Jealousy. Now this is a topic I’ve been avoiding for the simple reason that it is such a challenge to understand it without being misunderstood. If you were to go about your friends and ask the question, “Do you think jealousy is a sign of devoted love or hidden insecurity?” you would receive some interesting answers in return. First we’ll examine a few other principles behind love in order to put this question into it’s proper perspective.
The first thing we must look at is the element of ‘freewill choice’. What makes ‘actual’ love such a special event in our lives is that it is given to us as the result of a freewill choice by another person. I make the distinction here between ‘actual’ love and ‘compulsory’ love, which is not real love at all. When love is compulsory it is given not because of a choice by the one giving so much as it is given because they have been manipulated or forced into such a situation. The man who keeps the devotion of a woman by convincing her she is of no worth without him does not have the ‘actual’ love of that woman. He only has the type of devotion that comes by way of verbal duress or fear.
So when someone we meet spends time with us and, under no requirement whatsoever, chooses to love us of their own free will it is something that happens outside of our own control. We can do many things to encourage someone to love us, but we can never actually require or force someone to give us actual love. For if we do then love is no longer love but rather nothing more than enslavement.
The second thing we will bring to light, before returning to the issue of jealousy, is that of ‘Exclusiveness’. We have many relationships in life. We have relationships known as friendships, associates, acquaintance, etceteras. Of all these relationships the one thing they hold in common is that they are ‘non-exclusive’. We will have not just one friend, but several friends. We are not limited to one family relationship, but many family relationships. Perhaps we have as many as three best-friends, but we are not required to be exclusive if we desire to have a fourth best-friend. However, when speaking of a mate in life, we are now bringing in what I have always referred to as an “Exclusive Relationship”.
I have always made a point upon beginning an actual ‘relationship’ to let the person know what I mean by being ‘exclusive’ in our new status. There is dating which may be with several different people throughout the month when not in an exclusive relationship. But upon beginning an actual exclusive relationship it becomes clear that the desire for close, intimate, supportive company from the opposite sex will now be ‘exclusive’ to one person in particular so as to build the relationship with them in priority above all others. It does not mean we forsake all others out of our lives, it only means that when we desire the closeness of a loving, long-term relationship, we turn exclusively to that one person.
So now we return to the issue of jealousy. Let’s say we have a couple named Bill and Mary. Bill and Mary have fallen in love. Each one freely making the decision to exclude all others from this special, one-on-one relationship of love they now share between them. They are not merely dating, they have entered into an ‘exclusive relationship’. Now we will see under what conditions jealousy can arise and whether it stems from virtue or vice.
Bill gets off work early and decides to stop by Mary’s workplace hoping to meet her at her lunch break. He enters the cafeteria where he finds Mary sitting at a table with a male co-worker discussing a bit of business and general conversation. Bill would have opportunity at this point to become enraged with jealousy. However, he would have no right to be. The exclusiveness of his relationship relates to the fact that he has promised not to bring any other woman into his life with the same intimacy (physically or emotionally) as he has vowed to Mary. It is the same with Mary. But Mary has not violated this exclusive status by merely having conversation with a friend or co-worker of the opposite sex. It is no more a violation of their relationship than for her to maintain her relationship with her brother or best-friend. If Bill understands this he will not see the need for jealousy and all is well. If he does not understand this and instead believes she must exclude ‘all’ men from her life, then he will be in error to fall prey to jealousy under such a presumption.
Now let’s go to a different scenario. Bill gets off work early and decides to go straight home. Upon walking into his living room he finds Mary cuddled up in the arms of another man, drinking wine and exchanging kisses. Once again Bill finds himself opportune to jealousy. The behavior Mary is exhibiting with this other man has now breached the limits of what had been previously promised exclusively to the relationship between Mary and himself. She has gone beyond friendship, which is non-exclusive, and now endeared closely to herself another man to know the intimacy that was only meant to be shared exclusively between her and Bill. In this case Bill’s response of jealousy within himself is justified. I will make note, however, that because Bill’s response of jealousy is justified it does not bring with it impunity to then carry out acts of violence or hatred arising from jealousy. Bill still has the responsibility to contain his jealousy and deal with the situation at hand in a mature manner.
This brings us back to the issue of ‘freewill’. It must always be remembered that while in a loving relationship we receive the love of the person we are with because they freely choose to give us that love. This is much of what gives it its value. And likewise, when the person we love has made a conscious decision to cease in their love for us and choose instead to grant that love to someone else, we do the situation well to respect the decision our former mate has made. This is hard because we ourselves do not wish to see the end of the love that has been known up to this point. But to chase after a person who chooses not to love us anymore can be very futile and heart-wrenching. I believe it is good to try to appeal to them to see if any love remains that might bring them out of the often manic state of mind that can induce such radical behavior. But even then one can only hope that it will turn their heart for so long. When someone has made an acute, ongoing decision to either cease loving or begin loving another person such appeals often fall upon deaf ears.
Misplaced jealousy, as in our first scenario, has ruined many otherwise good relationships. Eventually a person feels isolated from all others of the opposite sex and loses what friendships or acquaintances they had in order to stay within the critically watchful eye of their mate. I have seen this lead to causing a person to one day shrug off the false accusations in exchange for actual ones by persuing an affair with someone who is not so critical and jealous. In this instance the mate actually helped induce the very thing they were afraid of.
It is also possible, as in our second situation, where the failure to rise and make a noise about instances of the exclusive relationship being infringed upon that affairs have occurred practically in front of the mate’s presence instead of being brought to a halt at the outset. Here it is not a restriction of freedom that destroys the relationship but rather the allowance of infringement upon what is meant to be exclusive that causes the erosion of an otherwise good relationship.
And so it is we should always be ever thankful to our mate for every day they arise and call us their one, devoted, exclusive beloved. It is their choice to do so and we should not take them for granted no matter how much time passes. There is a time to let someone go when they make a decision to leave, and it is a grievous, correct thing to do. But given the explosive nature of jealousy it is best to look at things as they are and handle them with honesty, communication, forbearance and love. For if we let jealousy dictate its presumptuous, suspicious whispers upon us it will surely use the best of our passions to ignite the worst of our behavior.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.