Western Producer February 8, 1990
Q: I’d only been married a few weeks when my husband began to make comments such as "I should start running around and see how long it takes to be found out". Yet, he claimed to love me. And, I loved him! He showed more interest in his other lady friends, and his sister, who he treated like a wife, than in me. Finally I couldn’t cope with my intense jealous feelings any longer, and I left him.
He later agreed that we got along fine as long as we were alone. Perhaps I shouldn’t have felt badly about being pushed back, and not being noticed as soon as another woman was in our company. But, my jealousy tore me to pieces when that happened. I feel these emotions today, almost to the same degree, since he still means so much to me. Can you define jealousy for me? I’d like to receive your materials on assertiveness and how to detach emotionally from someone.
A: Jealousy is the fear that a person you love may love or prefer someone else more. You may be jealous about the person you love or the one you think is trying to steal him away. Jealousy is often equated with envy, but envy involves wanting something you don’t really have. Envy and jealousy get linked up when you’re in a situation such as you described, where you believe a person has made a commitment to you, but discover, are afraid or are suspicious, that they aren’t being true to it. Nancy Friday’s book "Jealousy" explores this subject thoroughly.
Possessive jealousy, seen in insecure people, is the need to totally control and own another person. It’s a way of covering up one’s fear that someone else doesn’t love you, which may very well be true. In its extreme form, possessive jealousy can result in a person hounding someone who has no desire to be with them or even see them. Extreme jealousy is often a sign of an addiction to a person in somewhat the same way they can become addicted to drugs or alcohol. A classic case of displaced possessive jealousy was seen in the person who felt he was "in love" with Anne Murray some years ago.
Tragically, society often teaches men false beliefs about their relationship to women, which leads them to treat women as a possession. This also leads to chauvinistic attitudes by men towards women, and also is the real cause behind most spouse abuse. Your jealousy involves hurt and fear, the hurt of a broken expectation or contract with your husband, and the fear that your investment of your emotions in him is going down the drain.
You expected to be treated with respect and as a person of importance by him when you married. That’s a reasonable expectation. Yet your husband treated you as if you could be put on a shelf and ignored when other interests caught his attention. Whether he was joking or not with his comments about running around, he disregarded how much you valued the contract of fidelity and faithful ness you rightfully expected in marriage. Some things are too important to joke about. Infidelity is one of these. Your jealousy was a normal response to his statements as well as to his behavior.