How do partners communicate about jealousy in a digital age?
Jennifer Bevan, professor in the department of communication studies at Chapman University, discusses whether face-to-face communication is still the norm in these interactions.
Dr. Jennifer L. Bevan (B.A., M.A., University of Delaware, Ph.D.; University of Georgia) is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Director of the Health and Strategic Communication M.S. program. Before joining Chapman University in 2007, she served on the faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and at the University of Southern California. Her research and teaching interests center upon interpersonal and health communication within close relationships. Dr. Bevan’s research topics include the negotiation of difficult interactions such as ongoing conflict, jealousy, long-distance caregiving, uncertainty, and topic avoidance, as well as related psychological and physical health correlates of these experiences. She teaches courses in interpersonal communication, health communication theory, nonverbal communication, and conflict.
Dr. Bevan’s publications include over 50 peer-reviewed or invited scholarly communication and biomedical articles and book chapters appearing in such journals as Human Communication Research, Communication Research, Communication Monographs, Journal of Health Communication, and Computers in Human Behavior. She was recognized by a November 2009 study in Communication Research Reports as one of the most prolific scholars in the field of communication studies. She is also a 2014 Valerie Scudder Award winner, which is Chapman University’s top faculty “all-around” award for teaching, research, and service.
Her first book, The Communication of Jealousy (2013, published by Peter Lang) was awarded the 2014 Diamond Anniversary Book Award by the National Communication Association (NCA), the 2014 Gerald R. Miller Book Award by the Interpersonal Communication Division of NCA, and the 2013 Outstanding Book Award by NCA’s Communication and Social Cognition Division. Her dissertation, “Intrapersonal Consequences of Another’s Jealousy Expression: Toward a Reaction Model of Jealousy in Close Relationships” received the 2003 Interpersonal Communication Division Dissertation Award from the International Communication Association. Dr. Bevan has also been awarded numerous top student paper and top four paper awards in health and interpersonal communication at national and regional communication conventions. She currently serves on the editorial boards of Personal Relationships, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and Contemporary Argumentation and Debate, and is the Editor of the journal Communication Reports, published by the Western States Communication Association.
Romantic Jealousy in the Digital Age
Romantic jealousy arises in response to a need to protect and defend a valued romantic relationship from the threat of a perceived – and possibly actual – third-party rival; and it includes emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. Romantic jealousy can be communicated in a variety of ways: by openly discussing your jealous feelings, by avoiding the partner, by contacting the rival, or by engaging in physical violence – with the assumption that these all typically occur face-to-face.
But as the use of technology has grown, has the expression of romantic jealousy migrated to technologically mediated communication as well?
The answer, interestingly, is yes, and no. When asked about the last time people expressed romantic jealousy, the vast majority indicated using face-to-face communication. The second most common channel for expressing jealousy was text messaging, which half of people reported using. Texting is the most frequently used smartphone feature. So perhaps texting about serious, potentially conflict-laden topics such as romantic jealousy is becoming more socially acceptable.
But most people also indicated that they used multiple methods of communicating their romantic jealousy – meaning that they used both face-to-face communication and email, or both texting and video-conferencing.
This means that romantic partners are shifting back and forth between different forms of communication in a single interaction fairly easily – even about a difficult topic such as jealousy. Even more significantly, when people used multiple forms of communication when discussing their romantic jealousy, they were likely to communicate more constructively with their partners.