Do you remember the last time you felt jealous in a romantic relationship? Of course you do. It’s not exactly easy to forget that sinking feeling of panic and helplessness in the face of loss in love. And I think I speak for everyone when I say that there aren’t many emotions that top jealousy on the scale of just plain shittiness. Simply put, it’s the debilitating shape that our insecurities take when acted upon by competitive – real or imagined – threat… and regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, if you’ve been in a relationship, you know what I’m talking about.
‘Between men and women, who gets more jealous?’ – If this question were raised among a group of drinking buddies, you can rest assured a lot of very strong opinions, and even more anecdotes supporting said opinions, would come bubbling out.
But drunken pseudo-intellectual faffing aside, what does make a man’s experience of jealousy different from that of a woman? Fear no more, science is about to take the floor.
There’s sexual infidelity and there’s emotional infidelity. And according to studies, straight men seem to stand out in how the former upsets them significantly more than the latter.
Extensive research on the subject of romantic jealousy among men and women in monogamous relationships, revealed that heterosexual men are far more adversely affected by the possibility of their partner having sex with someone else (but not falling in love with them) than that of them falling in love with someone else (but not having sex with them).
To a man, it’s a matter of mardaangi. Sexual prowess is one of the key ingredients in society’s perception of masculinity and sexual infidelity can stir up more insecurities for men than women.
The study, carried out by Chapman University determined that straight men have long been socialised to associate masculinity with sexual prowess; and being cheated on, strictly sexually, brings into question this sexual prowess, and consequently their masculinity. This leads them to react far more negatively than if the cheating in question were emotional in nature.
A scientific look at straight male jealousy from the evolutionary perspective, meanwhile, noted that men face a problem women never face – paternal uncertainty. The daunting possibility of having to question whether an offspring is theirs, may be one of the reasons men tend to exhibit a particularly heightened response to sexual infidelity.
And the stereotype, as it turns out, holds up for straight women too. They were observed to be more upset by emotional infidelity in romantic relationships than by exclusively sexual cheating.
Taught by innumerable societal influences to think relationally and to be the emotional nurturers in a relationship, women were found to be more threatened by infidelity of an emotional nature than sexual. Furthermore, while women do not face maternal uncertainty, securing a committed paternal resource for the upbringing of their offspring (or a future offspring) makes them favour emotional fidelity as more relevant than sexual.
The conception of jealousy originates from fundamentally differing views – for men and women – on what constitutes a ‘threat’ to their relationship.
And while they may not agree on the definition of these threats, the resultant insecurities manifest themselves in similar ways for both sexes – leading to an aftermath characterised by heartbreak. That’s where our many anecdotes about jealous lovers come from.
“The responses of men and women to the threat of infidelity range from intense pangs of jealousy to elaborate displays of attention to woo their partner back. Jealousy can also trigger harmful and violent behaviour, so it is important to understand what are the most potent triggers of jealousy.”
This great divide between how men and women perceive romantic disloyalty didn’t, however, hold as true for homosexual men and women – reporting similar reactions to infidelity of emotional and sexual natures. The same was observed among bisexual men and women.
There are, of course, a variety of factors at play in a concept as complex and personal as jealousy in a monogamous relationship. But I believe one thing we can all agree on, is that infidelity – be it sexual or emotional – is massively shitty to be on the receiving end of.
So, as well as you understand the jealousy you or your partner may feel, thanks to science and its wonders, don’t bloody do it unless you’re fuckin’ sure it’s worth the heartbreak. You’re welcome.