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01 January 2023

What Is Jealousy In Relationships? Definition, Causes, and How to Solve

What Is Jealousy In Relationships

What Is Jealousy In Relationships

What Is Jealousy In Relationships?
 - Jealousy is a complex emotion that involves a real or perceived threat to a personal relationship. Someone may have a negative opinion of another individual because they believe that individual is responsible for the loss of their loved one's affection.

This emotion is often accompanied by anger, resentment, hostility, and a lack of faith. Everyone experiences jealousy at some point, but the emotion can have a negative effect on their relationships if not properly addressed. It can have different degrees of intensity. When jealousy is extreme, irrationality can lead to distrust, paranoia, abuse, or even physical violence.

This article discusses the characteristics of jealousy, what causes these emotions, and the consequences they have. It also discusses how to deal with these emotions and when it's necessary to seek professional help.

What are signs of jealousy in a relationship?

Characteristics of Jealousy

Jealousy is a negative emotion that is characterized by a desire to possess or control something that is not one's own.

It's typically considered a negative emotion, but it's natural to experience jealousy in a romantic relationship. You may experience jealousy that is suspicious or reactive.

The former is based on perception and is often associated with low self-esteem and insecurity, the latter is based on situations that actually endanger the relationship and is often associated with actions or situations that lead to or cause the betrayal of trust.

Envy can lead to other emotions or feelings. Psychiatrist Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, MD, describes how jealousy can manifest in relationships:

  • Obsessive
  • Criticizing
  • Discrediting the victim
  • Blaming
  • Disbelief
  • Overly concerned or paranoid
  • Having a short fuse 
  • Verbally abusing

Jealousy is a common problem that can lead to a variety of negative outcomes.
In healthy amounts, jealousy can serve as a reminder to cherish or prioritize a relationship. High levels of jealousy can negatively affect the relationship as a whole.

When you're jealous, your body may undergo changes. According to Dr. Gonzalez-Berrios, the following physical symptoms may occur when jealousy occurs:

Jealousy can occur at any time, especially in situations that are perceived as threatening, but the emotion can also develop over time, as well.

Recognizing Jealousy

Jealousy is difficult to comprehend and process. Depending on the situation, you may feel ashamed, frightened, insecure, or abandoned.

As a result, you may want to communicate to your loved one that you have feelings, concerns, or fears. Alternatively, you may become more irrational by yelling, taking away their phone, making demands, placing blame, accusing them of something that didn't happen, or leaving.

Even if a real danger exists, jealousy can lead to extreme behavior, especially if you're feeling insecure about yourself or the relationship. For your own mental health, you'll want to find healthy ways to deal with your jealousy.


What are the main causes of jealousy?

Causes of Jealousy

Other psychological and socioeconomic factors can contribute to jealousy. You may have a higher propensity to feel jealousy depending on your personality and attachment style.4 High levels of dependency in a relationship may increase your risk of jealousy.

Many situations can cause you to feel envious. These are some of the most common:

  • A partner that spends significant time interacting with someone that is perceived as a threat to the relationship.
  • A newborn child is born into the family or a parent focuses their attention on another child instead of you.
  • A rival (such as a sibling or colleague) appears to have surpassed you.

You could feel envious when a loved one spends a lot of their time with a particular friend or talking to a coworker in front of you, or you could feel envious when a partner acknowledges someone else's accomplishments but not yours or a coworker.

Envy and Mental Health

Other mental illnesses that affect the mind can also contribute to feelings of envy. These conditions may be associated with this emotion:

If you are experiencing intense jealousy or other symptoms that cause distress or interfere with your ability to function normally, it's important to discuss this with your doctor or mental health professional.

What are the types of jealous?

Types of Jealousy

There are numerous types of jealousy, but two primary types exist: normal and abnormal. The six main categories, as described by Dr. Gonzalez-Berrios, are:

  • Rational jealousy: When there is a legitimate, reasonable doubt, especially when you love someone and fear losing them, rational jealousy can occur.
  • Family rivalry: This is typically between family members, such as siblings. When a newborn child is born, another child may feel envious of the attention given to the newborn, for example.
  • Pathological jealousy: This type of jealousy is illogical. Unhealthy emotions may be caused by a mental health condition such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or schizophrenia. Signs of pathological jealousy include extreme insecurity, as well as a desire to control and manipulate.
  • Sexual jealousy: When you fear that your partner has been unfaithful and engaged in physical infidelity, you may become suspicious.
  • Romantic jealousy: This can be caused by a real or imagined threat to a romantic relationship, which will cause jealous thoughts or actions.
  • Power envy: This type of jealousy is based on personal inadequacy. You may feel envious of someone who possesses the things you desire. When a colleague receives a promotion or reward that you want, for example, you may become envious.
Several studies on heterosexual romantic relationships have demonstrated that men are more concerned with the dominance of a third party and are more concerned about sexual infidelity, whereas women are more concerned with the attractiveness of a third party and are more concerned with emotional infidelity.

