To be in a relationship and not be hit by pangs of jealousy now and then is like expecting to walk in the rain without getting wet. Even though jealousy is largely an emotion with negative undertones, it isn’t always bad for your relationship. In fact, healthy jealousy can become a force that strengthens couple relationships in many ways.
That knot you feel in your stomach when your partner pays attention to an attractive person. The anger when their ex won’t stop leaving heart emojis on their social media posts. The sadness when they leave you to spend a weekend with the gang. These are forms of romantic jealousy we all experience at some point.
As long as both partners don’t let it spiral out of control, there can be positive effects of jealousy on your relationship. Let’s try to understand why a little jealousy in a relationship is healthy.
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Can There Be Healthy Jealousy In Relationships?
Sasha had just started dating Ron, who was great friends with Emily (names changed). As is the wont of new lovers, Ron was excited to have Sasha meet Emily. They went out for drinks and dinner. Later that night, Emily sent a text to Ron’s phone, ‘They look so happy together, I can’t bear to stand it.’
Sasha who prided herself as someone without a jealous bone in her body was overcome with a seething sense of jealousy. When asked about it, Emily acted all embarrassed and apologetic. She said she had meant to send it to another friend. A few days later, Sasha tried to gently bring up the issue with Ron, explaining to him that it was the content of the message that was troublesome. An argument followed.
Sasha learnt to be wary of Emily from that point on even though she didn’t interfere with Ron’s friendship with her. Nor did she try to break his bubble of denial. It was only when Emily walked off from their wedding in the middle of the ceremony, without saying a word to anyone, that Ron finally admitted that perhaps she wanted more than just platonic friendship.
In this case, Sasha’s feelings of jealousy were both healthy and natural. So can there be healthy jealousy in relationships? We ask psychologist Kranti Sihotra Momin to weigh in:
“An emotional reaction to the actual or perceived danger of losing something of value from a romantic relationship is a common theme of jealousy. Some scholars argue that while the experience or expression of jealousy may indeed be negative, its role may still be positive or beneficial for the survival of the relationship,” Kranti says.
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How Does Healthy Jealousy In Relationships Look Like?
A little jealousy in a relationship is healthy. Jealousy is an indicator of things being hunky dory. According to Kranti, jealousy is found to be positively related to different attributes that sustain relationships. More specifically, it is associated with a greater love for a partner. According to evolutionary psychology, jealousy may have developed to dissuade unfaithfulness in relationships. You can turn jealousy in relationships into motivation as well.
Thus, in this view, jealousy is central to the relationship-enhancing goals of mate guarding and mate retention. It can sometimes be a warning to become insecure when a relationship is threatened. This warning will make us leap into action to invest in a relationship we may have ignored. Jealousy in relationships is an indicator that you are willing to go the extra mile to make your partner feel wanted.
Three factors affect the expression of healthy jealousy as a relationship develops and changes over time – involvement, insecurity, and excitement.
Commitment is a function of the relationship that must always be evaluated by each partner. Over time, investment in a relationship increases and so does one’s loyalty to a romantic partner. Thus, healthy jealousy becomes a natural reaction to the possible loss of this investment.
Romantic jealousy – for all the physical and emotional disruptions it creates – allows people to perform self-introspection. This leads them to ask themselves questions such as ‘what do my past relationship say about me?’ ‘What is it that I look for in my relationship?’ and ‘What should I do to make a difference?’
If you take healthy jealousy out of the equation, most people would probably not go down this road of introspection. Thus, be rendered incapable of growing in their romantic partnerships.
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10 Instances Where Jealousy Is Healthy In A Relationship
If we are looking at the healthy vs unhealthy jealousy discourse then we have to know first what does jealousy mean?
You have been told all along that jealousy is a negative, all-consuming emotion that eats you up from within and takes a toll on your relationships. That is unhealthy jealousy that you have been told about. Jealousy does become unhealthy in a relationship if it transforms a person into a control freak, makes them obsessive, they believe they own their partner and their jealousy prods them to belittle their partner.
And here we are telling you that a little jealousy in a relationship is healthy. It is bound to make you wonder: Is jealousy a sign of love?, Is jealousy normal in relationships? and What are the positive effects of jealousy? in the healthy vs unhealthy jealousy debate, the former wins hands down.
Why is that? At the outset, let’s set the record straight by saying ‘little’ is the operative word here. As long as your jealous emotions don’t become unhinged and trigger a trail of toxicity, jealousy can be healthy for romantic partnerships.
