Why The Word “Jealousy” Is Useless — Jealousy Part 1

We need something a bit more nuanced to get to root causes and effective resolutions.

I recently wrote a series on monogamy and open relationships. Knowing there was a lot to say about jealousy I promised a separate article on just that topic. The result is this six part series.

And the place to start is with acknowledging that the word Jealousy has very limited value.

Everyone knows what it is and what it feels like. Jealousy is a common, recognizable feeling, among the most intense in the emotional spectrum. In terms of urgency it is roughly equivalent to having a hand on a hot stove.

As a way to name that familiar feeling, the word Jealousy is great. Everyone immediately gets it. But its usefulness pretty much ends there. It certainly doesn’t provide any insight into what’s going on or what to do. It’s worse than useless, in fact, because it’s misleading.

Jealousy is an umbrella term. It’s an oversimplification of a whole constellation of complex, nuanced thoughts and feelings. There are distinct flavors, with different causes and resolutions, that need to be distinguished.

Compared to what’s there, Jealousy—the word—is more of a dismissive wave of the hand. Oh, you’re just jealous, that’s all. Case solved, nothing more to say about it.

So Jealousy runs cover for other, deeper feelings.

And the advice Jealousy conjures can be pretty crappy. Basically, “Get over it,” if it’s someone else’s jealousy — with no insight into how to go about that — or if it’s your jealousy, the solution is for your partner to immediately and permanently stop all activities that make you jealous. Now. Period. End of story.

Often Jealousy’s advice is just to throw the bastard out.

We need something a little more nuanced. And a little more useful.

This series will help couples understand the mechanisms of jealousy and identify what kind, what flavor, of jealousy is arising between them, which can provide insight into the dynamics of the relationship and how it might be better.

(Next up: Rational vs. Emotional?)

© 2016 by Ken Blackman. All rights reserved.