Envy vs Envy

Jealousy and envy are often confused, but have different meanings and purposes. Jealousy is the fear that a third party will interfere with a relationship, enviousness is the desire to have what someone else has. 

Jealousy and envy have some similarities, which is why they are often confused. Both are rooted in feelings of insecurity, and jealousy can lead to envy of the person they perceive as a competitor. 

Jealousy can cause a person to feel insecure about their relationship, while envy can lead to self-doubt.

  • Fear of losing what you have
  • It is frequently the cause of anger and resentment.
  • Based on a mutual hatred
  • Fear of losing something you possess
  • Believing that someone possesses something that you desire.
  • Frequently leads to a desire to alter.
  • Based on
  • Wanting something that you don't have

Treatment for Jealousy

Jealousy is a natural human emotion, but excessive jealousy can have negative consequences for you or others. If you have morbid jealousy, in which your thoughts, emotions, actions are irrational, extreme, or obsessive, then you may need therapy.

If you have another mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or schizophrenia, you should speak with a mental health professional to discuss specific treatment plans.

The most common treatments involve:


Psychotherapy can be beneficial in altering the thoughts that contribute to the feeling of jealousy. Two types of therapy that are particularly effective include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: focuses on identifying the negative thoughts that cause jealousy.
  • Cognitive-analytic therapy: concentrates on the patterns of relationships and how people relate to others.
Specific approaches that are beneficial include cognitive restructuring and cognitive reframing. They involve altering your perspective on situations and relationships. Reframing is a method that you can employ on your own, but restructuring is a more formal and structured approach that is directed by a professional therapist.


Medications may also be administered to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with jealousy, particularly if you also have a condition such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder. Commonly prescribed medications include:

  • Antipsychotics
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
The treatment will differ depending on the type of jealousy you're experiencing and how it's manifested. Unresolved jealousy that is not addressed can lead to distrust, paranoia, or abuse.

Coping With Jealousy

If you don't learn to manage jealousy, it can have a negative effect on your relationships. If your jealousy is negatively affecting your mental health or your relationships, Dr. Gonzalez-Berrios recommends the following methods:

  • Jealousy is often caused by insecurity or a poor self-image, this is why it's so important to address your fears. This could include the fear of losing your partner or the fear of failure. Once you recognize these fears, you can acknowledge and address them, as they are often the root cause of jealousy.
  • Address your expectations: It's crucial to develop a realistic estimation of how much time someone can devote to you. If they fail to meet your expectations, it's important to avoid placing blame. Try to collaborate on a more reasonable plan.
  • Take time to appreciate the good things in life, says Dr. Gonzalez-Berrios. 
  • Be candid and honest: Healthy relationships are dependent on open and honest communication. If jealousy occurs, Dr. Gonzalez-Berrios recommends having a candid and open discussion about how you're feeling. Attempt to resolve disagreements with empathy and mutual respect.
  • Practice mindfulness: Negative emotions can have a negative effect on your physical and mental health. Try practicing mindfulness meditation when you're feeling jealousy or another negative emotion, such as anger or resentment.
To maintain a healthy relationship, you'll want to communicate your thoughts, address expectations, and establish a foundation of mutual respect and understanding. If jealousy becomes a problem, talking to a mental health professional can be beneficial.

Last Thoughts

A company that specializes in the development of online educational content has released a new book that is intended to help people learn how to live a more fulfilling life. The book is called A Word From Verywell.

Learning to recognize jealousy is a skill. When it does occur, you can utilize one of the many methods of coping available to you. Recognize, however, that jealousy is not an excuse for abuse or manipulation.

If coping mechanisms aren't effective or if the threat is detrimental to the relationship (even if it's imagined), then you may want to seek professional help to discuss the issue with a mediator. You may discover that there is a underlying issue in the relationship that needs to be addressed.


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