The Science Of Suspicion: What Makes Us All So F*cking Jealous

by Ashley Fern

We've all experienced jealousy at some point in our lives. Whether it be in kindergarten over who got to play with the blocks for the longest or in college when the cute guy you had a crush on for literally forever is chatting up some rando at a bar.

It's something we experience naturally; it heats up our cheeks, blinds us with anger and makes us do some crazy things. But after the heat of the moment, when the dust settles around us, we're forced to confront our own motivations and what exactly made us feel the way we did.

Unfortunately, the truth is rarely pretty and never simple.

Jealousy is a factor in every single type of relationship. It's something that, no matter what, is impossible to avoid. There will always be a little something that ticks a person off in one way or another. You may never act on the feeling, but it still exists nonetheless.

It can be destructive and heartbreaking, especially because many times the situation that elicits this feeling is out of your control. Men and women become jealous of certain things and, while sometimes they overlap, there are other times when they're completely different.

Most of the jealousy that pervades everyday life occurs in the dating world, and what science tells us is that every individual experiences this feeling relatively; however, trends do emerge when examining the evidence as it affects different genders.

A recent study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior set out to understand the discrepancies of jealousy when it comes to males versus females.

The researchers, David Frederick and Melissa Fales, looked at a survey that was done on in 2007. Their primary focus? Emotional cheating versus physical cheating with regard to which gender each pissed off more.

The 63,894 participants were presented with the following scenario and were asked to "take a moment to imagine which of the following situations would be MOST upsetting or distressing to [them]." They had the choice between the following options:

You found out that your partner is having a sexual relationship with someone else (but has not fallen in love with this person), or you found out that your partner has fallen in love with someone else (but is not having a sexual relationship with this person).

Let's take a look at their findings.

Men are more upset by physical relationships

A physical relationship with no love involved seemed to upset straight men the most.

Fifty-four percent of men reported this, compared to much lower rates in straight women (35 percent), lesbian women (34 percent), bisexual women (27 percent), gay men (32 percent) and bisexual men (27 percent).

So why does the thought of their partner having a sexual relationship with someone in a purely physical sense piss off men more than women?

Women are more upset by emotional relationships

Contrarily, emotional relationships with no physical contact seemed to affect heterosexual women more (65 percent reported this as compared to 46 percent of men).

It seems despite not physically cheating, women were more averse to the men in their lives falling in love over lust.

Why is this the case?

...Evolution is to blame

Frederick and Fales believe evolution can help to explain their results. There are two distinct issues, one female-centric and the other male-centric.

In the period before there were DNA tests, men faced the issue of caring for children who may or may not have been theirs.

This would explain why physical cheating is more detrimental in their eyes as opposed to emotional cheating, as their paternal lineage wasn't continuing.

Females, on the other hand, deal with a completely different problem: a man, who's helping her raise her child, will find love elsewhere and completely take off, decreasing the child's chance of survival.

Here, if a man is cheating it really doesn't matter as long as he comes back around to take care of his offspring. It may sound terrible, but remember we're talking in an evolutionary sense.

This basically comes down to the physical needs of each party; men, at their basest, are concerned with continuing their bloodlines whereas women are concerned with their offspring's survival.

In this case, men benefit from having multiple partners and women benefit from having the protection of one.

Every man and woman experiences jealousy differently

These theories can be considered outdated for a variety of reasons. First of all, technological advances have been made to ensure paternity is correct.

It's also important to keep in mind these studies focus on averages.

Of course, there are men out there who'd feel betrayed by their partners having an emotional affair just like there are women out there who'd be quite pissed off if their partners were sleeping with other women.

There's a difference between jealousy and envy

Many people falsely believe jealousy solely means wanting something someone else has. That's envy. Jealousy, on the other hand, has more to do with a person's fear of losing something.

Think about when girls get jealous of other girls flirting with their boyfriends. What's the threat here? The other girl. You're afraid your boyfriend is going to want to pursue something with this other person, so you become irrational and jealous.

Ralph Hupka, a Professor of Psychology Emeritus at California State University at Long Beach, explained: "Jealousy is an anticipatory emotion. It seeks to prevent loss. Jealousy causes us to take precautionary measures."

Jealousy is a double-edged sword

Everyone is guilty of trying to make a partner jealous at one time or another. It reaffirms our feelings and gives us sort of a sick thrill. While you may think this is OK, acting in a jealous manner rarely ever leads to anything positive.

Generally speaking, jealousy is almost always detrimental. It results in feelings of insecurity, overt arguments and nasty, manipulative behavior. It's probably better to try and avoid jealous tendencies in relationships — if you can.