Cheating and Jealousy
Jealousy can be one of the strongest emotions a person experiences. It can motivate actions provoked by feelings of revenge or anger. Anyone can be susceptible to jealousy in one form or another, whether it is through sibling rivalry, or envy of a co-worker or friend. Although possibly the strongest and most recognizable form of jealousy is found in romantic relationships. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of romantic jealousy, it can manifest itself in many ways and often causes problems in otherwise healthy relationships. In today's society, emotionally involved couples usually expect a sexually and emotionally exclusive relationship, unless a prior arrangement has been made. Given the various titles given to relationships (i.e. marriage, engagement, boyfriend/girlfriend, friends with benefits, open dating) the definition of cheating varies from person to person. Therefore, it is important that you and your partner communicate to one another what your boundaries are, and what you believe constitutes cheating in your personal relationship. For example, many couples define cheating as having sex outside of the relationship while others would include other restrictions such as oral sex, kissing, or holding hands.
It may take years to build a strong, trusting relationship and can only take a few moments to destroy it. Sometimes cheating can be accidental, rather than planned. It can happen just one time, with the person vowing to themselves to never let it happen again. However, since each situation is different, it is hard to tell whether or not a person will cheat again. It is also entirely possible for the person cheating to have no emotional attachment to the person they have cheated with. When there are emotions involved, the partner being cheated on may feel cheated even more so because of the sexual and emotional infidelity. It is ultimately up to the other person involved to decide if their partner is worth the risk of possibly being cheated on again in the future.
Cheating in relationships may often be the cause of jealousy. If one partner suspects the other of being unfaithful, they may become jealous. Sometimes, however, the person being cheated on may not recognize the facts or choose to acknowledge what is going on. This is called a "psychological scotoma", the pathological tolerance of unfaithful acts or blindness (Pines,1998: 46). When a person finally realizes what is going on, their reaction may be extreme, which can lead to irrational actions (Baumgart, 1990:27) fueled by jealousy and anger. Jealousy can begin to become somewhat of an addiction. A person can begin to think constantly about their partner cheating or imagine them cheating or even make threats to their partner about what would happen if they were unfaithful. Like most severe addictions, murder or even suicide can be the final result of an overwhelming case of jealousy. Learning that someone you trust is cheating on you may cause extreme emotional damage in addition to jealousy. If your feelings for your partner are fading, or you think you may be interested in seeing someone else, it is wise to talk to your partner. Although it may seem difficult to do, it is better to be open with your partner about your feelings than to hurt them immensely by cheating or doing something else that may harm the relationship. Being in a relationship requires that you not only look out for your own well-being, but your partner's as well.
Although there have been relationships and marriages destroyed because of cheating, many of these relationships could have been salvaged if both parties openly shared their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and desires regularly with each other. It is important to remember that a relationship takes equal amounts of effort from both individuals, and that the goals of both partners should be established from the start. Jealousy is quite common: whether it is in an office setting, school, that dating scene or at home. Jealousy is the root of many difficult dilemmas that couples face together, and it has been around as long as human emotion has existed. Unfortunately, no one can truly trace the source of this overpowering feeling. Although men and women experience jealousy for different reasons and in different ways, it is intrinsically the same emotion in every human being.
Hildegard Baumgart. Jealousy: Experiences and Solutions. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1990.
Pines, Ayala M. Romantic Jealousy; Causes, symptoms, cures. New York. Routledge. 1998.
Last Updated 26 February 2012