Jealousy is a common feeling among all people, of all ages and cultures. It might be that a little girl feels jealous of her sister getting more attention from the mother, a friend who is jealous of their classmate who got higher grades in the exams or a boyfriend who is being jealous of other men looking at his girlfriend. There are different types of jealousy and therefore ways to deal with it. But from all these different types, which one is sexual jealousy?
What is sexual jealousy?
Sexual jealousy is a special form of jealousy in sexual relationships, based on suspected or imminent sexual infidelity. Sexual jealousy is considered a basic and important emotion and as a concept has been mostly studied in the field of evolutionary psychology. As evolutionary psychologists suggest, jealousy is activated when a relationship we care about is threatened and this function was naturally developed to minimize the threats to our important relationships (Buss, 2013).
Male vs. Female Sexual Jealousy
Based on the evolutionary theory, there is a difference in how men and women experience sexual jealousy according to their different biological reproductive systems; Men feel threatened about their relationship’s future because they could be fooled into raising children that are not their own, whereas women risk losing to another the relationship and all the benefits that that this entails (e.g. money, protection, time) (Duncombe, Harrison, Allan., & Marsden, 2014).
Moreover, according to research, women tend to place a stronger emphasis on the emotional aspect of infidelity over the sexual. In contrast, men’s sexual jealousy arises from the threat of investing in non-biologically related offspring and thus is mostly focused on the sexual part of the infidelity rather than the emotional (Buss, 2013).
Although both males and females can become aggressive or violent in response to a cheating partner, women are more likely to express their sexual jealousy through self-blame; They tend to focus on their role as a partner, comparing their qualities with those of the rival and that is why women are more likely to experience symptoms of depression following the infidelity (Harris, 2003).
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to express their sexual jealousy using the “mate guarding” tactic. This tactic is used to prevent partner infidelity and thus may be used when there are perceived threats in the environment. Mate guarding can take various forms of behavior, such as violence directed towards the competitors, emotionally manipulating their partner, taking up all of the partner’s time so that they have no time to meet other potential mates and others (Goetz et al., 2005).
Jealousy Is Not About Love and Caring
Although sexual jealousy is a common and natural feeling, it can have very harmful effects on your relationship. When you allow jealous feelings to take over and start to doubt your partner, then this can damage trust and respect. No matter how much you two love each other, too much sexual jealousy will eventually kill all the trust, love, and respect you have developed for each other.
Ways to Cope With Sexual Jealousy
The first and most important step is to become aware of your sexual jealousy. As long as you accept the fact that you are jealous this will open the way to raise more awareness about yourself and the reasons behind your feelings; is it that your partner behaves in a way suggesting that he might be unfaithful or is it because you lack self-confidence and project your own insecurities on your partner?
Open and honest communication is also crucial! Try to leave aside your ego and communicate your worries and fears with your partner. If the love and respect in your relationship are honest, there is nothing to worry about. Besides feeling perhaps ashamed for sharing your inner thoughts, this will help to clear the view in your relationship, understand better the needs of each other and create a more solid basis for your relationship.
And remember, feeling sexually jealous doesn’t make you a bad partner. As long as you recognize the problem and you try to deal with it, this makes you actually a wonderful partner!
If you are dealing with problems in your romantic relationship or if you wish to raise more awareness about yourself, you can reach out here.
Kleopatra Chousou is working as an intern psychologist at the Willingness. She obtained her BSc in Psychology in Greece and completed her Master’s in Clinical Psychology at the University of Leiden. Kleopatra’s main research interests focus on the field of psychopathology and psychoanalytic theory and therapy.
Buss, D. M. (2013). Sexual jealousy. Psihologijske Teme, 22(2), 155–182.
Duncombe, J., Harrison K., Allan., G, & Marsden., D (2014). The state of affairs: Explorations in infidelity and commitment. New York, NY: Routledge.
Goetz, A. T., Shackelford, T. K., Weekes-Shackelford, V. A., Euler, H. A., Hoier, S., Schmitt, D. P., & LaMunyon, C. W. (2005). Mate retention, semen displacement, and human sperm competition: A preliminary investigation of tactics to prevent and correct female infidelity. Personality and Individual Differences, 38(4), 749- 763. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2004.05.028Harris, C. R. (2003). A review of sex differences in sexual jealousy, including self-report data, Psychophysiological responses, interpersonal violence, and morbid jealousy. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7(2), 102-128. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr0702_102-128