To put things in perspective, here are 10 instances where jealousy is healthy in a relationship:
1. When someone flirts with your partner
No matter how cool and secure you are in your relationship, this one is bound to raise your heckles. Let’s say you’re at a party, and a person starts chatting up your partner. They’re asking questions, making eye contact, leaning in, laughing, while you’re looking on from the sidelines.
Flirting, even if it’s not sexual, can fill you up with jealousy. For two reason – first, the person’s interest in your partner, and second, on account of being deprived of the same level of attention yourself. Both these feelings are natural. In this situation, your best bet is to wait it out till you’re in your personal space with your partner and then tell them how you felt.
Just say, ‘The way X was cozying up to you at the party made me feel jealous.’ You can then go on to talk about expectations and boundaries. This jealousy is an indicator of how strong your feelings are for your partner.
2. Your partner is flirting with someone
Let’s say at the same party, the roles are reversed. You are hanging out with a friend. Your partner joins in and starts chatting your friend up, being a little too close for comfort, while completing ignoring your presence. Is jealousy normal in this situation?
Most definitely, yes! This is bound to sting more, as it can make you insecure about your relationship and leave you feeling inadequate. To make sure that all that angst you’re feeling doesn’t cross the bounds of healthy jealousy, it is important to have an honest conversation with your partner.
3. Not being prioritized can lead to healthy jealousy
Feelings of jealousy in a relationship aren’t always linked to a third person who poses a perceived threat to your bond. It can also extend to friends and family. For instance, your partner landed a big promotion or a new job, and you hear about it from their mother or best friend or siblings.
This can leave you grips of jealous pangs. After all, you’d expect to be the first person they’d share any big or small development in their life with. You know you’d do the same for them. In this case, the feelings of jealousy come from a place of hurt and not insecurity.
4. They gush over other people’s attractiveness
Now, being in a relationship does not turn a person into a horse with blinkers. Both you and your partner will find other people attractive. Be it a stunning stranger on the road whom you can’t help but give a look over or co-worker whose looks cast a spell on you.
All is well as long as these encounters are fleeting. But if your partner cannot stop gushing over how attractive a friend, co-worker or friend’s partner is, it is bound to stir up jealousy in you.
You can channelize the positive effects of jealousy by having an honest conversation with your partner about what it means for you and your relationship. This can give you a reality check on whether you both are on the same page or not. As well as help you set boundaries regarding what’s acceptable and what’s not.
5. Your partner doesn’t spend enough time with you
Now, this can be extremely subjective and open to interpretation in different ways. Perhaps, meeting over the weekends and spending the week doing your own thing is your partner’s idea of ‘enough time’.
But you may want or expect more. Their absence due to preoccupation with work or hobbies can make you jealous of these peripherals in your partner’s life. In this case, is jealousy a sign of love?
It can be since it signifies your desire to be together. It is definitely healthy jealousy, as at its very root is the intent to build upon the connection you share with your partner.
6. Their friends are the center of attention
Before you came along, your partner had a life. Understandably, they’d want to hold on to that part of their life even when they’re in a relationship. However, if a person refuses to make changes in their life to accommodate their SO. If their friends continue to be the center of attention, it is only natural for their partners to feel jealous.
Yes, it is possible to feel jealous of your partner’s friends, even if these friendships are as platonic as they come. If you’ve been feeling that way, don’t beat yourself up. It is one of the most common scenarios where healthy jealousy comes into play in romantic relationships.
You can try to talk to your partner about changing things up a little to focus on the relationship. Or negate these feelings of jealousy by becoming a part of your partner’s social life.
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7. You are not part of their transformative experiences
Let’s say your partner took a trip and came back all rejuvenated. Now, they can’t stop talking about it. Or they participated in a spiritual retreat that’s made them feel like a new person altogether. Perhaps, you wanted to join in but could not due to work commitment or other reasons.
Is jealousy normal in such a situation? Absolutely! You experience an unshakable tinge of jealousy that they got to experience something you couldn’t. As long as you can find it in your heart to be happy for your partner, it can be classified as healthy jealousy and you can use it to your advantage in the relationship.
If you’re struggling to process these feelings on your own, don’t hesitate in confiding in your partner about it.
8. Your careers are on opposite trajectories
Your partner has landed a big promotion while you were passed over for one. Or you got fired while your partner got a cushy new job. When your aspirations are unmet or dashed to the ground, it is only natural to feel jealous of someone else’s success.
