“Everything in the universe has a purpose.”
– Wayne Dyer
If you’ve been in a romantic relationship, you would — at some point — have experienced jealousy.
Perhaps you caught a few “mate poachers” sniffing around your partner.
Or perhaps you saw your partner sneak a furtive glance at someone at the mall.
As it stands, jealousy is one of those emotions categorized as “bad” or “negative.”
But is there more to it?
According to evolutionary psychologist Dr David Buss, there is.
Dr. Buss argues that jealousy is an evolved emotion that serves several adaptive functions, the primary ones being:
- Paternity certainty: Jealousy enables male mates to be attentive to potential mate poachers and take action, thereby limiting uncertainty around the paternity of offspring.
- Mate guarding: From a male perspective, lots of resources are invested in a chosen mate and her children. Female mates also invest in their mates, whether it is time, effort, or items that hold monetary value. Jealousy, therefore, works as a defence to protect this investment.
Jealousy is activated when there are threats to an ongoing, valued relationship. Such threats include:
- Detection of potential mate poachers
- Suspicions of infidelity
- Signs of emotional disconnect
- Mate value discrepancy
Detection of potential mate poachers
When one mate has a desirable partner, others who find such partner desirable may try to lure him/her away for a sexual encounter or long-term relationship. Jealousy is triggered when mates become aware of potential mate poachers.
Suspicions of infidelity
Typically, people want to hold on to their mates and avoid break-ups or divorce which tend to be emotionally and/or financially costly. Jealousy, triggered by suspicions of sexual, emotional, or financial infidelity, prompts suspicious partners to take some form of action.
Signs of emotional disconnect
Where one partner says, “I love you”, and the other does not reciprocate (he/she either responds with something else or doesn’t respond at all), the relationship is seen as lacking an emotional connection.
Mate value discrepancy
Mate value refers to how desirable a person is as a potential mate. (Read what men and women look for in potential mates here: https://ilzealberts.isorise.com/blog/.) If, for example, someone is an “8”, he/she will likely look for a mate who has a similar mate value.
Mate value discrepancies arise when one partner has a higher mate value than the other. These discrepancies can occur where none existed before:
- Where one partner is suddenly fired or retrenched and is without a job for an extended period of time.
- Where one partner’s career takes off (perhaps he/she becomes a famous singer).
The partner with the higher mate value is, statistically, more likely to have an affair, break up with his/her partner, and “trade up” in the mating market. The larger the mate value discrepancy, the larger the probability that a partner will “trade up” in the mating market.
What happens when jealousy is activated?
The action a jealous partner takes depends on the options available.
Dr Buss has identified 19 different tactics people use to deal with jealousy-related issues. These tactics range from vigilance to violence.
Vigilance includes stalking, hacking into devices, monitoring the behaviour of potential poachers, and looking for eye contact between others and one’s partner.
Violence is more often used by men and works to reduce perceived mate value discrepancies by:
- Tainting women’s physical appearance, prompting them to conceal themselves or remain at home.
- Disempowering women.
What is YOUR perceived mate value?
Do you perceive that you have a lower mate value than your partner?
Remember, relationships flourish when partners are able to see each other as equals.
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From my heart to yours,