Relationship strategists Mo and Phindi write a weekly column for Weekend Post. This week they discuss how to deal with a spouse whose jealousy reaches unhealthy levels
Last Saturday we gave a talk at a seminar in Joburg. We centred it on setting boundaries both within and around your marriage. It was deeply emotional.
One of the women, attending with her husband, raised the important issue of extreme jealousy in a relationship.
To her frustration, he monitors her moves, demands to know whom she interacts with on her phone, and is highly suspicious of any male she speaks to.
It’s so bad that even when she visits her parents and extended family, he pops in unannounced to check if she’s really there.
“I absolutely did nothing to deserve this behaviour, and have been nothing but faithful to him,” she said. This is a very familiar story to us as we’ve heard it many times with many couples.
One of the quickest ways to kill a relationship is being in one with a jealous and insecure partner.
Not only is it energy-sapping, but it’s also frustrating for the one who stands accused and isn’t trusted for no reason whatsoever.
The situation is especially worse in the relationship if the jealous partner is the man. You eventually get tired of having to constantly reassure him that he has nothing to worry about, and that you will never betray him.
His intrusive, invasive and plainly annoying behaviour is enough to drive the woman away.
We know women who have used the unhealthy jealousy of their men as reason to go ahead and be unfaithful, since they stand accused of wrongs they know nothing about anyway.
Yes, we said “unhealthy jealousy”! This is because there also is a type of jealousy that is expressed in a normal or healthy manner.
Healthy jealousy is a means to guard your territory and comes from a sincere care and commitment to the relationship.
On the other hand, unhealthy jealousy manifests itself through unnecessary and awkward confrontations, threats, self-pity, inferiority and anger, as well as passive aggression.
And this behaviour always dominates the relationship despite the love you have for him.
There are many explanations for the causes of unhealthy jealousy. Some of the roots include:
Low self-esteem that makes him believe he doesn’t deserve the love you give him.
This is usually accompanied by depression;
A lot of loss in life – whether rejection from previous relationships, deaths or abandonment in childhood – that drives him to bring unresolved issues into the current relationship;
The need to be in control. His jealousy masks his deep-seated lack of trust of you, and is expressed through manipulation;
Jealousy that is fuelled by the accomplishments of the partner. This is an unhealthy comparison in a relationship; and
Deep-seated feelings of anxiety and the need for constant reassurance of his ego.
It may be his poor self-image, his insecurity or lack of self-confidence, but one of the root causes behind his unhealthy jealousy is being afraid. It could be a fear of ending up alone, of being rejected again or of losing the love you give him.
It may be tiring and off-putting to constantly have to reassure him, but we encourage you to do it anyway. This of course you need to do without accepting responsibility for his jealousy, otherwise you’ll be feeding it.
He needs to take responsibility for it. It’s his, and you found him with it. He’s the one who needs to seek help for it.
Dealing with an extremely jealous partner can cause too much pressure on you and your relationship.
It may even be a deal-breaker as this behaviour would negatively affect your ability to function individually and as a couple in a healthy way.
Your life simply cannot be monopolised by him. You need your sense of individuality so that you can be a better partner in an inter-dependent relationship.
If his behaviour interferes with this, then we recommend therapy. However, if he refuses that, then you may have to find other coping mechanisms.
At some point, when you believe you’ve done everything, he needs to purposely get over it.
You can’t spend the rest of your life nursing a physically healthy and able adult.
We believe that jealous as he may be, he is very interested in the love you have to offer.
But beware, an extremely jealous man can also be a bottomless pit that might just drain you of every drop of love you possess.