Even if that someone is the person you love and adore with all your heart. Instead of wallowing in despair, you can use this jealousy as motivation to do better.
After all, the positive effects of jealousy can be seen only when you can rein it in and turn the negativity on its head.
9. You discover a side of them you didn’t know existed
No, we’re not talking skeletons in the closet or scandalous revelations. For instance, you’re hanging out with your partner’s friends and someone in the group tells you that your partner is an amazing singer. Or that they compose the most soulful poetry. And they say it not as a matter of revelation but as a well know fact.
‘So, what song does he/she sing for you that you absolutely love?’
‘Which of his/her poems is your favorite?’
And you’re sitting there wondering what on earth are these people talking about?
Discovering that there is a side to your partner that you didn’t know anything about can make you feel jealous and hurt. How can a person who tells you what they ate for lunch, how many meetings they attended, and how many times they got caught up in traffic on the way home omit sharing such an important part of themselves with you?
While your sense of hurt is understandable, you must get over it and talk to your partner about it. Ask them why they chose not to share this particular aspect of their life with you. They may or may not have a good enough reason for it. But chances are it wasn’t done with the intent to hurt you.
10. Their ex sticks around like a sore thumb
A lot of people maintain a cordial relation or friendship with their exes. As their partner, you have to respect that choice. However, if an ex’s presence in your partner’s life is all-prevailing, feelings of jealousy are justified.
If your partner texts and talks to an ex regularly, seeks their approval in important life decisions and values their advice over yours, you not only have every right to feel jealous but also be concerned.
In such a situation, it is important to evaluate if they are over their ex. If yes, tell them in no uncertain terms that while you respect their choice of being friends with an ex there have to be some boundaries. You cannot build a future in the shadow of their past.
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How Does Healthy Jealousy Help Partners?
If there is healthy jealousy in a relationship, can it help a couple strengthen their bond? Kranti tells us how: “Jealousy is often considered as a sign of love. When the partner who is at the receiving end of jealousy realizes it as a sign of love, then this attitude can help them to resolve their key issues more constructively.
“Many a time, we take our partners and relationship for granted. Our partner is the person ‘presumed’ to understand our stresses on our jobs, our full-blown engagement with our children, family, and friends. We often tend to prioritize other affiliations over our partnership.
“Healthy jealousy stops this entanglement and gets the couple back into view bringing excitement to a sluggish relationship. It tends to make partners more enthusiastic and sexually excited about each other. A jealousy crisis can remind partners how valuable they are for each other. This pushes them to make the relationship a priority.”
Positive effects of jealousy in relationships
Some of the ways jealousy can help romantic relationships are:
- It shows you how important your relationship is to you and reminds you to put each other first
- By stirring up a host of emotions and thoughts in one or both partners’ minds, it can pave way for healthy communication
- The green-eyed monster acts as an aphrodisiac for couples. Your partner feeling jealous of the attention you receive from another person or vice-versa, it is definitely a turn on. Don’t hold yourself back from channelizing it to spice up your sex life
- It can bring out issues of insecurity, possessiveness or neglect, allowing both partners to work on their relationship. This is one of the most enduring positive effects of jealousy
- How does healthy jealousy help partners? It can motivate partners to embark on a journey of self-improvement. By dealing with your personal issues, you can make your relationship stronger and healthier
- The reassurance from your partner when you’re reeling in jealousy can instantly replace all the negative emotions with a surge of warmth and love
To sum up the role of healthy jealousy in relationships, let’s borrow these words of Graham Greene from his book The End of the Affair, “I refused to believe that love could take any other form than mine: I measured love by the extent of my jealousy, and by that standard, of course, she could not love me at all.”
Jealousy is inevitable in a relationship. If you love someone you will feel jealous about small things like that attractive colleague they work with or the sudden discovery that they write poetry but they never wrote anything for you. But jealousy can turn into insecurity and become toxic when your partner gets uncomfortable if you are talking to anyone from the opposite sex or feels unhappy at your success.
Your partner went for a trip with their friends and can’t help gushing about it. You feel that you missed out all the fun and they had fun without you, this is normal jealousy.
If anyone says they find your partner attractive and flirts with them or they flirt with someone else then you do feel a little jealous and that is healthy jealousy. If you feel a bit jealous when you meet their ex or an old school friend reveals something about them, like they can sing or paint, can make you jealous.
If your partner tells you that they felt jealous when they say your attractive colleague flirting with you that is healthy jealousy. But if they say that they found this flirting intolerable and does not want you to attend future office parties then that is unhealthy jealousy.