May 7, 2012
Jealousy is Not Romantic
Jealousy can be roughly divided into two types: rational and irrational. Rational jealousy is a response to a real situation, such as a partner's untrustworthy behavior or infidelity. Irrational jealousy occurs when there is no misbehavior on the part of the partner, but it is generated from something in the jealous person's emotional makeup.
A person with a chronically jealous nature may be insecure, unable to trust, possessive, or controlling. Jealousy is common in emotionally or physically abusive relationships, where the abuser is constantly accusative, perceiving betrayal in the most innocent of transactions. The abuser attempts to monitor and control the spouse, and often flies into a rage over "nothing". No matter what the victimized spouse does to placate the abuser, the abuser is never satisfied, and the behavior tends to get worse over time.
Sometimes a person suffers from jealousy because he or she feels inadequate and insecure. The jealous person may imagine himself to be unworthy of love, or he may doubt his partner's commitment to the relationship. He compares himself unfavorably to others, and worries that his spouse will choose them over him. If he has been betrayed in the past, he may be hypersensitive to even the tiniest clue that it may happen again. Often, however, jealous feelings are not the result of any actual situation, but just a product of the jealous person's negative view of himself or of the world and relationships in general. The jealous spouse may suffer from frequent anxiety, feelings of helplessness, and fear of rejection, constantly seeking reassurance from the partner. Like the abuser, the inherently anxious partner is never really satisfied by his spouse's assurances, and the relationship is likely to deteriorate over time.
Sometimes there is a rational basis for jealousy. A person who discovers that his or her spouse has been unfaithful will naturally have a very strong response. He will likely experience a whole range of emotions which include anger, resentment, grief, confusion, sadness, anxiety, distrust and jealousy. If both people decide to stay and repair the marriage, these feelings will not go away overnight, but will have to be addressed as part of the process of gradually rebuilding trust.
Even where no actual infidelity has occurred, a spouse's untrustworthy behavior may trigger jealousy. Sadly, some people think it is a good idea to make their spouse jealous as a way to "prove" love. People who feel neglected in a relationship sometimes try this as a way of getting their spouse's attention. Others feel a sense of power when they manipulate their spouse's emotions. The person who is trying to trigger jealousy in the spouse may flirt openly, go overboard in complimenting other people, make unfavorable comparisons between the spouse and another person, and behave in a secretive manner. If a jealous reaction occurs, the manipulator may feel gratified by having obtained the intended result, or he may believe that somehow this proves that he is truly loved by his spouse. But the gratification is only temporary, and it comes at a high price. Deliberately hurting one's spouse and undermining trust makes a relationship worse, not better. Cruel, untrustworthy behavior causes love to fade away.
Of course, even in a happy, healthy relationship, there may be rare moments when a situation leads one partner to feel a momentary twinge of anxiety. But if jealousy is an ongoing theme in a relationship, it needs to be confronted. Both partners need to be sure that they are treating each other with honesty and respect. If the problem is severe, professional counseling may be needed to help one or both partners make important changes in thinking and behavior patterns. Partners in successful relationships show their love, not by making their spouses feel threatened and insecure, but by making them feel safe and valued.