and instinctive for genetic survival. Men want exclusive sexual partners
(to pass on their genes) and women want devoted helpers (to help
with the kids' survival). Thus, after an affair, men want sexual details
and women want to know how serious the relationship is. All these
"understandings" can reduce intense jealousy and blaming each other
So, what can be done about jealousy?
Needless to say, the best protection against jealousy is a good
relationship, i.e. prevention is better than a cure. If the love can be
kept alive and exciting, that is much more effective than trying to
revive a threatened love. Once jealousy has occurred, however, what
works best? Salovey and Rodin (1985) asked 100 college students
what had worked for them. Best was "tough it out," i.e. controlling
their emotions and becoming even more committed to and attentive to
the loved one. A second method was somewhat effective, namely,
"selective ignoring," i.e. telling themselves that the desired object (the
lover or some achievement) was just not that important. A third
method, telling themselves their good qualities and doing something
nice for themselves, was not helpful in this case. Read on.
Branden (1981) advocates an openly honest "I feel..." response.
Example: you see your partner flirting with a very attractive person at
a party. Rather than bitterly attacking the partner, what if later you
said: "As I watched you with him/her, I immediately felt anxious.
There were butterflies in my stomach and I started to imagine that you
might try to see him/her later and get all emotionally involved. The
idea of your touching and holding him/her really upset me. I'm scared
you will leave me." Such a frank, non-attacking response, which
discloses the true feelings underneath the jealousy, should make it
easy for the flirting partner to response sympathetically and honestly
to the heart of the matter, namely the jealous person's hurt and fears.
This honesty is usually the best way to handle jealousy.
What is the best protection against being devastated by an actual
break up or the possibility of a break up? Self-esteem and a belief that
your future will work out okay. But esteem has to be developed before
the break up, not afterwards. Some simple techniques may be useful
in reducing jealousy: stay active, distract yourself with friends, fun,
hobbies, work, self-improvement, etc.; thought stopping (ch. 11)
should reduce the jealousy arousing fantasies; desensitization (ch. 12)
can reduce the emotional response of jealousy just as if it were a fear;
venting (ch. 12) will relieve the hurt and angry feelings; seek support
from friends and tell them how you feel. Also, you must challenge your
irrational ideas that drive you "crazy" (ch. 14), including
understanding that jealousy is probably unavoidable to some degree,
that you are responsible for your feelings, that the thrill of a new love
will initially overshadow a taken-for-granted relationship, that some
"games" are played to make us jealous, that some partners are so
self-centered they can not be faithful, that no love comes with a life-
time guarantee, that there may be very good reasons for your former