When you feel a surge of sexual jealousy, you’re responding to the possibility of being abandoned by your partner. But on a deeper level, jealousy is sounding a genetic alarm. Of course, your genes are the last thing on your mind as you watch your beloved flirt with an attractive stranger, but it is our genetic booty that jealousy’s urgent stab has evolved to defend. Our bodies and minds spring from thousands of generations of successful survival and mating ploys, all of which now operate in us. The most basic strategy is mate-guarding, on display during any cocktail party or Sunday stroll through the park: the innocent urge to put your arm around your partner in casual conversation; the not-so-innocent mention of a partner’s flaws, as if to say, “Trust me, this person is not the dazzling package she appears to be.” These are time-honored techniques to fend off potential rivals. Evolutionary psychologists and anthropologists believe that our ancestors rarely got a second chance to woo a mate. And the pool of potential dates on Cavematch.com was in the low two digits. It therefore behooved our ancestors to be hypervigilant about any real or imagined threats to their relationships. There are two ways jealousy manifests itself: as an appropriate concern and as a destructive disturbance. Jealousy is either a fine feather duster or a blunt mallet, depending on how we perceive our own value on the mate market. When jealousy simply alerts us, it is likely to result from a concern for the relationship. But when it is destructive, it is usually triggered by insecurity about our prospects. People with a poor sense of self (that is, those who are desperate to preserve their mating prospects) are more prone to the deep hurt and fury that precede angry outbursts. Today your odds of longevity and fecundity are much better, but if you feel that you’re worthless, then you might as well be living in the Pleistocene, so tenaciously will you try to retain your mate. The trouble is, it won’t work. Because the easily tripped alarm of excessive jealousy stimulates Neanderthink, the consequences of abandonment (the worst-case scenario) are exaggerated. Getting dumped requires an adjustment, and although that adjustment is rarely life or (genetic) death, as it might have been eons ago, we still fear the loss of our partner and crave constant reassurance. Paradoxically, however, a person who needs reassurance of devotion and fidelity will drive a partner away and into the arms of a rival. Othello instructed us: Harmful jealousy springs from a weak sense of self.. By accepting that perfect reassurance cannot really exist and that you do not absolutely need it, you can redirect your efforts to improving your relationship. The energy spent seeking an ironclad guarantee of fidelity could be better spent, say, being the fun-loving person with whom your partner would want to have an affair. From an on-line article by Nando Pelusi, Ph.D. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200607/jealousy-voice-possessiveness-past
Chains do not hold a marriage together.
It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years.
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