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Jealousy and its Discontents

Bryan de Justin

Reality has limits, but the imagination has none. Those in love can attest to the veracity of that truth. He who rejects this premise either has never been in love or lacks the heart to do so. For how strong has one felt the bourgeoning doubts of a lovers fidelity? How well aquatinted has one in love ever been with the whispers of doubt echoing in their left ear? It is fair to say that ocean has limits, yet deep desire has none. Yet in this moment of maddening inundation, reason gives way to anger. And just as Anger begins with madness, it ends with regret. If we are are able to tame and ride the horse rather than letting the horse ride us, the plant reveals what is in the seed and we can give way to a prudent and enriching relational experience.

Jealousy is a normal response to a supposed or threatened loss of affection. Generally, jealousy springs from an affection for a person who supposedly diverts attention to another. Emotional security being felt as shattered due to the lover and/or the supposed rival. It also exists when one partner has more ability to attract mates so the other will be more jealous. Less time couples spend together also equals more jealousy they are inclined to feel. Previous infidelity also fertilises jealousy. Yet the great majority of love relations, however, experience jealousy. And regardless of perception, couples need to be ready to feel jealous and establish how they will confront it. As a matter of fact, being ready to confront relationship threatening events is a signal of a strong relationship. Jealousy helps us identify those relationships that are the most meaningful to us.

Feelings are signals, they cannot be split between Good and Bad. They serve as an indicator that something within or without us requires our attention. Jealousy is a very normal emotion, existent within the ancient history of our race. It allowed primitive man to be attentive of reproductive competitors. This signal exists today, as Men are more inclined to feel sexual jealousy stronger than emotional jealousy and Women, inversely, are inclined to feel emotional jealousy stronger than sexual jealousy. Primitively, Men felt sexual jealousy stronger because, as is known, the mother is always certain, but the father is never certain. It would’ve been an existential threat to invest survival resources in offspring that did not pertain to you. This signal has echoed through time and exists today, yet in different form. Modern men are socially inclined to believe that a woman’s infidelity is worse than a man’s because a woman cannot have sex with someone who she does not love. It is a common supposition that “when a man does it, he does it for attention, but when a girl does it, she does it for love”. Both are equally true and untrue. Sexual narcissism, while more common in men, does exist and corresponds with supply of narcissistic attention. However, more common than that is the need for love, the need for care, and the need to feel desired. All three needs transcend any inferior sociocultural prejudices and parameters. In regards to primitive women, it would’ve been an existential crisis to have your mate fall in love with another, being as it is that survival resources while not being scarce were indeed laborious to obtain. Having your male mate fall in love with another implied a possible attachment to the third party and a potential distribution in resources as well as an overall comprise and possible abandonment from the male mate. This signal in modern women is translated to the fear of displacement as well as the supposition that men can have sex with whoever, but not fall in love. This fear can lead to anxious pursuits and investigations that have no end. How quickly does it come to our mind the image of a woman anxiously pursuing her distant male partner after a conflict and her male partner increasing his distance with every attempt to approach. This is a distant echo of times past, of a time of hunters and gatherers, ingrained deeply within our collective unconscious and manifest in our cultural practices, customs, and social beliefs. When added onto the template of Love, Jealousy bestows upon it the nature of possessiveness. With greater intensity, Jealousy replaces the underlying affection with hatred. This is to be absolutely avoided, for one will quickly find themselves in the position of Medea or Othello.

