Battling the green-eyed monster

Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2008
Most everybody has felt jealousy at one time or another. Sometimes the feeling is justified, but often it is not. Ultimately jealousy is based on fear – fear of abandonment, fear of losing one’s love, fear of being embarrassed or shamed in front of our friends or community. Often jealousy has its origin in low self-esteem or unresolved issues from the past that have not healed.

Arlene, a twice divorced woman, admits that “I wrecked both my marriages because of my incessant jealousy. It is a fact that my first husband betrayed me with another woman, but I now recognize that I had a role in driving him into her arms. When he admitted his affair to me, I almost felt vindicated. My suspicions were warranted, he proved me right. I was devastated by his leaving and felt deeply wronged, but I never questioned my own doings.

“My second husband was a very loving man but within a few months after the wedding, the ugly suspicions crept back into my mind. I eventually accused him of a wandering eye and being unnecessarily flirtatious. I started checking up on him secretly.

“The moment he left our home, my fears took over. I just couldn’t keep my jealous demons in check until we came to blows. I reached the bottom of my emotional barrel when I finally was willing to deal with my real problem: lack of self esteem.

“Jealousy simply was the manifestation of my lack of belief in myself. I felt I wasn’t worthy of being loved, that I wasn’t pretty or intelligent enough. So why would anybody want to stay with me? To obfuscate these dreadful feelings, I looked for reasons to justify my anxieties and chose to find fault with my partners.”

In many cases when we feel jealousy, it is important to recognize that we are dealing with symptoms that mask a deeper emotional problem. Consequently, the healing must start by isolating the real cause of our painful feelings. That isn’t easy, and we may need the help of professional counseling.

On the other hand, there are definitely cases where a partner’s behavior, knowingly or not, can be the cause for legitimate feelings of jealousy. People in a relationship are not always conscious or sensitive enough to consider how their actions affect their partners. They are not seemingly aware of being overly solicitous or openly flirtatious in social situations. Being late regularly without offering a plausible explanation can arouse suspicion. Showing less or no interest in sexual activity may set off the “what’s wrong” alarm.

Poor communication or confusing signals can be disturbing to a partner. If suspicions mount, it is best to clarify the situation before the buried problem becomes insurmountable. An open, non-accusatory
discussion with your loved one is the way to dodge the emotional minefield.

Help your partner understand how his or her specific behavior makes you feel. Don’t accuse, explain. Don’t pounce; evoke your partner’s positive side and make it clear that you want to find a solution that improves the relationship for both of you. Accusations or threats never work. They create more distance and distrust.

Once you present your case, just listen. Give the other time to respond without interrupting. The offending partner has to have a chance to learn how his or her behavior affects the relationship. The message has to sink in before a decision to change can be made. Once it is pointed out, and there is a willingness to take responsibility for past transgressions and correct them, behavioral change is a realistic goal.

The process must start with what I would call “learning steps”, daily communication to help each other understand why hurts occur and how to help each other avoid further pitfalls. Commit to approach the problem together and acknowledge improvements. Relating takes two people working as a team to achieve the loving relationship you seek.


Jacqueline Brandwynne is creator of the Very Private line of products. Visit her at veryprivate.com.

Categories: Very Private

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