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Understanding the Rage of Jealousy

by Greg Baker  
3/30/2010 / Relationships


Is jealousy wrong? We've all grown up to believe that it is. We take great pleasure in using it as an excuse as to why our relationships fail, in pointing this fact out to others as justification for our own actions, and accusing our loved ones of it as if it is some gigantic three headed monster.

I want to rearrange your thinking a bit. This article is meant to be provocative in the sense that it is designed to challenge the status quo, the politically correct, and socially acceptable platitudes.

First, let me redefine three simple words that we use interchangeably, but which, in truth, have very subtle different meanings.

Jealousy - the desire of what you believe to be already yours with a fear that you may lose it.

Covetousness - the desire of that which is not yours.

Envy - the desire of that which is not yours and begrudging the one who actually has it.

These definitions are actually taken from the Bible. The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God, and that presents a problem to those of us who were raised to believe that jealousy is wrong. But in truth, jealousy is the desire of that which is felt to already belong to you and that you feel someone else is trying to take.

I am not debating that jealousy can lead to all sorts of problems in a relationship, it is true, but it is not necessarily wrong.

Let's take a simple example from a marriage. When you got married, you probably made several promises in the form of vows. These promises hold meaning that your spouse takes literally. If, let's say, another man enters the picture, then the odds are your husband will become jealous. He feels he has a right to keep you only to himself and not to share you with another man.

This can obviously take extreme forms, I know-such as his anger whenever you so much as act politely to another man. In such cases, that is often the result of mismatched expectations. This is when jealousy can become extremely dangerous. But in the first example I can't find any fault in the jealousy. After all, you did promise to keep yourself only for him. That is an expectation that he has a right to cling to.

Let me break the three words down into something more practical. Jealousy is when you believe that the local town is trying to take your house in order to build a new park. It is your house. You spent time, energy, money and love into it, and you're not about to let it go without a fight. That is a form of jealousy.

Covetousness is when you are driving through a neighborhood and you see a particular house that you say, "Wow! I'd love to have that house! That is the house that I want!" The house is not yours, and though you may never do anything actively to get it, the desire is a form of covetousness.

Envy is when you pass by that same house and say, "That house should be mine. So and so who lives there doesn't deserve that house. I do!" That is envy. Not only do you desire what is not yours, but you begrudge the one who actually has it.

HOW TO CONTROL JEALOUSY IN A RELATIONSHIP

Proverbs 6:34 - For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.

The first and most obvious way is to have good understandings of each other's expectations. If your expectation for your mate is a 9 and he or she is only a 5, then you will not be satisfied, you'll be irritated, and possibly get upset.

There must be a free and honest flow of communication in these areas. You must determine what the expectations are, why they exist, and what must be done to either meet these expectations, or lower them to a more realistic level.

This MUST be done. To simply say, "It's your problem, you deal with it," is a sign of an immature relationship. Mature and healthy relationships work through problems together. A rule of thumb is, "If my spouse has a problem, then I have a problem."

This is true in any close relationship. To simple ignore the problem, or even to tell the other person to get over it, grow up, or get a life is the height of arrogance. Why are you even in the relationship then? What? Did you really expect to marry someone perfect?

Learn to work your problems out together. I have followed a basic principle for years that has been extremely successful in solving relationship problems. I always tackle a problem from the point of view of the person who sees the problem the worst. If my wife sees the problem as a 10 and I only see it as a 5, I still treat it as a 10, or my wife believes that either I don't really care, or I didn't go far enough.

So much of the jealousy in relationships is the result of one or the other treating the perceived problem as less important as the other one does. That only convinces the other person that there is a legitimate problem he or she needs to worry about. If you tackle the problem from the other person's point of view, you have given them a sense of relief and comfort. They believe you care as much as they do. That builds trust.

Often times, if their point of view is extreme or even absurd, following this suggestion will allow the fog of fear, jealousy, and rage to dissipate enough for them to see that they are wrong.

Another key is to stop worrying about whether or not the situation is fair to you. Life isn't fair--sorry to break the news to you. So stop trying to demand that it must. Learn to roll with the punches, and you'll find that life is much better than you really believe.

Often, your mate's expectations aren't fair. They might even be extreme. But if you simply dismiss them as being ridiculous, you only convince them that they were right and the jealousy and rage continue to build.

Take some good advice: don't let that happen. Learn to deal with problems as bad as whoever sees it the worst and stop trying to make life fair to you. Do these two things, and you'll find that your problems are much more easily fixed.

WHERE JEALOUSY IS A GOOD THING

There is actually some good in jealousy. If your mate is jealous over you, then that at least shows that he or she has interest in you. That which you care nothing about, you care not if you lose it or not.

So it is not a completely bad thing. It can certainly lead to bad decisions, actions, and problems, but to be frank, I kinda like it when my wife is jealous of my time. I enjoy having someone think highly enough of me that she wants to spend time with me and is jealous when I spend that time with other people.

Maybe you ought to rethink your attitude towards jealousy. It is very possible that you are the actual cause of it, not your mate or the other person in the relationship.

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