In assessing the mental state of M.T. — the Toronto teenager who badgered D.B., a guy she had been briefly involved with, to stab 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel to death in January of last year — the Crown’s expert said she could evolve into someone like the dangerously obsessive character portrayed by actor Glenn Close in the 1987 movie Fatal Attraction. Remember? The boiled pet bunny scene?

While the defense may argue that this is a sensational analogy, the emerging portrait of a young women who has displayed anger, jealousy and manipulation with at least three boyfriends, who is needy and attention-seeking and has abandonment and rejection issues doesn’t exactly make her the poster child for healthy relationships.

Sure, we’ve all had our jealous moments. In fact, I never trust those people who proudly claim: “I simply don’t get jealous.” It’s creepy.

Biologists say jealousy is in our evolutionary interest as it keeps our mate from straying. Anthropologists say it doesn’t exist in cultures where relationships outside of marriage are accepted. Psychologists say people who have experienced abandonment in their lives are often extremely jealous out of fear of losing their partner.

Anthropologist Helen Fisher studied the brain activity of people who were spurned by a lover and discovered that, “The dopamine produced when we fall in love occurs in the ‘rewards system’ of the brain. When the brain realizes that a reward is delayed in coming, other parts of the reward system — those associated with motivation and focused attention — sustain their activity.”

In other words, when we are rejected, we often become more focused on getting that person’s attention. To add insult to injury, the stress involved with not getting what you want further elevates levels of dopamine. Fisher coined the term, “Frustration Attraction” for this condition. You might know it as obsession.

Certainly, when we’re younger and lacking the experience and emotional maturity to handle the heady mix of feelings that relationships bring, jealousy can be an immature response. But most of us eventually learn the destructive nature of this emotion and know when to curb it.

If we don’t, one can become so consumed by it that it causes them to kill someone or to kill themselves, explains Fisher.

One can only hope, as her defense is arguing, that M.T. will gain better control over her emotional issues as she ages. Sadly, Stefanie Rengel will never have that chance.

• What is the financial worth of saying “I Love You?” Find out in Josey’s Sexcetera blog at

– Josey Vogels is a sex and relationship columnist and author of five books on the subjects. For more info, visit

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