Study finds women are more jealous than men of their spouse’s opposite-sex friend

Recently published in the magazine Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, researcher Alyssa M. Sucrese and colleagues investigated romantic jealousy in the context of extramarital (opposite-sex) friendships. The results show that, contrary to previous findings, women tend to be more jealous than men of their partner’s platonic friend of the opposite sex and are more concerned about sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity.

There is extensive work showing sex differences in romantic jealousy, usually within the context of potential rival partners. Research shows that men tend to be more jealous/upset about sexual infidelity (if/when their partner has sex with another man) because the man’s certainty of paternity is threatened and he is at risk of being tricked into parenting. children who are not genetically yours.

On the other hand, women tend to be more jealous/upset about emotional infidelity, as that woman’s access to resources for herself and her children is in danger of being assigned to another woman in whom he can invest. The degree of jealousy experienced by the partner is partially influenced by how attractive the rival partner is, with more attractive rivals evoking higher levels of jealousy. There is little work on romantic jealousy in the context of your partner’s reported platonic friendships.

Considering that friends can require maintenance and commitment, friends of the opposite sex could cause jealousy between the spouse. Sucrese and his colleagues studied romantic jealousy in the context of their partner’s platonic friendships.

In the study, 364 participants were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk. All participants were married, lived in the United States, were at least 18 years old, and spoke English as their first language. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups in which they read different scenarios about imagining their spouse forming a new friendship with people of the opposite sex.

The results of this study show that feelings of jealousy were greater when the friend of the spouse was of the same sex as the participant. Surprisingly (for the researchers), women reported higher levels of jealousy overall than men when imagining their spouse’s friend. This finding suggests that women’s feelings of jealousy are more associated with attractiveness.

The findings also suggest that women’s reproductive success is more threatened by their spouse’s friend, regardless of romantic intent, likely because the man’s friend requires similar maintenance (such as diversion of time and resources) than women. they tend to seek out their mates. Contrary to previous work showing that men tend to be more jealous of sexual infidelity, this study found no sex difference in jealousy over sexual concerns. Sucrese and her colleagues posit that there may be certain contexts in which women’s sexual jealousy is higher than men’s.

Another surprising finding is that men, not women, were more emotionally upset when their spouse’s friend was attractive compared to when he or she was not, regardless of the friend’s sex. Sucrese and his colleagues suggest that this is the case because men may worry that the attractive friend is a potential mate and that an attractive friend may serve as a “helper woman.”

A limitation of this study is that all participants were married, but couples were not studied. These researchers also did not assess how many extramarital friends their spouse had. Participants whose spouse did not have friends of the opposite sex may have been less accurate in identifying how jealous they would be. Finally, only participants who reported some degree of jealousy completed jealousy attribution items, which could have reduced the power in the analysis.

The study “Just friends? The Jealousy of Extramarital Friendships“, was written by Alyssa M. Sucrese, Erica E. Burley, Carin Perilloux, Sarah J. Woods and Zack Bencal.

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