It's important to be able to identify the signs and root causes of an ex's jealousy.

If a Guy Is Jealous, Does That Mean He Still Has Feelings for Me?

by Alexandra Yellin

Jealousy is a complex emotion, a combination of fear and anxiety. It is difficult to say whether jealousy in an ex indicates that he still cares for you. And determining this depends greatly on how your ex is portraying his jealousy, and what your relationship with him was like. Jealousy alone is an emotion, and thus your ex is still feeling something towards you. However, a few considerations may help you determine if he might still carry a torch for you.

Envy vs. Jealousy

Jealousy and envy can be difficult to distinguish. Jealousy is anxiety and suspicion that stems from fear of loss, or being replaced by someone else. Envy is coveting something another person possesses. When you are envious, you want something that someone else has. As envy is a sense of longing, if an ex is envious of your new beau he may have feelings for you. But jealousy is not so simple. A jealous ex is feeling anxious over the thought of being replaced, but this does not necessarily indicate that he still has feelings for you.

How to Recognize Jealousy

Men tend to portray jealousy in strange ways. Your ex might abruptly pick fights with you, or with your new boyfriend, and act anxious and angry. Or, on the contrary, he might suddenly seek your attention more often, even pursue a romantic relationship with you again. Or, he may strut a new girlfriend out in front of you and brag of new sexual exploits, in an attempt to make you jealous as well. Any of these behaviors could mean that he’s jealous.

Fear, Ego and Humiliation

Jealousy occurs for several reasons. Fear of losing something he once possessed -- for example, you -- can cause jealousy. Another is ego. When a man sees a former lover with someone new, he sometimes feels he must prove his manliness by acting unduly aggressive. This is linked to the final cause of jealousy: humiliation. When you find yourself with a new man, your former beau may experience a deep sense of humiliation, a blow to his ego. Since jealousy is motivated by shame, the self-protective response of expressing anger can be triggered, notes psychologist Donald Nathanson.

Wanting What You Cannot Have

People want what they cannot have for three reasons: heightened attention, perceived scarcity, and psychological "reactance," notes psychologist Pauline Wallin. First, when something is hard to get or forbidden, you may automatically pay more attention to it. Next, when something is in short supply -- to your ex, that’s you -- its perceived value increases. Then finally, there’s the childlike reaction in people when they are told they cannot have something and immediately want it more.

About the Author

Alexandra Yellin works in communications and development at a nonprofit in Boston that provides services to individuals with psychological disorders and developmental disabilities. She has worked as a full-time assistant teacher in hospitals in London and Boston, and as a researcher and writer in the developmental psychology field.

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