Romantic Jealousy:

Cause & Prevention

SYNOPSIS:

    Jealousy arises in 'loving' relationships because of three factors:
(1) comparison, (2) competition, & (3) the fear of being replaced.
If we become more autonomous and self-creating,
these three features of relationships become less significant
and hence the passion of jealousy becomes less likely.

    However, within ordinary, possessive relationships, jealousy is normal:
If we find ourselves replaced, supplanted, traded-in for a better model,
we naturally feel a tremendous sense of loss, anger, grief, & betrayal.

    This bitter feeling of hurt and hostility called "jealousy"
can become one of the most powerful obsessions of human life.
And yet, this emotion is a social product—with deep cultural roots.
If enculturation has taught us how to feel jealous,
can we transcend those learned responses
and create relationships in which jealousy does not arise?

    If we are loved for the unique persons we are becoming,
then comparison with rivals diminishes.
And when we are no longer in competition with other women or men,
we become less vulnerable to feelings of jealousy.
If we become irreplaceable in our relationships, then jealousy disappears.

    Thus, the basic way to prevent jealousy
is to become unique and irreplaceable persons.
And becoming more Authentic might be a good way
to transcend the threat of being replaced by potential rivals.

OUTLINE:

I.  THE DYNAMICS OF JEALOUSY

A.  Which Telephone Service Will He Choose?
B.  The Comparison Game.
II.  PREVENTING JEALOUSY BY BECOMING IRREPLACEABLE
A.  Replaceability—Being Better Means Being the Same.
B.  How We Might Become Singular and Irreplaceable.
III.  AUTHENTIC LOVE EMERGES FROM SINGULARITY

IV.  WHAT TO DO ABOUT JEALOUSY

V.  SUMMARY


Length:  10.4 KB

Romantic Jealousy:

Cause & Prevention

by James Leonard Park

I.  THE DYNAMICS OF JEALOUSY

    Thought experiment: Close your eyes
and imagine the one you love in the arms of another. 
How does this make you feel?

     Jealousy arises in human relationships because of
comparison, competition, & the fear of being replaced.
We can easily see why jealousy often arises in relationships
that involve only our physical and psychological dimensions
—because comparison and competition are almost unavoidable
when we think of people in terms of their bodies and personalities.
But if we become more Authentic, we move beyond jealousy
because we love from the depths of our self-creating uniqueness.



       A.  Which Telephone Service Will He Choose?

     The jealousy easily aroused in ordinary 'loving' relationships
is like the rivalry between telephone companies.
All the companies vie for the business of the phone-user.
They all provide basically the same service, fill the same needs.

     Likewise, two women or two men
who are competing for the affections of the same person
present their comparable qualities in the best possible light.
Since they see themselves as providing the same services,
filling the same needs (companionship, affection, security, etc.),
each must claim to perform the desired functions better.
They exhibit and advertise their physical and emotional qualities,
hoping to appear better than their competitors.

     But loving on the basis of Authenticity
—appreciating others as unique, self-creating persons,
valuing them for their singular Authentic projects-of-being—
is not like comparing telephone companies.
Singular persons do not fill the same needs.
They are not competing with one another
—even when limited time requires a choice between them—
because they are not trying to provide similar 'loving' services.



        B.  The Comparison Game

     Some people, however, often find themselves feeling jealous
because they foster and support comparison and competition.
They try hard to be the ideal 'feminine' or 'masculine' type
that happens to be popular on the erotic market
—hoping to be better than their competitors!
This leads them to modify their physical appearance
and to play the most desirable personality-types.

     Women who are trying to be the most physically attractive
or the most pleasing 'feminine' personalities
are hiding their individuality
and competing with other women to be the most desirable female.
They want to be regarded as the best of some popular type:
beautiful woman, intelligent woman, sexy woman,
pleasing woman, sweet-and-inoffensive woman, etc.
On this level, all the women are competing and being compared
according the same standard—what men generally want.
Each woman is striving to be better than other women
rather than trying to become unique and singular.

     Likewise, men who are trying to be the smartest, the strongest,
the richest, the most handsome are emphasizing their comparability;
they want to compete with other men on these well-defined criteria.

     Attempting to present ourselves as fulfillers
of general, pre-existing needs works the same way.
People shopping for love (or who are looking for buyers)
present themselves as good providers of what people generally want
—be it security, affection, warmth, protection, sex,
communication, companionship, understanding, or whatever.
They do not want to be seen as unique and incomparable individuals
but as better functionaries than the next person,
better able to satisfy pre-existing needs.

     If we base our 'desirability' on comparison and competition,
we will always be threatened by the possibility that a new model
will "turn the head" of someone we have fascinated for awhile.
We can always be replaced.
When we are valued for our physical and psychological traits,
it is quite likely that better examples of such bodies
and temperaments will come along.
The comparison game is epitomized in this jealous challenge:
"What has she got that I don't have?"



II.  PREVENTING JEALOUSY BY BECOMING IRREPLACEABLE

        A.  Replaceability—Being Better Means Being the Same.

      In the drama of ordinary love, we play well-scripted roles,
complex patterns of interaction we have learned from our culture.
And because all the lines and moves are well known in advance,
an understudy could easily step-in and take-over our functions
—if we become too old for the part, fall ill, or even die.
But what if an understudy handles the role better than the star?
Perhaps whoever fills the role best will get the job permanently!

     When we feel the threat of being replaced in one of our roles,
we usually strive to become the best player of that part.
Our culture says—in the job-market as well as the love-market—
that excellence is the best way to beat the competition.
So we compete with the others within accepted criteria:
We try to be the best social companions for those we want to attract,
the best cooks, best sex-partners, best providers,
the most stimulating and interesting personalities
—becoming the best at whatever popular women or men provide.

