NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Irrational Jealousy and Mate Guarding in Relationships - Part 1

Most people would agree that being abandoned by a spouse or a romantic partner can be heartbreaking.  This is especially true when a partner leaves to be with someone else.  However, even in relationships where there is no objective threat, jealousy and mate guarding behavior can be the destructive element that drives a couple apart (see my article: Overcoming Jealousy).

Irrational Jealousy and Mate Guarding in Relationships

What is Mate Guarding?
Mate guarding occurs in both the animal kingdom and among humans.

Mate guarding can involve:
  • keeping constant tabs on a partner
  • checking that a partner is where s/he says she is
  • going through a partner's phone or personal items to look for suspicious calls, texts or email, letters, hotel bills, etc.
  • secretly listening into phone calls
  • installing a tracking device in a partner's phone or car
  • stalking/spying on a partner
  • asking friends or other individuals to keep tabs on a partner
  • questioning a partner about friendships, coworkers and other people
  • constantly questioning a partner's motives about engaging in separate activities
  • wanting a partner to give up certain social activities 
And so on.

The Effect of Irrational Jealousy and Mate Guarding in Relationships
Irrational jealousy that turns into mate guarding can have a very toxic effect on a relationship.  The partner who is engaging in mate guarding can lose objectivity and become irrational and accusatory.

Most partners who are being unfairly accused of wrongdoing eventually become resentful.  In addition, the partner who is on the receiving end of mate guarding behavior often feels controlled and suffocated, which creates even greater problems.  

By being irrationally jealous, the partner who fears being abandoned can actually bring about the demise of the relationship if the partner gets fed up.  At the very least, it erodes the quality of the relationship.

When someone has a history of jealous mate guarding, s/he often has insecure attachment problems, specifically, anxious attachment.  See my articles:  
In my next article, I'll provide a clinical example of irrational jealousy and mate guarding in a relationship.  See Part 2 of this topic.

Getting Help in Therapy
It can be difficult to step back from irrational jealousy on your own.  Triggers often occur so quickly that you don't have time to reflect on your irrational thoughts.

Even if you know objectively that your jealousy is irrational, you might feel very different on an emotional level.

A skilled psychotherapist can help you get to the root of your problems to help you change your behavior.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional so you can enjoy your relationship and live a more fulfilling life (see my article: How Therapy Can Help You to Overcome Your Fear of Abandonment).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up an appointment, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.