Recently published in the magazine Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, researcher Alyssa M. Sucrese and her colleagues examined romantic jealousy in the context of extramarital (of the opposite sex) friendships. The results show that, in contrast to previous findings, women are more jealous than men of the platonic friend of their opposite sex partner and are more concerned about sexual infidelity than about emotional infidelity.
There is extensive work showing gender differences in romantic jealousy, usually within the context of potential rival partners. Research shows that men tend to be more jealous/dismayed at sexual infidelity (if/when his partner has intercourse with another man) because the man’s paternity security is threatened and he is at risk of being cheated to produce offspring that are not genetically his.
On the other hand, women are often more jealous/dismayed at emotional infidelity because that woman’s access to resources for her and her children risks being allocated to another woman in whom he can invest. The degree of jealousy the partner experiences is influenced in part by how attractive the rival partner is, with more attractive rivals evoking higher levels of jealousy. There is little work regarding romantic jealousy in the context of their partner’s reported platonic friendships.
Since friends may require maintenance and commitment, friends of the opposite sex may arouse jealousy in the spouse. Sucrese and colleagues studied romantic jealousy in the context of their partner’s reported 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 native language. The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups in which they read different scenarios in which they imagined their spouse forming a new friendship between the opposite sex.
Results from this study show that feelings of jealousy were greater when the partner’s friend was of the same sex as the participant. Surprisingly (to the researchers), women reported higher levels of overall jealousy than men when imagining their husband’s girlfriend. 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 husband’s girlfriends, regardless of romantic intentions, probably because the man’s boyfriend needs the same maintenance (such as time commitment and resources) that women tend to get from their husbands. to find partners. Contrary to previous work showing that men tend to be more jealous of sexual infidelity, this study found no gender differences in jealousy about sexual concerns. Sucrese and colleagues argue that there may be certain contexts in which women’s sexual jealousy is greater than men’s.
Another surprising finding is that men, not women, were more emotionally distressed when their partner’s boyfriend was attractive than unattractive, regardless of the friend’s gender. Sucrese and colleagues suggest this is because men may worry that the attractive male friend is a potential mate and an attractive female friend may serve as a “wing woman.”
A limitation of this study is that all participants were married individuals, but couples were not studied. These researchers also did not assess how many extramarital friends their spouse had. Participants whose spouses do 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 power in the analysis.
The study, “Just Friends? Jealousy of Extramarital Friendships,” was written by Alyssa M. Sucrese, Erica E. Burley, Carin Perilloux, Sarah J. Woods, and Zack Bencal.