TCK RELATIONSHIPS: Closeness and jealousy

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Culturs-expert-flagThe following finding on a new relationship study didn’t surprise me, but it was hard to hear. The study found that if your romantic partner is a large part of your self-concept and a part of your future projects, you are disposed to jealousy when the relationship is at risk.[1] The study is limiting in that only around 230 students participated, and they were all from American universities. The average age of the participants was also only 19 years of age and 60 percent of the participants were women, which could skew the data as well.[2] However, it did get me thinking about how the closeness of your romantic relationship can have an impact on the likelihood of you feeling jealous.


It was hard to hear that being in a close relationship and making your partner an important part of your future plans makes you prone to jealousy, and especially frustrating to me as it took a long time as an adult Third Culture Kid or TCK to warm up to the idea of keeping friendships and relationships for the long-term, rather than only for a couple of months. Having had to leave every three or four years growing up as a result of my dad’s job, I started believing it was normal for people to leave one day to the next. I also used to believe it was better to expect people not to stay, rather than be let down later on.

But, over the years, I have learned that not everyone leaves! And I now consider the friends in my life to be ones who will be there for a long time. With this change in perspective, I can also see a vast improvement in my friendships and relationships as a result of visualizing the future with them in it. This shift in perspective has improved my state of my mind and ensured that I set out the valuable face-to-face time to see them. I invite them to important events in my life and reach out to them when I’m worried and need their support.

This study unfortunately reminded me that although closer relationships can add value to your life, it also means that you ultimately feel you have more to lose. The study presented a definition of jealousy as a reaction one has when we feel a real or perceived risk of losing something valuable in our relationship.[3] It makes sense to me that the closer you become to the person you’re dating, and the more time you spend with them, the more you feel you have to lose. And potentially the more jealous you could become?


I arrived at the following conclusion: it’s inevitable that at times you’ll feel jealous. It could be that you’ve had an especially stressful week, and you see your partner or date flirting with a colleague or with an acquaintance at a party. Without meaning to, you react emotionally to this scene. Although jealousy is bound to arise once in a while, I still think there are certain factors that increase the likelihood of us feeling jealous. For me, I realized that it’s when my life is thrown out of balance. That’s when I feel out of control and more vulnerable than usual.
There are certain areas of my life that are important to me including my family, fitness, my business and friends and when I neglect these areas of my life by spending too much time with my partner that’s when I lose the balance in my life. Even though my romantic relationship is incredibly important to me, I need to remember to dedicate just as much time to the other important areas of my life. By doing this, I remain the confident and composed person that I am. It also means that I’m less likely to react emotionally to a ‘perceived’ risk to my relationship. Therefore, I personally do not believe that keeping everyone at arm’s length and avoiding close relationships is the key to avoid jealousy. I have found that for me it’s more about maintaining a balance in my life and ensuring that I dedicate and invest time to all of the other important parts of my life.

[1] Attridge, M. (2013). Jealousy and Relationship Closeness Exploring the Good (Reactive) and Bad (Suspicious) Sides of Romantic Jealousy. Sage Open3(1), 2158244013476054.


[2] Attridge, M. (2013). Jealousy and Relationship Closeness Exploring the Good (Reactive) and Bad (Suspicious) Sides of Romantic Jealousy. Sage Open3(1), 2158244013476054.


[3] White, G. L., & Mullen, P. E. (1989). Jealousy: Theory, research, and clinical strategies. New York, NY: Guilford.


  1. This is such a cool perspective! Your opinion on jealousy and how you can avoid jealousy by keeping a balance in your life sounds like something I would say. I’m always trying to keep all different areas of my life in equality because I realized that my mind and spirit is more harmonious that way.

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