     But becoming 'better' than others really means being the same.
Excellence is a measure of conformity to an agreed cultural ideal.
Jealousy is prevented not by excellence but by irreplaceability.



      B.  How We Might Become Singular and Irreplaceable.

     We all come from the same gene pool,
and our personalities have been shaped primarily by human cultures.
Biological and cultural accidents have made us particular persons.
But as we become more aware of ourselves, we gain the capacity
to re-create ourselves to be singular and irreplaceable persons.
If we use our freedom to redirect our lives toward our own goals,
we can rise above the biological 'purposes' given by nature
and we can transcend the ready-made life-patterns of any culture.

     In the long process of re-making ourselves, we begin with
our original personalities as created by our parents and culture.
And the sooner we understand the depth of our social conditioning,
the sooner we can begin to re-shape our lives to our own designs.
Every inch of this struggle toward greater Authenticity must be won
against tremendous social pressures to conform, to be like others,
to adopt the comfortable patterns of life we see around us.

     If we consistently pursue our new, invented life-purposes,
after several years of growth, we might completely replace our selves.
From an existential perspective, we are what we pursue;
we can be defined by the projects we undertake.

     As we re-invent ourselves by choosing new life-purposes,
we will become one of a kind, singular, irreplaceable,
inimitable, incomparable, unprecedented.
The important differences between us and other people
will not be found in superficial, measurable quantities
(having more hair or slimmer legs)
or in comparable qualities of temperament
(having a better sense of humor, being more warm and tender).
Bodily or temperamental differences do not make us unique.
With respect to our physical and psychological characteristics,
we differ from others only in degree, never in kind.

     But we can become intrinsically different from everyone else
by reconstructing our selves from the core, from our inner depths.
We must design our own plans for our lives.
After years of deciding the fundamental directions of our lives,
we become more the creations of our own free choices
than the products of genetic endowment and cultural conditioning.
We become non-reproducible persons with never-repeatable lives.



III.  AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS EMERGE FROM SINGULARITY

     Ordinarily, personal relationships build from below,
beginning with physical and psychological traits many people share.
Sometimes people actually try to displace their competitors
by presenting themselves as more desirable women or men.
Jealousy is very likely within the ordinary game of love
because the players are not unique; they easily replace one another.

     But Authentic relationships emerge from uniqueness.
When love arises from the appreciation of each other's singularity
rather than from qualities or characteristics many people have,
there is no basis for comparison or competition
—and no danger of replacing one love-partner with another.

     Thus, singularity prevents the possibility of jealousy:
If we have emerged beyond our culturally-given roles and identities
—making comparison, competition, & replacement impossible—
we are secure within ourselves, knowing that we are utterly unique.
And if we love from our uniqueness, jealousy is prevented.



IV.  WHAT TO DO ABOUT JEALOUSY

     But until we become singular and unique, we might feel jealous.
What can we do about this deep sense of pain, confusion, betrayal?

     At first, we might ignore our jealousy, hoping it will go away.
If we suspect that we have been replaced in someone's heart,
we might say: "Do whatever you want, but don't tell me about it."

    Our second inclination might be to resist and deny our jealousy.
Perhaps we see jealousy as an immature feeling we should overcome.
But the feeling of jealousy is not wrong—as a toothache is not wrong.
Rather, jealousy indicates a deeper problem in our relationships.
Instead of treating this healthy symptom—jealousy—with aspirin
(by denying our fears of replacement, trying not to notice our pain),
we should correct the possessiveness behind our jealousy.

     Becoming more Authentic is a very important way
to re-create ourselves as unique, irreplaceable persons.
If we know who we are and what our relationships mean,
we will not have to resist or deny the feeling of jealousy
because it simply will not appear when multiple loving begins.

     Jealousy is not a 'bad', immature feeling to be resisted.
In fact, it can become a test of the uniqueness of our relationships:
If jealousy is still possible, the relationships are not yet unique.



V.  SUMMARY

     When love is a unique relationship between irreplaceable persons
—who focus their lives around freely-chosen Authentic projects—
then comparison, competition, & replacement are impossible.
When we become utterly unique human beings,
no other person could ever replace us in our loving relationships.
The other loves of the persons we love might also be unique relationships.
Thus, as we love more Authentically, jealousy disappears.



revised 2-15-2001, 4-30-2001, 9-7-2001, 10-13-2001; 4-4-2003;
11-2-2006; 4-22-2007; 5-16-2009; 5-26-2010; 11-13-2010; 3-6-2011; 12-2-2011; 2-29-2012; 2-10-2013; 8-23-2014;


AUTHOR:

    James Park is an existential philosopher
and author of several books on love, sex, & relationships.

    This article is based on a chapter called
"Loving without Jealousy:
As We Become More Authentic, Jealousy Disappears"
http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/NWL73.html
from his most popular book
New Ways of Loving:

How Authenticity Transforms Relationships
.

    Much more will be learned about him by visiting his website:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum,
which now has more than 1,200 rooms.



OTHER BOOKS ON JEALOUSY

    Several other helpful books will be found in the Jealousy Bibliography:
http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/B-JEAL.html
If "Romantic Jealousy: Cause and Prevention"
has set your mind on fire with responses and further questions,
you can find more such stimulation in these books.




OTHER RESOURCES ON THE INTERNET
CONCERNING JEALOUSY

Resources for Dealing with Jealousy
http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/G-JEAL.html



Go to other on-line essays by James Park,
organized into 10 subject-areas.


Return to the home page of
Heart, Mind, & Spirit
—an electronic magazine for UUs on campus.


Return to the UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM page.


Go to the LOVE page.


Return to the beginning of this home page:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum.









The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.