, the jealousy is provoked by a legitimate threat and not as a result of insecurity.


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