Hugh Wilson
15 November 2011 17:44 | By Hugh Wilson, contributor, MSN Him

Men: how to get over your jealousy



How to get over your jealousy (© Getty Images)

Research suggests that men get just as jealous as women. But why do we get jealous at all, and how do we get over it?

It used to be believed that women were the more green-eyed gender. Men were more likely to stray, so women had more reason to worry.

But more recent research suggests that the green-eyed monster is just as likely to creep up on members of either sex. In fact, according to a study by psychologists at the universities of Groningen in the Netherlands and Valencia in Spain, short men tend to be the most jealous people of all.

But what experts have also discovered is that men and women tend to be jealous for different reasons, and that obsessive jealousy can be poison for relationships. Here's the low-down on male jealousy and how you can banish it from your life.

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Men and women

Research suggests men fear sexual infidelity, women fear emotional infidelity (© Getty Images)

Research suggests men fear sexual infidelity, women fear emotional infidelity

It's now pretty well established that men and women get jealous about different things. Men get jealous over a partner's potential sexual infidelity. Women tend to be more concerned about a partner's emotional infidelity.

Psychologists reckon there's an evolutionary reason for that. Men could never be 100% certain that a child was theirs, so became more sensitive to what they saw as the sexual threat other males represented.

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Women, on the other hand, needed a man around to bring home the bison while they were busy bringing up junior, so became less concerned with sex and more worried that their man might fall for someone else emotionally.

That's the theory, and it's backed by a number of studies. For example, research by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania found that, during confrontations about cheating on reality TV shows, when men were the victims, 57% of the questions to the cheating partner focused on the sexual aspects of the affair.

But when women were the victims, they only asked about sex 29% of the time.

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"Relative to women, men are more distressed by sexual infidelity, and women are more upset over emotional infidelity, relative to men," said study author Barry Kuhle, assistant professor of psychology at the university.

Not all jealousy is bad

Surprisingly, a little jealousy may help to strengthen your relationship (© Getty Images)

Surprisingly, a little jealousy may help to strengthen your relationship

Whether sexual or emotional, however, not all jealousy is bad.

Quite simply, sometimes you're right to be jealous. And even if nothing is going on and your partner has no intention of straying, a little mild jealousy can cement the bonds of your relationship.

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According to Dr David Buss, professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Texas and author of The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy Is As Necessary As Love and Sex, jealousy is, "a supremely important passion that helped our ancestors, and most likely continues to help us today, to cope with a host of real reproductive threats. It drives us to keep partners from straying with tactics such as escalating vigilance or showering a partner with affection."

This kind of jealousy makes sure you don't let yourself go physically, or take the relationship for granted. It keeps you on your toes. Feeling a little twitchy if she's going out to a notorious pick-up joint with the girls is not in any way unhealthy.

Obsessive jealousy

Obsessive jealousy can seriously impact on your relationship (© Getty Images)

Being obsessively jealous can seriously impact on your relationship

The problems arise when you start to become obsessively jealous. When you start questioning her loyalty to you without good reason, pain and resentment are likely outcomes. There's every chance obsessive jealousy - left untreated - will eventually cost you your relationship.

But where does it stem from? Often, it's down to self-esteem issues. You think you're not good enough for her, and mark any contact with other men (in your mind more stylish, good-looking or successful than you) as a threat.

Alternatively, men who have cheated in the past - or been cheated on - can be more likely to show damaging jealous tendencies. In a nutshell, they know from experience that cheating happens, and become obsessively wary about it happening to them or happening again.

Overcoming jealousy

When you start getting fidgety every time she leaves the house without you, or you start trying to limit her time away, alarm bells should start to ring.

According to clinical psychologist Linda Blair, if jealousy is interfering with your normal life, hurting someone you love or controlling you more than you control it, it may be a problem.

If so, there are several ways to help yourself overcome the green-eyed monster. Firstly and most simply, accept that uncertainty is part of life and part of relationships. You can't be 100% certain that your relationship will last forever, but nor can you be 100% certain it won't.

Trusting and appreciating your partner is key to a healthy relationship (© Getty Images)

Trusting and appreciating your partner is key to a healthy relationship

Live with that uncertainty and learn to regard it as normal, but also understand that your partner is with you because she wants to be. Even if you can't see it, she can list a hatful of qualities that make you the one for her.

Also, learn to view your situation objectively. Is she really about to stray? If you don't feel you can be objective, think about confiding in a very close friend (one close enough to tell you the truth rather than what he or she thinks you want to hear). Do they see any reason for you to be worried? If they say they think that you're a strong, resilient couple, accept this answer.

You might also talk to your partner about your feelings in a way that doesn't apportion blame. Sit down and tell her how you feel, but without suggesting her actions are the reason. Keep it neutral. She may well be able to give you all the reassurance you need.

Finally, learn to perceive her actions differently. When you feel yourself becoming jealous, take a step back, count to 10, and be prepared to question your conclusions. Do you have any objective evidence for the way you feel? Has she given you any concrete reason to feel like this?

According to relationship councellor Gladeana McMahon, "you need to challenge your thoughts regularly and if you do you will learn to talk yourself out of the thoughts that trigger your jealous feelings. Keep on raising your own self esteem and you will find your thoughts and feelings becoming less negative."

Men and women experience jealousy differently, but whether grounded in emotions or sexuality, the green-eyed monster can poison lives and ruin relationships. However, by taking time out to think more rationally, you can chase this unwelcome animal away.

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