Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A few thoughts on jealousy

Here's Dan Savage's great advice for a girl whose new boyfriend is getting sulky when she talks to other men: "Break. Up. With. Him. Now."

Jealousy is such a confusing thing for me. I was jealous in exactly one relationship I had, and there I was the classic jealous guy- sulky, accusatory, annoying. After that relationship ended, I just wasn't jealous anymore. I've had essentially open relationships, a threesome, and various monogamous matings, but never again was I the least-bit concerned about the things that consumed my 19-year old jealous self. Never again did I even worry when I was in a relationship. Even when I knew they were sure to end, I just let it roll off my back. It was like the jealousy I had at 19 was a tumor that was removed and never returned.

I guess maybe part of it was just realizing that being jealous makes no difference- the relationship will go south if it's going to go south, and jealousy won't change that. It just makes you look like a jerk. Jealousy is the quickest way to lose a woman, aside from hitting her.

With Claire, there's nothing she could do that could make me jealous, and I think it's because I have no doubt at all that her heart is mine. If that changed, maybe I would change. But, I think that jealousy comes from insecurity primarily, and I think that comes from one of three main sources:
1) The relationship is pretty lousy anyway, and you sense that it's not going to last,
2) Pressure from peers and family to have some stupid ideal patriarchal relationship,
3) A personal sense that they could do a lot better than you. (low self-esteem)
I think, with me, it was #1. Although I've had other lousy relationships, this was the only one in which I really wanted it to be better, and it just wasn't. And I do think that there are some men who are just controlling assholes. For them, I think it's a matter of #2- they were raised to believe in some ideal fantasy world version of a relationship. But, in general, I think that all jealousy-infused relationships are pretty much doomed. So, yeah, I'd agree with Dan.


The Pagan Temple said...

Oh, you left out a very important number four. Some women enjoy making you jealous. They would never admit that, of course, but they do.

I have to plead guilty to it too. In my case, it's a combination of all three. Make that all four.

But hey, when your woman is yakking it up with some bozo you know is just itching for a chance to get in her pants, and you pretty much know she knows that, there you are standing there looking stupid. Like it or not, it's natural.

So I guess that makes five.

Rufus said...

I was thinking of that first one as falling under the relationship is lousy. Because there are some times that it really is lousy and you can tell.

I don't know about the fifth one. I just can't see being jealous because I know she's madly in love with me. No doubt about it. So, if said male is trying, well it's just funny to watch.

The Pagan Temple said...

By number five, I meant it is natural, ingrained in the human species, maybe to an extent in all higher mammals. It's just more developed in some people than others, or some people are better ale to conrol it, subordinate it, or redirect it unconscously maybe.

But it's there. If Claire put her mind to it, I bet she could push your buttons in ways you might not so easily catch on to. Not to say she would, just that she could. The closer somebody is to you, the more they know you, thus the better they know how to push those buttons.

And by the way, the same holds true for women. A jealous woman is possibly the most unreasoanble person on the face of the earth. They can make your life a living hell, and there's really not a lot if anything you can do to reassure them. In fact, you would probably make mattters worse by trying.

Rufus said...

Yeah, a jealous woman is just as bad as a jealous man. Maybe less dangerous, but probably not.

To be totally honest, the first thing I thought of in that scenario with the bozo hitting on Claire was that it would probably turn me on. But, we've already established that I'm a degenerate!

clairev said...

As a woman who runs woman's abuse groups and daily deal with women who have "jealous" and abusive partners, I have a hard time accepting the concept that some women just 'enjoy making men jealous'. That is a myth and is simply untrue. More often than not, the jealousy is unwanted, and morever is unwarranted. When a woman overtly acts in a way to make a man jealous (i.e. flirting with another man in front of you), she is not simply trying to make him jealous- she is asking for attention, even though it is negative attention, and she is being manipulative, probably because it is a learned behaviour on her part.

It is wrong to go around with ideas that women do it to get to you 'on purpose' without any understanding of the underlying mechanisms, and it can become dangergous when certain males respond in a mysogyinistic way.


The Pagan Temple said...

I can go along with all that, especially the part about it being learned behavior, but I don't see where you come to the conclusion that there are no women that want to make a man jealous. I understand their wanting attention, like you said, but they have to know what the result is going to be. If they don't at first, they will learn quickly enough.

Claire, you're working at womans abuse shelters is commendable, but using that one sphere to make the determination you just made is like Freud using psychotic patients in determining the sexual basis of problems for all people in general. There may be some merit to it, to a point, but it is still taking extreme examples and applying it to general circumstances.

And there are also men who enjoy making their women jealous. I guess it's a power trip. The person inspiring the jealousy is doing so as a negative affirmation of his or her desirability and to determine the extent to which the partner "cares". Sometimes it goes too far, and you have the unintended consequence of somebody potentially getting hurt, or worse.

And even in a lot of those cases, they keep playing the game. These are the kinds of dyfunctional people you have experience with in your line of work, it seems. But most people that engage in this frivolous type of activity don't take it to this extreme.

The Pagan Temple said...

Oh, and Rufus, what you said there in that last comment. I've been there, believe me. I've even considered hiding somewhere and watching. You ain't got nothing on me when it comes to degeneracy.

Rufus said...

I think Claire's gone to bed. But, no, I don't think she's not saying that there are no women who try to make men jealous. As far as I can tell, she's saying that women who try to make men jealous have other issues going on. It's not just that they're stable women who get a kick out of making men jealous- it's that they're looking for negative attention by getting men jealous. So, I think you're both saying that it's a dysfunctional behavior. But, to be honest, I think the only healthy way to respond to someone who's pulling that sort of power trip is to get away from it. Letting jealousy make you nuts is pretty much equally dysfunctional.

Unless, of course, you're just a kinky couple, and then you fool around with the bozo and finish off by having sex with each other!

clairev said...

I think rufus said it best; in no way was I directly equating jealous behaviour with abusive situations--although there is an undeniable link. What I was saying is that women or men acting in ways to elicit jealous behaviour from their partner is much more complex on an emotional level than you describe it to be. My professional training, as well as my personal experience informs me on this matter.

There is a further issue I think needs to be cleared up for sake of clarity:
I don't work in a woman's abuse shelter. I work in a family counseling agency and provide individual counseling/therapy to both men and women who come with a whole spectrum of issues, most of whom have nothing to do with abuse. One of my additional roles at the agency is to participate in group work with women who have exprerienced physical and emotional abuse. My knowledge base of human behavior/human experience as I see it through my work is much broader than issues of abuse, and it is certainly not the only lens through which I see the world.

When I made my last comment, I was using not only my knowledge of abuse (agreeably, an extreme result of jealousy), but of power, control, the psychodynamics of past unresolved issues from childhood as well as adulthood, and classic attachment theory; clearly not one "sphere" as you put it.

Further to that, I'd say that anyone who engages in trying to make their partner jealous qualifies as engaging in dysfunctional behavior, not just the 'dysfunctional' individuals that may walk through the doors of my agency. It's not a healthy behavior any way you slice it.