“And I could never really forgive my wife for loving our child more than me.”
Forgiveness. Something we’ve touched on before. Something Insight covered to great effect not long ago. Something that lead to the above confession, made during boozy, vaguely academic dinner last week. And something that leads to today's discussion topic:
An excusable sin, or something more sinister? Is this man to be forgiven for being jealous of his child because he loves his wife so much, or should he be shamed because he is too in love with himself?
I don’t have children, I am not a husband, and so personal commentary on jealousy as written above is redundant. How would I know what it feels like to have the body, and time, and attention of someone you love suddenly consumed by a new, little, foreign body that you, yourself, created?
But I do know what it feels like to have someone you love consumed by something else. Be it another body, or worse, themselves.
Lately, I’ve noticed narcissism swimming around the global rivers of media. And it’s absorbing stuff, this self-absorption. Have we really become that wrapped up in us? Is ‘I’ really bigger today than ever before in history? Will it be unchecked ego, not love, which tears us apart?
All questions worth asking. But I’m presently more interested in the relationship between narcissism and jealousy. What happens if you’re in love with someone who’s in love with themselves?
Of course, not everyone who is more wrapped up in them then you would qualify as one with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Some people are just plain cocky. Incidentally, their arrogance is probably rooted in fear, and generally jealousy is a feature of their nature. But I digress...
For while some people are conceited, always, many people are conceited some of the time. Even if you maintain a modest countenance generally, few of us are able to say we’ve not put ourselves first on occasion.
In fact, modern society almost demands we ‘take some me-time’, ‘focus on you’, ‘put your needs/career/dreams first’. Humble pie is not a sexy dish, community a rarer feast.
So how does this sanctified narcissism play out in the dating sphere, or long-term relationship land?
Badly. Singles assess potential partners based on how complementary they’ll be to the existing agenda. Couples struggle to find time for being together because there’s a higher value put on individual pursuits.
And then there’s the unique pain felt by people who play givers to the takers. The people who would support, or compromise, if only they could – if only their loved one would let them; if only their loved one wasn’t so in love with themselves.
A peculiar kind of jealousy can creep in. Followed by fear, jealousy’s malicious bedfellow.
What if they can’t ever really love you?
What if your love is in vain?
What if you’re all alone.
Seductive, intoxicating, and overwhelming. A sensation that leads to great and terrible things. Deep rage, profound misery and tragic melancholy.
Fear of abandonment, of humiliation, of being left out. Fear you’re not enough, fear you’re not wanted, fear you never will be – jealousy leads to all this and more. Yet jealously can also motivate, stimulate and recalibrate hearts and heads, sometimes for the better.
Yet more often than not, jealousy kills love dead.
This is why it’s important to recognise the beast when it rises.
But what do you tame it, and how?
Have you ever been jealous of a lover? Why? How did that jealousy take shape, what did you do with it, and do you think we’ve created a culture where jealousy and fear are all the more likely to strike the hearts of lovers?