A provocative analysis of the role that jealousy plays in romantic relationships. Based on studies conducted in 37 countries across six continents, Buss (Psychology/Univ. of Texas; The Evolution of Desire, 1994) contends that jealousy is an indispensable component of all long-term relationships: It keeps mates together by sparking passion and commitment. Men and women are seen as locked in perpetual conflict partly because of their contrasting notions of betrayal. Women's jealousy is most often triggered by perceived emotional betrayals, whereas men in all cultures are far more threatened by sexual than emotional infidelity. Jealousy of either sort can turn pathological. As Buss notes, most men and women who are pathologically jealous have partners who have either betrayed them, are currently having affairs, or are contemplating them. Buss does not defend the threat of violence against the errant spouse but observes that it does serve to strengthen the family. It deters the partner from straying, assuring a husband that his wife's biological offspring are his as well. Indeed, Buss remarks that it has been "reproductively advantageous for men in some circumstances to kill an errant partner.— In polygamous societies, for example, killing one's unfaithful wife deters others from straying, and in many Third World societies only the wife's death can restore family honor. Buss points out that even in the US today, legal penalties for killing a wife or a lover tend to be lenient. Particularly interesting is the author's account of the various coping strategies adopted by different societies to deter infidelity. The Bue people in Equatorial Guinea, for instance, cut off one hand for each of the first two offenses. Upon the third offense, the offender is decapitated. Far more widespread is the genital mutilation common in much of Africa, Arabia, Indonesia, and Malaysia. An intriguing exploration of jealousy's power to destroy and renew relationships.
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