Sexual Love is Possessive. Shakespeare eloquently illustrated this in his poem “Venus & Adonis”. It is, elementally, an allegory for the pains of passion. A reminder that no matter how much we desire unity with another, we will never fully own our lover. There will always be a version of them that we do not know. Having put it, as Shakespeare did, “She is love, she loves, and yet she is not loved”. Yet the love here mentioned is not the desire for unity or that of desiring to fulfil another’s needs before ones own, but rather, possessiveness. More accurately, it should be put “She is love, she loves, and yet she does not possess him”. This, possessive jealousy, comes from childhood. It is commonly supposed that children are cherubic in nature, immaculate, and wholly pure. Their passions, anxieties, jealousies, and hatreds are completely ignored, especially by those that created them and raise them. As a matter of fact, children begin to feel jealousy even at 6 months, though at 2 years old, its manifestations begin to make themselves known. During childhood, the mother is the child’s world. She is the world. She is the infinite source of wisdom and love for the child’s life. She is his sole lifeline and bestows upon him the template for all future love. To the child, the mother is irreplaceable, for the child can only have one mother. The mother, however, can have as many children as she desires. In other words, the mother is irreplaceable, but the child is replaceable. The child knows this, and can manifest these preoccupations through various forms. For the child, Jealousy is the equivalent of an emotional crisis. The mother who reads this should have no problem immediately conjuring to mind what I mean, as well as those with siblings around the same age as themselves who were raised together.

Jealousy, though commonly accepted as a negative emotion, is acceptable so long as it is not deliberately sought out or used to punish, get attention, provoke, or start arguments. Jealousy is painful because it feels passive. And when it is repressed, it only aggravates symptoms even more. However, when utilised nutritiously, it can be used as a reminder that we love, are loved, and are in love. Greater attachment, interdependence, and closeness between partners equals greater jealous inclinations. Jealousy is just as normal as any sentiment within relationships. It simply shows us that we are vulnerable and that we value our partner. It can inspire action towards betterment. Prudently used, it can be associated with greater love and stability. The more partners were connected with each others life plans, the more likely they were to feel jealous. Applying evolutionary psychology to this equation, we can see, as aforementioned, that jealousy is purely an injury caused by a perceived threat and motivated by fear. Since it is born out of fear, it must be treated by security, safety, and reassurance.

Falseness lasts an hour, yet the truth lasts forever. Repressing jealousy only aggravates it and makes it worse. We must express it and utilise it nutritiously. To confront jealousy and utilise it nutritiously, we must first stop concentrating on the other person and ask ourselves ‘Why is my self-esteem so low in the first place?” Do we require attention? More affection? More emotional security? More bonding? These are all valid reasons for the manifestation of jealousy. It is so easy to let our perceived injury overcome us and enter a tangent of imprudent and relationally destructive behaviours. We must first create a space and a culture within our relationships that facilitate the safe and secure expression of our insecurities and needs. Truly, all that is needed is simply to express emotional needs more intelligently. Instead of arguing, seeking revenge, or starting problems we must instead: Do repairs; Work harder on improving our relationships; Voice an honest cry for help; and Understand both ourselves and our partner. Behind every problem, there is a need; And in regards to jealousy, it screams “I love you, I value you, and I’m afraid to lose you.” As can be seen, when examined with reason, jealousy can stimulate growth and its malevolence can be disarmed.

Emotional intelligence is our compass among these turbulent emotional waters. Yet, creativity is our sail, and emotional security is the wood that constitutes our boat. When our partners approach us, or vice-versa, with the sentiment of jealousy, we must ask for (and consequently, deliver) a sincere, patient, and kind expression. For instance, after having introspected, electing a calm and proper time to say “My love, can I express something to you? I saw you conversing with that woman and you both seemed to get along quite tenderly. Perhaps it is my own interpretation and insecurities, but I was convinced that you both were attracted to each other. I am not accusing you of anything, I am simply expressing what I saw and what I felt and I would highly love and appreciate to get reassurance, clarity, and a response from you.” Is much better than reactively exclaiming: “You cheater! Go have fun with that girl! You think I didn’t see you? I’m not stupid. I know you both liked each other. It’s fine, I’m just going to go do whatever I want then.” It is quite conspicuous how the latter can be more problematic than the former. An expression such as the former, in addition to a heightened understanding, a change in perspective, and a more creative navigation of jealous waters can clearly turn an averse situation into something quite enriching. Having heeded this advice, you will find yourself leaving these conversations desiring and appreciating your partner even more.

Without jealousy, our relationships surely would be more pleasant; But would they even be meaningful?

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