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Do Bisexual People Experience Jealousy in the Same Way as Heterosexual People?  

Classic research on jealousy in heterosexual couples tells us that women are more concerned about men’s emotional infidelity, because if a man is emotionally attached to a rival woman, this undermines the closeness in the original relationship. Evolutionary theorists believe this is upsetting because the man may spend his time, money, or other resources on the rival, instead of on the original woman and her children. However, men tend to be slightly more concerned about women’s sexual infidelity, possibly to rule out paternity uncertainty if the couple has a child.1 But does jealousy occur the same way in bisexual individuals?

Self-identifying bisexuals, recruited from American GLBT organizations, completed an online survey about jealousy.2 This group included women dating men, women dating women, men dating women, and men dating men, though only one member of each couple participated. All participants had to imagine a hypothetical scenario in which a serious romantic partner had become interested in someone else (i.e., a rival partner). Participants then specified which upset them more: imagining their partner “enjoying passionate sexual intercourse” or “forming a deep emotional attachment” with this rival. Significantly more bisexual men dating women were upset by the idea of sexual infidelity, compared to the other types of couples. This supports the traditional sex differences in jealousy hypothesis, as only the bisexual men dating women would face paternal uncertainty in cases of infidelity.

It seems, then, that the experience of jealousy in bisexuals fits the pattern of jealousy in heterosexuals, and only the individual’s experience may change, depending on whom he or she is dating. That is, a bisexual man may be more distressed by his female partner’s sexual infidelity than her emotional infidelity, but if he is dating another man, a case of emotional infidelity would likely upset him more.

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1Buss, D. M., Larsen, R. J., Westen, D., & Semmelroth, J. (1992). Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution, physiology, and psychology. Psychological Science, 3, 251-255. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.1992.tb00038.x

2Scherer, C. R., Akers, E. G., & Kolbe, K. L. (in press, 2013). Bisexuals and the sex differences in jealousy hypothesis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi: 10.1177/0265407513481446

Dr. Helen Lee Lin - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Helen's past research has focused on potential problems in relationships, such as keeping secrets from a significant other. She is also interested in communication as well as the use and consumption of media in relationships, and is planning to work in applied contexts for her future projects. 

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