Jealousy in love is a pretty bad thing that brings a lot of harm to all involved. But it’s also a common emotion many can’t help but feel.
How can characters be shown to feel jealousy without immediately blaming them for it? And is “get over it and trust your lover” good enough of a lesson or can we delve deeper into it without looking like we’re supporting toxic behavior?– Thomas
Hi Thomas, fantastic question.
The big problem that we’re seeing right now is that many stories actively romanticize jealousy by framing it as an expression of affection. This often happens before characters in a romance are official partners, and storytellers find it useful because jealous reactions can show feelings that characters are otherwise trying to conceal. However, this pattern inevitably spreads the idea that jealousy is romantic, when it actually indicates relationship insecurity and is a warning sign for controlling and abusive behavior.
However, I do think that jealousy can be worked into a story constructively, and doing so can be really helpful to people who don’t know what to do with these feelings when they have them.
This is what I imagine a positive depiction of jealousy looks like:
- A character recognizes they are jealous. They can admit it to someone else, or if you’re writing in their viewpoint, just think it.
- The character acknowledges that their jealousy is an issue they should take responsibility for. It could cause behavior that’s unfair to others, motivate them to respond to situations in unproductive ways, or if they’ve kept a lid on it, the jealousy may just be unpleasant for them.
- Instead of focusing on the person they are jealous of, the character considers their relationship with the person they care about. Do they feel like that person doesn’t care about them? Is there something they want from that relationship they aren’t getting, such as enough quality time? The jealous character addresses this by either talking to the person they care about what they want from the relationship (generally if the relationship is already established) or otherwise working to build up their relationship with that person in a positive, non-competitive way.
- If the issue can’t be resolved that way – maybe feelings are unrequited or the jealous character is simply inclined toward feeling insecure – the character should look for other constructive ways to channel that insecurity or make themself feel better.
I hope that gives you some ideas.