Myth: My Jealousy Shows How Much I Love My Partner
Learning to love with a light touch.
Linda: The word jealous comes from the Greek “jeal” a valued possession that is in danger. This idea suggests that the possession requires action to be taken to protect it. It is the wise and mature person who understands when jealousy is present. Such turbulent feelings are our cue to look inside to find the places we feel weak and inadequate in order to strengthen them. The option presents itself for us to take on the challenge of facing ourselves. If we only know about holding on, then we are challenged to learn about letting go. In the process, we become stronger through self-awareness and earn our self-respect. Consider this story that was told to us from Paul about learning about taking responsibility for his part in the breakdown in trust with his partner Susan. He had to learn an extremely hard lesson.
Paul: Susan and I got married in our twenties. I was completely smitten with her. She was beautiful, sexy, smart, and fun to be with. Our falling in love was pure bliss. Our intense mutual attraction was highly sexual; we made love every day. We spent hours sharing every detail of our histories before we had found each other. We had so much to say to each other, sharing form our hearts, visioning a grand life together. I could hardly believe my good fortune in landing such a terrific woman. Our conversion from “meish” to “weish” was fabulous for me. I loved the merger.
Susan is such an outgoing friendly person, hyper social, and even a bit flirtatious, so my jealousy would be triggered big time. When Susan wanted some space and freedom for herself, I panicked. It didn’t take long, for our relationship to deteriorate. It was only a matter of months. I saw her connections to her friends and family as a threat to our newly created sweet life.
My pain was especially acute when we were attending parties where there was dancing. Susan loves to dance, and would dance all evening with many different men. I felt helpless and alone. I was so bitter and was convinced that she was to blame. My fear led to fantasies about her being sexually involved with other men. These fearful thoughts consumed me, and my pain came spilling out of my mouth in the form of angry accusations. “You have betrayed me. You have ruined our beautiful world.“
Susan tried to reason with me. She swore that she was faithful to me, but my jealousy possessed me to the point where her words fell on deaf ears. I continue to rage believing that it was because I loved her so deeply and that I was fighting for our marriage, while pointing the bony finger of blame at her. Susan is a self-respecting woman; she always has been. She wouldn’t stand for my rants, and she left me. I was devastated.
After the divorce, I was so heartbroken that it drove me into therapy. In the months of counseling, I discovered that my screams and accusations were manifestations of my own insecurity. I grew to understand that Susan was not responsible for the painful feelings I had, she was only flushing up to the surface what was already there that was my challenge to deal with. It wasn’t the feelings of inadequacy themselves that were destructive; it was acting out those feelings by blaming, threatening, and attempts to control her that destroyed our marriage.
Over the years since our divorce, Susan and I have been able to maintain a friendship. She is an exceptionally honest person, and I now know that she was never unfaithful to me during our marriage. It was my fabricated, fearful ideas that possessed me, that crowded out reason, and overwhelmed me with a desire to control her. I understand now that it was fear not love that was driving me, but I couldn’t see that at the time.
Now years later, looking back from a more responsible vantage point, Paul can see so clearly that what he believed was his great love for his wife, and the intensity of my desire to protect their love, was a big cover up of his feelings of insecurity. Paul came to see that his belief that his jealousy as an indication of his love for Susan was a myth, and that he was attached to that explanation because he was afraid of being found out by her to be inadequate.
For the first time, he examined why his self-esteem was so low. Paul developed the habit of looking at himself when things weren’t going well, rather than relating to himself as a helpless victim of others. The deep, inner looking that he did following their divorce, as painful as it was, was good for him. He became a mature adult, and a person capable of loving fully, without being possessive and controlling.
Paul told me that losing Susan was the most painful period of his life, but he learned so much from that terrible loss. He learned that it is impossible to posses another human being, nor can we force them to love us, make us feel secure, meet our needs, be what we want them to be, or do what we want them to do. To even desire a permanent merger and complete oneness is immature thinking. With anyone who becomes our partner, no matter how close we become, we find that we are still two separate individuals. And the closeness we enjoy is a direct manifestation of feeling free to choose to show our love when we want to and how we want to.
No one can demand loyalty and fidelity; it can only grow out of trust and respect. The depth of trust, security, and intimacy can only manifest when we are both committed to ourselves and our partner, and give our love freely, never on demand. Learning from Paul’s sad story of loss, and the tremendous growth that resulted from that pain, can hopefully save us from the same heartache and we can handle our jealousy before it creates big trouble.
Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams.