The Effects of Relationship and Self-Esteem Threats on the Likelihood of Romantic Jealousy


Much of the psychological theory and research on romantic jealousy emphasizes the roles of threats to self-esteem and threats to the relationship (from a romantic rival) in generating jealous feelings. However, the causal effects of these threats on the occurrence of jealousy have not yet been examined. In the present study, subjects imagined themselves in four types of jealousy-provoking situations (relatively low and high threat to self-esteem crossed with relatively low and high threat to the relationship) and, in each one, estimated the likelihood that they would become jealous, angry, sad and fearful, and that they would seek proximity to their partner. Results showed that changes in the likelihood of jealousy and its concomitant emotions were a function of changes in the intensity of both types of threats, as expected. However, proximity-seeking increased among men only when relationship threat increased. Among women, the likelihood of seeking proximity increased (relative to the joint-low-threat condition)when either type of threat increased alone but not when both threats increased together. The relevance of these findings to recent formulations of jealousy processes from an attachment perspective and to previous research on jealousy and relationships is discussed.


Psychological Science

Keywords and Phrases

Jealousy; Jealousy Threats; Romantic Jealousy

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 1995 SAGE Publications Inc., All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 1995