Jealousy Within Intimate Relationships

Jealousy is often experienced within intimate relationships due to perceived infidelity by a partner. But what is jealousy? Jealousy has been defined as, the cognitions, emotions, and behaviours that follow a loss or threat to self-esteem and/or existence or quality of a romantic relationship, (White and Mullen, 1989). There is a perception of a threat that one’s partner is romantically attracted to another person or rival. Jealousy may occur even if there is no substantiated proof that there is an affair or rival for your partner’s affections. 

Although infidelity is often sited as the cause of jealousy, research has indicated that there may be many other forms of jealousy that may impact romantic relationships. They include; a partner’s involvement with a friend, hobbies, family, or work. These can all create jealousy within romantic relationships. Friendships with a member of the opposite-sex can also create jealousy in romantic relationships. 

Jealousy Within Intimate Relationships

Jealousy may occur when there is a perception that a third party friendship (same or opposite-sex) may hold power and influence over a partner, more than they do. Also jealousy may arise if there is a belief that a partner is sharing intimate details with a third party to the exclusion of himself or herself. 

Opposite-sex friendships may have a greater impact on romantic relationships than same-sex relationships. O’Meara (1989) defines opposite-sex friendships as; a specific type of friendship, a non romantic, non familial, personal relationship between a man and a woman. Opposite-sex friendships have a greater perceptual difference than same-sex friendships. For instance, men will view opposite-sex friendships as more satisfying than women do. Opposite-sex friends may need to engage in a clear discussion about their relationship’s boundaries. A clear distinction may need to be made, to identify the platonic nature of the relationship. 

During opposite-sex friendships a clear monitoring of boundaries and behaviour may be required, so that there is no sexual or romantic misunderstanding or ambiguity between friends when showing affection. Research has shown that there are more arguments over friendship rule violation and communication breakdown in opposite-sex friendships than same-sex friendships. Also opposite-sex friendships have a heightened level of ambiguity which carries the potential for confusion regarding how to conduct oneself. And this may violate implicit relationship rules setting the stage for jealousy and reaction. 

Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington