Jealousy and leprosy kinda rhyme, yeah?

Envy, not so much.  And envy can be turned into ambition, with a little effort. Covet your neighbor’s new widescreen TV?  Work a little harder, save a little harder, and it can be yours.

But then, jealousy and envy are separated by a fine line, at least from my current point of view.  I’m thinking of jealousy in relationships, the kind that starts fights or works as a deal breaker.  The kind that can very easily find the significant other transformed not into a person who you are lucky to have by your side because they choose to be there, with you, but instead into a possession, to be had or lost.

I understand jealousy.  Too well.  And I don’t think that, under any circumstance, it arises from a healthy place.  Either you’ve been taught and conditioned to think of a lover as a thing instead of a person, or you’re not getting enough attention from your partner (and others are getting more), or you’ve got a co-dependent personality.

In my case, I think a lot of it is scars that I bear from previous relationships, and a fair touch of codependency that I picked up from my family and lived with unknowingly for a lot of my life. I only a few years back recognized that I have my share of those traits, and made a concerted effort to try and work through and past them.  I’m sure I’m not entirely healthy, but I think I’m also not as healed as I would like to think I am, as far as past experience is concerned.

In so many cases, to me, jealousy is laughable to me. Those feelings of anger, or hurt, or whatever, are so often misdirected at someone who has no choice in or control over the matter.  We all know someone who has been berated or dumped, even beaten, because some third party has a crush on them, and their boy- or girlfriend or wife or husband can’t handle that.   I find that amusing (in a sad and pathetic sort of way) — if you stop and think for five minutes, won’t you realize that your anger or insecurity is so haplessly misdirected?  Or will you?

Maybe I give my fellow shitbag human beings too much credit.

All of the anger and harsh words that come from jealousy, though, really just stem from fear.  Fear that you’re not good enough for the other person.  Fear that they’re with you but looking for someone better.  Fear that you’re not treating them well enough and so they need to find their human validation elsewhere.

Just like all bullies.

I’ve tried to eliminate jealousy from my life.  I’ve had such a battle with it in the past that it could have easily torn Melissa and I apart before we ever got started.  Fortunate side-effect of self-therapy for bipolar disorder #6: you learn to recognize the irrational thoughts and behaviors in your life, and to maybe take a few moments before acting to let your rational mind take the reins again. I think that’s how I’ve learned to spot the difference between a third party who is totally out of mine and my significant other’s control, and the sort of valid and rational jeaousy (which I think is better described as behavior that signals a bad or unhealthy (for me, at least) relationship.

I’m a flirtatious person.  Always have been. I used to think that I needed a woman with a strong sense of self, one that could deal with that, because I’m not going to change to fit into someone else’s idea of what I should be.   And to some extent, that’s true; I can’t spend all my energy reinforcing someone’s self-image because that sense is barely functional.  But I now recognize an important addition to what I need: making sure that there is balance.  Pointing out that other women are attractive is fine; love doesn’t make you blind, and I think there’s a healthy release in being able to discuss that with your partner.  But I also think that you have to make sure that your partner hears you say nice things about him or her — that you are as complimentary of them as you are of total strangers.

We have some need of validation – welcome to the human race.  It’s nice to be told that you are handsome, or intelligent, or witty, or (perhaps best of all) that you make someone else feel wonderful and attractive and special.  If all you hear is how hot or great other people are — and never how good you are — it can create a hole.  And I’ve been guilty of that in the past, without realizing it; I’m fortunate to have seen it, so that I can be more aware and careful to avoid that.

The worst part of jealousy in a relationship is trying to discuss it with your S.O.  Like any other uncomfortable topic, it can turn so quickly into a web of lies and deceit and defensiveness. But feelings of jealousy, or of not getting enough attention, need to be communicated — until you meet that special someone with the ability to read minds, if you can’t get those feelings out in the open, then they never go away.

Trust me.  Been there, done it, burned the t-shirt and dined on the ashes.

But — and I warned you this was coming, darlin’ —  when you meet someone that is open and receptive to talking about those things with you, hold on to them with all your strength. I’ve been a hundreds of failed relationships, both romantic and friendly, and far too many fell apart because of issues of communication. Sometimes the most important things to remain open and utterly, painfully honest about are also the most difficult.  And in Red, I’ve found someone who is both honest with me and encourages and understands my honesty about the same. Of all the things that are beautiful and special about her — her eyes, her laugh, her compassion, her quirks, even her love of loud angry music — perhaps the most important to me is her openness, her honesty, her willingness to communicate. I’ve had friends of both hers and mine comment on the connection that she and I have, and I think the fact that that connection is so strong and natural and easy is due to her openness and acceptance and encouragement of mine.

I’m not trying to call her out, but Red is easily one of the most special people I’ve ever met, based purely on that trait.
Remove the communication, decide that you can handle the lack of attention or wishing you had more, and jealousy becomes even more like leprosy, eating you alive, slowly, only from the inside out.

And you have to remember that those feelings, the jealousy, is good, at least in one sense: it means that your significant other, new or old, is still worth holding onto and fighting for.

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