On the surface, jealousy sounds like a straightforward emotion. It’s a cocktail of many unpleasant feelings (sadness, anger, betrayal, regret, self-recrimination, etc.) brought about by perceiving (rightly or wrongly) threats to a relationship. You feel jealous when you notice that your normally bubbly partner is suddenly silent and secretive. You feel jealous when you see another guy giving your girl the eye. And you feel jealous when you find that your girlfriend’s night out with the girls actually includes an ex of hers you don’t particularly trust.
(By the way if you want to know why do men get jealous, you may also find my other post on this site on why am I jealous helpful. It also has a video that helps to clarify some of the ideas in there).
But is jealousy always triggered by a perceived threat to a relationship? The straight answer is “no.” If you suspect that your jealousy is bordering on the irrational variety (that is, excessive, uncontrollable and seemingly has no rhyme or reason), then consider the little-known roots of jealous behavior listed below:
Homing Instincts: A Tendency to Pick “Loose” Women.
Freud calls it the “homing instinct” — a usually unconscious tendency to select a partner based on what’s familiar. If you grew up with unfaithful parents, it’s possible you get attracted to women whose characteristics make them prone to cheating. Not because you want to be cheated on! It’s just the relationship dynamic most comfortable for you. Or perhaps you want an opportunity to change history, and prove that you’re better than mom and dad at handling things. Think about this: do you tend to push away potential partners when they start declaring commitment to happily ever after? Do you start looking for signs — any sign! — that your partner could be cheating even before your relationship start? If the answers are yes, then consider dating — and staying — with a girl not your type.
Did you think that OCD is just about cleanliness and meticulously arranged bookshelves? Actually anything can be the object of OCD, losing one’s relationship included. Obsessions mean that you think of something all the time, e.g. thoughts that your wife or girlfriend is cheating on you intrudes on your day even during mundane tasks like eating or writing meeting agendas. Compulsions, on the other hand, are behaviors you do despite your desire to stop or in spite of your better judgment.
Are you prone to checking 24/7 where your partner is at the moment? Or perhaps you ritually check her cabinet for evidence of monkey business. OCD is an organic ailment; that is, it’s caused and aggravated by the absence of particular chemicals in the brain. Consider getting help from a licensed mental health professional — you just might get surprised at the relief waiting for you. This is one of the main reasons why do men get jealous.
While even rational jealousy can be triggered by insecurity, there’s a big difference between mild and strong feelings of low self-esteem. Do you feel, deep down, that your partner is way more attractive than you are — that because she’s totally out of your league she can leave anytime? Do you have doubts about your sexual prowess — perhaps things are not so hot in the bedroom? Surface the insecurity — and deal with it. Ideally, you should work out all self-esteem issues even before going to a relationship, so that you can always look at each situation with a rational mind.
This one is related to feelings of insecurity. Perhaps you have a history of deprivation — your previous relationship partners have always treated you badly. Or maybe you’re constantly being forced by your family into competition with your siblings. Or you’ve seen how infidelity has ruined your parent’s relationship and don’t want a repeat of the same. You’re more protective than the average individual of what you have — and it shows in your jealous behavior!
Poor personal boundaries.
There’s poor self-esteem, but there’s also an inability to separate one’s self — one’s own thoughts, feelings and behavior — from that of other people. These are the people who think that what they’re feeling is what the other person is feeling too — if they’re happy then their partners should be happy too. And vice-versa! If their partner is sad or suspicious, so are they. Thus, every relationship they’re in is co-dependent in nature, and jealousy may be triggered by something as simple as their partner being in a bad mood.
A sense of entitlement.
Or jealousy can be triggered by narcissism and arrogance! There are those who get irrationally jealous because they feel that, having chosen their partner, they are now entitled to control their partner 24/7, that they deserve their partners’ daily devotion, and that partners must not even dare look at someone else.
A sense of entitlement in a relationship is actually healthy, assuming that expectations have been clearly communicated — and mutually agreed upon! — from the onset. For example, if a couple agrees that going steady entitles both partners to free their weekends for each other, then no problem. If you and your partner are okay with reporting your whereabouts to each other, then good. But without prior negotiation, feelings of entitlement may end up the cause of a fight. You girlfriend may not like you picking her up from the office every day — she may consider it an invasion of her privacy!
This is a cause of irrational jealous behavior worth considering: perhaps you just don’t know any better! Maybe you learned (consciously or unconsciously) from your parents that love is best shown by being jealous of every little thing. Or perhaps you read somewhere that jealousy is proof positive of a real relationship. Ask yourself: where did you get your paradigms about jealous feeling and jealous behavior? Perhaps a re-education is in order!
Are you aware that excessive jealous behavior in both men and women is associated with various lifestyle elements, like drinking too much alcohol or taking recreational drugs? Even too much coffee, which can rack up nervousness, paranoia and anxiety, can add to your jealousy. Take wellness as a route to manage your jealousy — it’s worth a try!
And then there’s projection. Could it be that you’re hyper-vigilant for signs that your partner is cheating because deep inside you’re looking for an excuse to break off the relationship, or keep it at a superficial level? Check if it’s commitment-phobia feeding your green-eyed monster, and work on yourself first! Clarifying your intentions within a relationship can be the first step in eliminating irrational jealousy in your life.
Dysfunctional relational dynamics.
Lastly, irrational jealousy can be rooted in ways of relating with a partner that deserves to be corrected. Are you prone to jealousy because you’ve found that it’s the best way to control your partner and hi-jack her affections? Does your partner think that taunting you with her past lovers is the way to make you insecure enough to keep winning her regard? Or does your partner have commitment issues, and kept on holding you at arm’s length? Deal with each other ethically! Relationships must also have respect in order for it to work.
Remember: awareness of what causes a problem is one of the first steps in overcoming it. You need to know the roots of the jealousy you’re battling in order to attack it effectively.