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Which Type of Jealousy are You?

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When South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was caught red-handed returning from a rendezvous with his Argentine mistress last June, he told the Associated Press that he had met his “soul mate.” His choice of words seemed to suggest that having a deep emotional and spiritual connection with Maria Belen Chapur somehow made his sexual infidelity to his now estranged wife, Jenny Sanford, less tawdry.

What the two-timing governor didn’t understand is that most women view emotional infidelity as worse, not better, than sexual betrayal. This may explain why Hillary Clinton stayed with Bill Clinton and seemed unconcerned about his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Past research has documented that most men become more green-eyed about sexual infidelity than they do about emotional infidelity. Women are the exact opposite, and this is true, according to conventional wisdom, worldwide. But why?

The prevailing theory dates back to our evolutionary origins: Men learned over the eons to be hyper-vigilant about sex because it was impossible to be absolutely certain they are the father of a child, while women became adamant about having a partner who is committed to raising a family.

However, new research now suggests an alternative explanation. Pennsylvania State University psychological scientists Kenneth Levy and Kristen Kelly propose that jealousy difference may be rooted more in individual personalities resulting from one’s own relationship history, but those differences can fall along gender lines.

Levy and Kelly doubted the prevailing evolutionary explanation because a conspicuous subset of men exist who, like most women, find emotional betrayal more distressing than sexual infidelity. Why would this be? Their hunch was that it might have to do with trust and emotional attachment.

Some people, men and women alike, are more secure in their attachments to others, while others tend not to need a close attachment in their relationships.

Psychologists see this compulsive self-reliance as a defensive strategy to protect against deep-seated feelings of vulnerability.

Add a Comment2 Comments

Thanks for your comments Susan. Good insight as well.

February 16, 2010 - 8:22am
HERWriter Guide


This is fascinating stuff - thanks for your article!

I have come across so many men and women who are jealous in general. Jealous of the opposite sex their partner may work with, many lunch with (even in a group setting) and just other members of the opposite sex in general. I think it must be a horrible, suffocating way to live.

But in terms of sexual affairs or emotional affairs, I concur with those who would feel far worse about the emotional aspect, than the physical. While we can't dismiss the physical aspect of an affair (including the risk of pregnancy and STDs/STI's) as well as the gross factor of knowing our partner was naked with another (and all that lying and deceit!) , the emotional aspect is really worrying.

Men find it difficult, at times, to emote with women. The fact that they were doing just that with a woman other than their spouse can be an immense feeling of guilt and betrayal for many women.

Contrary to popular (and ignorant) belief, men are not all horny dogs who'd do it with anyone in an alley. Men have standards, feelings, wants and needs just like women. And the fact that they go to another woman they can really talk with, instead of their wife, is crushing.

If you look at the "other women" in many mens lives, many are not remotely of the "WOW!!" factor! Men don't cheat for looks (aside from one night stands), they have affairs because the other woman makes him feel so good about himself. In how she listens, treats him well, builds him up and in how she makes him feel in general.

Granted, the other woman doesn't share financial pressures with him, or kids or busy lives that can hinder romance - their time together is always fun time, not 'real' time.

Let's not forget that women do not hold the monopoly on emotions and feelings in a marriage. Some men will cheat regardless. He could have a fantastic wife and still stray. But I would take the risk and say that many, many men cheat for the same reason women do - they want to feel good emotionally as well as physically.

I tend to think that one nighters with a stranger are all about sex and nothing more. But affairs are almost always emotional, as well as physical - for both men and women.

February 12, 2010 - 1:13pm
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