Can love really make us jealous?

I love working with people from all different walks of life. I love all the questions people have to life’s big questions. And I equally love all the questions people have to life’s big answers! One that has come up quite frequently in recent months is the question about jealousy. 

I’ve written about the definition of jealousy (and envy) in my blogpost here. But one of the things I haven’t really discussed in the post is what makes people jealous. 

Jealousy as a human emotion can be complex, at times quite disturbing, and never is it ever comfortable. Key foundations of jealousy include fear, resentment, anger, poor self-confidence/esteem, lack of trust (e.g. suspiciousness or disbelief), and insecurity. The thing is, this is not very clear for most people when going through this emotion subjectively. I’ve been speaking to a few young men who have said that they feel jealousy most with their girlfriends – whether that’s just referring to a look, or a word or even body language directed toward anyone other than themselves. But try to introduce the idea that jealousy actually has nothing to do with what their girlfriends do or don’t do, but rather, what is going on inside of themselves, and they are stopped in their tracks. 

There is a great confusion about what love really is and how that links in with jealousy. My ‘rule of life’ says that they couldn’t be further apart from each other! Let’s think about jealousy more realistically and using an analogy of Joe, whose girlfriend is Courtney. Joe will only get jealous if he looks at her or treats her as someone (or something!) he owns or possesses. “She’s mine”. “How dare he look at her like that – only I can do that”. This is absolute folly! Each and every person has been given free will to choose to act or behave in a correct manner. This is a moral responsibility of that other person looking at Courtney (perhaps lustfully), and of Courtney not to encourage that behaviour if she is already in a committed relationship with Joe. How a so-called adversary might look at Courtney is entirely up to him, and this shouldn’t affect Joe’s and Courtney’s relationship. But since Courtney is in a relationship with Joe, he also has a moral responsibility in which he needs to choose how to behave about this situation. 

If Joe reduces Courtney to an object and not a person, then Courtney is a thing that he ‘owns’. According to him, she is no longer entitled to the benefits of what it means to be a human being, a person – capable of making (and free to make) her own choices and choosing what is good. If he chooses to treat her as a person but also as a possession, essentially Joe enslaves Courtney to himself. She is therefore, no longer a free human being, able to make her own choices. She must do all that Joe tells her to do. This is called possessiveness, and is, in my experience, the most common cause of jealousy. Let’s just clarify at this point, that it’s not a bad thing to make commandments, but the context of those commandments must always be made in respect of the freedom of the human being before you. 

Obsession is yet another cause for jealousy. This very powerful notion lived out through a false sense of control, fixation, lack of self-awareness and an abnormal need of self-satisfaction. Just like unhealthy possessiveness and ownership, obsession is rooted in fear. In spirituality, attachment is the modality with which obsession manifests. When fear, attachment and absence of inner freedom combine, obsession becomes fulfilled.

So what is the antidote to all of these influential and difficult-to-get-out-of practices? The antidote is love. You see, love, if understood and lived correctly, isn’t actually a feeling. Yes, feelings do surface as an ‘effect’ of love, but we cannot reduce love to just feelings. Love is so much bigger and so much more than that. Love includes doing what is objectively right by and for the one you love. Freedom and personhood are objective rights that every human being have been granted, and love never crosses that boundary. If Joe really loves Courtney and if Courtney really loves Joe, then they will mutually do what is best and right for each other. This means that there is no room for possessiveness, enslavement or obsessiveness – the real causes of jealousy. When we compare the foundations of jealousy with love, we can see their opposites. 

Jealousy is fueled by…Love is fueled by…
FearCourage (From the word ‘Cor’, which is the Latin word for ‘heart’)
Resentment (consider something as an injury or affront)Pacification (peacefulness) and Gratitude
Poor self-confidence / self-esteemConnection with fullness of one’s own dignity
Doubtfulness (e.g. suspiciousness)Faith and trust
Insecurity‘Free from the dread of evil’ (from the Latin word securus) = Secure

In its very essence, love cannot be separated from its sacrificial and heroic properties. In love, something or someone must be willing to give, and often, this requires a certain vulnerability. This is another subject matter for another time, but suffice it to say that the cost of being loving limits perceived hurt to oneself alone, whereas the cost of being jealous spreads much further than the self, and is therefore of higher objective cost. 

So I hope this explanation helps to answer the question about the source and the power behind jealousy, and hope that where jealousy is brewing, put in love to sabotage it. Jealousy has no space in our lives because it doesn’t build people up – it just tears them down. Jealousy’s destructive nature is the complete opposite of love’s nurturing nature. I have a few personal experiences of this, and know how painful it can be when it’s present and active in someone’s life. 

I’m Claz, a Professional Coach in Career, Life and Health, based in West London, accredited in the UK and enjoy working with individuals as well as organisations across the UK. I am also a Professional Sports Massage Therapist. You can contact me through my website