Is There Such a Thing as Positive Jealousy?

It is normal to hear that jealousy is synonymous with toxicity, but on some occasions, this can be positive, and can even improve relationships.
Is There Such a Thing as Positive Jealousy?
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 31 January, 2024

Jealousy is a part of our human condition. There are millions of references to it and it has always been considered one of the most destructive forces in existence.

In biblical mythology, jealousy is what breaks the fraternal relationship between Cain and Abel, the first pair of brothers in religious history. In Greek mythology, a bout of jealousy is what sparks the Trojan War.

Likewise, in every culture, there is some myth or legend referring to jealousy in its multiple facets. Sometimes it manifests as envy, other times as excessive suspicion or apprehension. In general, it is considered a negative emotion which should, therefore, be avoided.

“Jealousy is generated among those who love each other, from the breeze that blows past, the sun that shines on them, and even from the earth beneath their feet.”
-Miguel de Cervantes-

It’s hard to imagine a human being who has never been jealous at least once. It’s almost impossible to go about your life without having experienced the sting of envy or the tempest of amorous suspicion. Sometimes very intensely and other times not as much.

These emotions impose the fear of losing your loved one and suffering a narcissistic wound. This is not a pleasant experience in the least.

Couples feel jealous towards each other. Siblings, friends, and coworkers feel jealous towards each other. Despite the bad name of this emotional reaction, it’s worth asking a certain question.

Could jealousy have a positive side? Where is the positive aspect that every negative emotion should have? The truth is that at times envy appears as a sign of the individual’s mental health.

The following situations described could explain what we’re talking about.

Jealousy is positive when it serves as a warning

Say someone decided to they wanted to steal your girlfriend or boyfriend. In theory, you shouldn’t feel insecure in those cases, since this would only mean that you distrust yourself or your relationship.

However, in practical terms, it’s hard to not feel a bit of fear in these circumstances. In this case, jealousy serves as a warning sign.

Some people even go as far as to take advantage of a weakness or a rough patch your relationship might be going through. Sometimes they’re inspired by a genuine attraction towards the person already in a committed relationship.

Other times, they simply want to show or prove to others that they can take something loved by another. Or to acquire a belonging which currently belongs to you.

Getting jealous in these cases is perfectly understandable and healthy. It makes your warning alarms go off in order to defend your territory and your affection.

Any of us could lose a loved one or an object due to carelessness. In this case, being jealous could point out this possibility and would give you the necessary energy to do whatever it takes to prevent this loss. 

A man with birds circling around him.

Keep in mind that it’s not strange for you to have something that others might want. That doesn’t make these other people the bad guys, nor does it make you the victim of some sort of ploy. You could simply have a job position or some kind of privilege that triggers envy.

The negative side is when someone tries to take what’s yours. If you have objective evidence that this is happening, it’s obvious that jealousy will appear.

In this case, it reflects an attitude of caution with the things you deem yours and which are being threatened. It is positive because it calls you to defend what’s yours.

When you’re not well and someone boasts of their well-being

This type of situation reflects immaturity, but it doesn’t make it any less irritating. It happens when you’re going through a rough patch and someone decides to boast about their success in front of you. In these circumstances, it’s normal for you to find it hard to be happy it.

There is a difference between sharing the news of one’s success and boasting about them. The difference is what might make you uncomfortable.

Here, jealousy is an obvious response towards an attitude that you consider offensive. Nobody is forcing you to stop being happy just because you are unhappy.

But it is also not considerate of someone to point something out just to make you uncomfortable. In any case, it’s a feeling that you shouldn’t pay much attention to.

Don’t feed it, because it’s not worth it. Also, don’t feel bad about experiencing it. It’s simply human.

A bird with a human face.

When you are being intentionally ignored

This can happen in a relationship, with your family, or anywhere. We’re talking about when you perceive that your feelings are being ignored or aren’t being given their due value.

For example, when your significant other mentions how attractive another person looks. Or when you’re taking part of a team project, and your effort isn’t acknowledged, only that of your coworkers.

In this case, jealousy is a discomfort that arises because you feel undervalued. There is a conflict because you need to be given the place of importance your think you deserve. You need your worth to be vindicated.

Don’t ignore this unease, but don’t enlarge it either. Jealousy can simply be indicating that you feel uncomfortable with this deal.

The important thing, in any case, is to not allow your jealousy to grow incessantly. Nor should you let it control and determine your behavior. This could lead to a lot of harm.

While it can be a positive emotion in many circumstances, don’t forget that it can also become your worst enemy if you don’t know how to manage it.

A woman with a tail holding a bird: jealousy

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.