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When the green monster attacks

Date
Jealous green can be a very unappealing look.

Jealous green can be a very unappealing look.

“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:

Jealousy.

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.

Do you?

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.

Jealousy.

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?

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kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

64 comments

  • jealous? nope.
    once a relationship settles there should be no reason for jealousy, having said that, certain actions may lead to distrust, something very different.

    as far as narcissism goes, there are multiple varieties, some are just incapable of accepting responsibility for their actions, some measure themselves and other by their money, etc etc

    Commenter
    Victorious Painter
    Date and time
    August 03, 2012, 6:49AM
    • Wow, that’s really haunting that someone could not forgive their wife for loving their child more. Having children, especially the first one is such a rush of different and powerful emotions, but the love a parent has for a child, in my experience, is different in that you are very attached to them from the first moment you perceive them. You have to be, it’s your job to take care of them. But loving a partner I think is devoid of attachment. It’s not your job to take care of them do anything in an overpowering way. I’m not sure you can love a partner while being attached to them or defined by them.
      I know someone close to me who has always been about ‘me-time‘ and having an idea of putting their needs on equal footing (which means ignoring everyone else). And this comes across as a love of herself, but I think the reality is that she hates herself. She despises herself and for good reason, she just represses that and it comes out as self-involvement. Maybe people that are in love with themselves are just too attached to themselves, or their idea of themselves to be capable of loving someone else, but it sounds more like they hate themselves.

      Commenter
      Michael Durrand
      Location
      Scarborough, Qld.
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 7:12AM
      • Everybody needs "me" time, or you get sucked into a vacuum and loose sight of who you are. When that happens you can not contribute to relationships whole heartedly because you're never quite sure where you stand. The person who takes "me" time, loves themself and has respect for their family.

        Commenter
        Rachael
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 9:25AM
      • I disgree Rachael. "Me time" is a pretty revoluntionary concept in parenting. As a mum of three, I have to say that I think "me time" and being a mum might work great for mums, but isn't so great for their child , who funnily enough, doesn't quite get the concept. Actually I would argue that the first epiphany I had as a parent was that a high degree of unselfishness was an obvious qualification. Unfortunately, I think, that realisation is becomjing harder and harder for those who've been raised to believe it's all about them.
        Kids, babies, don't care about your career, about you being "centered" or having "me ' time, but it's a nice little fantasy we allow ourselves to believe because it fits our modern lifestyle.
        My ex once told me he "wished he could just have his wife back". I saw nothing romantic about it - it was a petulant whinge by an adult, who wanted kids, but none of the responsibility in dealing with that on a day to day basis. His "me time" was largely about trying to maintain his pre kids lifestyle post kids.
        There is no shame in electing not to have children, but why on earth have them then whine about me or us time,or dump them with strangers.. In the era we live in it's very much your choice. They aren;t pokemons and you can't give them back.

        Commenter
        Jaycee1
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 10:01PM
      • Jaycee1 : I understand exactly where you are coming from in regard to 'me time' when you have kids. Me time at our house was being able to go to the loo or have a bath without an audience. I'm lucky, my husband had his eyes wide open and although there were struggles - let's face it, he carried the financial can for the five of us for years - he wouldn't trade what we have for quids.
        Our kids are now all grown up, and one has kids of his own.
        We do have our 'me time' now; we both have hobbies that the other doesn't participate in, but we are interested in what each other is doing. It gives us something better to talk about apart from the normal daily grind.

        Commenter
        Robyn
        Location
        Ballarat
        Date and time
        August 05, 2012, 9:42PM
    • Good Morning CK,

      Jealousy, to me is one of the most unattractive attributes a person can have. It is plain ugly. Extream narcissism creates a rot in relationships that can not be stopped. It is usually a slow and painful destruction of the relationship. However we all have a little narcissism in us as well the opposite, Co-dependence.

      Lukily, jealousy is not something I get inflicted with. I rejoyced when my ex was married, I congratulate a co-worker when they recieve a promotion. The only time I can remember being jealous was when a co-worker who I felt was a bit of a slacker won an award. I hated that feeling and promised myself never, never to feel that way again. That was over 10 years ago.

      I really am having trouble understanding the guy jealous of his child. I have dated some ladies who were jealous of my dog and my children and I could never get my head around that but this is HIS child as well.

      Commenter
      Dan
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      August 03, 2012, 7:50AM
      • Is it jealousy when you see a slacker co-worker get an award/promotion?
        Or is it resentment?
        I've seen a number of people like this in my career who I resent, but do not perceive that I am jealous of. My idea is if they want to make a career of parking their noses in the butt cracks of their bosses, so be it, but don't expect my respect. Usually doesn't mean much in the greater scheme of things, until they expect my cooperation to enhance their own butt sniffing agenda.

        Commenter
        sum
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 10:02AM
      • sounds more like bitterness, sum...

        Commenter
        victor
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 11:01AM
      • victor
        you're absolutely right!!
        if only there was enough room in that crack for me to park my nose in as well......

        Commenter
        sum
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 11:54AM
      • The only time I got jealous was when I unexpectedly received a friend's wedding invitation (they'd been engaged for a while, but never said anything about ramping up the wedding plans). It was this instant, horribly visceral feeling, and, given that this was a very close friend, one that really shocked me.
        I did a bit of navel-gazing and realised that it had nothing to do with my friends. Fact was, although I liked being single, that jealousy had come from a deep, unacknowledge desire for a relationship. It was a wake up call, and I'm very glad for it. I never told my friends, of course, and I celebrated every aspect of their wedding without a touch of the green-eyed monster.

        That experience makes me wonder about the father in the example. Just a suggestion, but maybe he's not jealous of his kids but feeling excluded? What with breastfeeding and maternity leave, a lot of outside forces inadvertantly encourage new parents into two roles - the doting mum and the breadwinning father. I can see how that could end up in a scenario where a man might feel like he's not an integral part of the family. I know of a marriage that has recently broken up for this very reason - she has such a primary role in raising the kids that even his opinion on what food they should eat was ignored. Eventually, he came to resent it so much that he walked out on her (personally, I think he should have spoken up earlier, but it's not my marriage, so that's just an outsider's opinion).

        Commenter
        ScienceGeek
        Date and time
        August 03, 2012, 12:29PM

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