Why Do We Feel Romantic Jealousy?

Why Do We Feel Romantic Jealousy?

Romantic jealousy is one of our strongest and strangest emotions. It can break hearts, tear couples apart, destroy lives and even cause depression and result in suicide. No matter how solid your relationship, it is vulnerable to feelings of romantic jealousy.

We feel romantic jealousy when we perceive an external threat to a relationship that is important to us. The relationship’s importance may be due to either an emotional or a sexual bond or the self-esteem or social prestige boost we get from it. When we become romantically jealous, a physical reaction commonly follows. The heart may pound, the knees may shake and the emotional flood can take the form of rage, fear, sadness, depression, or a combination of any of these. Romantic jealousy involves three people. Two have the relationship and the third threatens that relationship. We frequently feel justified in our romantic jealousy. We feel our territory has been invaded and we feel rightfully entitled to react.

Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man (1871) claimed that romantic jealousy evolved to advance our species. Through romantic jealousy we ward off threats to our relationships and this helps ensure that our genes will be passed along to the next generation. Sigmund Freud theorized in his Introductory Lectures on Psycho-analysis (1922) that feelings of romantic jealousy first emerge during our early childhood from the Oedipus Complex (our desire not to be left out in the three-way mother–father–child relationship).

If you find that you are romantically jealous, you should ask yourself the following:

  1. What exactly am I feeling?
  2. Are my feelings truly relevant and justified in the present situation?
  3. What has triggered the romantic jealousy?

If you feel threatened in an existing relationship, you should discuss your emotions with your partner.