Most people agree that just a smidge of jealousy can be a good thing. It shows how much you mean to your partner and vice versa. But we have to be careful in the quest for recognition, rekindled desire or appreciation. Some use jealousy as leverage to dislodge these emotions from our lover. But we should not play with the heart of another too cavalierly. Such machinations often make matters worse. The only good jealousy, the kind that leads to positive change, is taken in small doses. In larger forms, possessiveness and covetousness are destructive forces that ultimately tear two people apart. Both sexes experience jealousy, but they do so differently and over different things. That’s according to a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Chapman University’s David Frederick in conjunction with UCLA’s Melissa Fales conducted this study. They decided to try to use big data to see if a phenomenon in a previously conducted study was supported or torn down. The finding was that the majority of men are outraged by sexual infidelity. This is true even when no emotional connection is involved in the act. Women on the other hand are torn up over emotional infidelity even in instances where no sex takes place.
The researchers reviewed a survey taken by NBC.com back in 2007. 63,894 participants took that survey. The questions in the survey surrounded dating and relationships. One section in particular was of interest to these researchers: “Take a moment to imagine which of the following situations would be MOST upsetting or distressing to you.” The first answer, you found your partner in a sexual relationship with someone else, but they have not fallen in love with that other person. The second was you found out your lover fell in love with someone else, but had not slept with them. 54% of men said a sexual affair was the most egregious transgression. This same answer was selected by 35% of heterosexual women, 34% of gay men, bisexual men 30%, bisexual women 27% and lesbian women 34%. Researchers believe these gender-specific responses have evolutionary roots. Men’s concern over sexual infidelity stems from the need for assured paternity, for supporting one’s own genetic offspring. For women, pair bonding is the issue. From an evolutionary standpoint, a woman wants to know the guy will be around to help raise her vulnerable young and provide for them.
The problem is this programming helps us survive a Stone Age world that no longer exists. Does this sort of ingrained thinking help or hurt our aims in the modern love sphere? How our current needs and these ingrained processes interact is a point of concern. How does this pan out with couples who don’t want children or can’t have them? What about countries where gender equality has nearly come to pass? What role do messages from advertising, our culture and the media play in our selection of a mate and how do these interact with our Stone Age subconscious? Researchers say the results aren’t exactly cut down gender lines. In fact, there was a little more variance among different nations in the world. The cultural and contextual factors are important and play a significant role. Although there is an overall pattern, individual men and women also have different perspectives. But this research doesn’t take such nuances into account. Sorting it all out however is complex. We may never have a formula for how human jealousy works, or how human relationships should be conducted in the modern world, for that matter. But further insights such as these can help us know ourselves better and figure out how best to negotiate the modern needs of love with those that inhabit our subconscious from our ancient past. For more on the evolutionary roots of love pick up a copy of, Snakes, Sunrises, and Shakespeare: How Evolution Shapes Our Loves and Fears by Gordon H. Orians.