Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on.
When I was a younger woman, I saw the dangerous side of jealousy… or more accurately, I saw, lived with it, and soon suffered the physical consequences of perceived slights as a victim of domestic abuse.
The incidences started innocent enough, with a snide comment here, a horrible fight there. I convinced myself that I was flattered, that he simply loved me that much. I truly believed if I loved him hard enough, loved him strong enough, he would eventually chill out and we could—no, we would be happy. But love can only do so much for a man drowning in an abyss of insecurities, and soon, he was dragging me under with him, helpless and terrified and trapped in his grip, down deeper and deeper into the dark depths of despair.
Despite my many reassurances and outrageous promises meant to appease him—even proclamations that I would never find another even if he died—it wasn’t enough. He was sure someone better would come along, that I would fall for this person, and I would be gone. It got to the point of him confessing that he would kill me and my family (and whoever else got in his way) if I ever attempted to leave him.
When it comes to relationships, jealousy can turn romantic love into a dangerous obsession. And I loved this man—LOVED this man with all my heart. But I had no choice – I had to leave him. He had become dangerous. In his jealousy, he had become a monster.
It took me a couple years, but I finally got away from him.
His last words were spoken to me from a payphone two states over. “I’m going to kill you, bitch.” My final reply: “You will never hear my voice again.” Click. I hung up on him. And I kept my vow. I never spoke to him again.
Fast forward a few years, and I met the man who would later become my husband. Two months into our relationship, we were not dating exclusively yet, but we were kinda together. A close, mutual friend of ours that we hadn’t seen in over a month returned from an overseas trip. Being that our friend had been away, I might have been showing said friend some extra attention. My not-yet husband’s demeanor changed. He turned cold, distant. When our friend excused himself to use the restroom, I turned to my would-be husband and quietly warned, “Jealousy is unbecoming.” It was my way of saying, “I’m not going to put up with it, and we can end what we have right here and now if you can’t cope with me having male friends.”
From that moment on, my husband never gave me any problems in that area. If he’s ever been jealous, he has somehow learned to resolve it internally without showering me with negativity and/or straining our relationship with his insecurities. But I also credit this to the honesty and open communication between us. First of all, I didn’t wait to address the jealousy issue. I did so as soon as I could, politely, and while we were alone. (Despite his bad behavior, I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of our friend.) Second, I was not going to let him set a precedent for manipulating me. I had done nothing to warrant the attitude, and I was not going to allow it in my life. After all, if we cannot trust each other, how could we ever have a healthy relationship?
Even now, all these years married, we are open communicators. We are not afraid to share our true feelings on anything. For example, we don’t get upset or jealous if one compliments another man or woman, because we are secure in our relationship, and we are trustworthy as individuals. Not only do we trust each other, but we have not given each other reason not to trust the other.
If it should ever come to pass that a violation of trust occurs via infidelity, then we will have to make a decision: either terminate the relationship, or forgive and move on. But reestablishing a relationship after infidelity is not a free-pass to suddenly be jealous and spiteful and abusive. There is no happiness to be found for anyone in that kind of relationship.
What is Jealousy?
While many associate jealousy with envy, Jealousy is defined as “an emotion, and the word typically refers to the thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, concern, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of status or something of great personal value, particularly in reference to a human connection.”
Ways to Deal with Jealousy
If you find yourself succumbing to jealousy, take a deep breath and calm down. Acknowledge the emotion to yourself, but do not blindly lash out. Use a few moments to analyze the who, what, when, where and why so that you can be sure that the emotion is truly called for. Sometimes what we perceive is not the reality of the situation.
If you decide that, yes, there is a valid reason to feel jealous, then wait for an opportune time to calmly discuss the situation with the person who has slighted you. Becoming distant and sullen and seething in silence, or worse, blowing up at the person in mixed company, will only cause distress, embarrassment, and ultimately, more hard feelings for everyone—including the witnesses. If needed, feel free to politely excuse yourself as “under the weather” until later when a time to talk presents itself, or when the conversation permits, calmly ask the person who slighted you to please step aside for a quick, quiet discussion.
Consideration for basic human dignity goes a long way in finding an amicable resolution. Angry accusations, dramatic declarations, smacks to the face, tossed drinks, eruptions of violence, and etcetera might look good in movies and on reality shows, but rarely amount to anything constructive in real life. Such actions usually result in anger and humiliation, banishment from an establishment for causing a scene, possible arrest and jail time and money wasted on court fines and legal fees, and ultimately, a horrible break up and/or expensive divorce.
Instead, express yourself in a manner befitting a mature adult. Lashing out with strong emotion—with jealously exploding into fits of anger, rage and violence—will not solve the problem. Any concessions offered during one of these episodes was probably made under duress to pacify the temper tantrum. If you wish to truly resolve the issue, calmly explain how your feelings are hurt, exactly why you are offended, and offer suggestions to help resolve the problem.
Be prepared to listen.
The person or people who caused your insecurities may have no idea they are or were upsetting you, so be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, be open to compromise. For example, if you perceive your spouse as overly friendly with another, simply demanding that your spouse “Never, ever engage that person again!” might not come off well. Instead ask, “You seem to really like that person, and I want to like him/her as much as you do. What do like most about that person?” You might be surprised by the insight you receive, and may decide to incorporate those interests into your relationship. For example, you might say, “It appears you two have a lot in common. We should all get together and go out for drinks. If he/she doesn’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend, maybe we can invite [single friend] so they can meet.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
If your jealousy becomes unmanageable and is negatively impacting all your relationships, perhaps seek help from a counselor or therapist. Jealousy is a multifaceted, complex emotion. Discussing jealousies, fears, anxieties, and insecurities with a trained professional might help to resolve the problem.