Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jealousy Rears Its Ugly Head

Margaret Mead, the famed American cultural anthropologist, once said, "Jealousy doesn't prove how much you love someone, it proves how insecure you are." Those words have never rung more true than at this point in my life.

My husband and I have been married for over 17 1/2 years, and together for over 19. For the better part of our relationship, this man I share my life with has seemed completely indifferent when it came to who I was friends with. I felt completely free to speak to whomever I wanted, without any kind of recourse, or general flack from him. His behavior (or lack thereof) actually had me believing that he didn't truly care about our relationship, which led to distance, which led to the "bad patch" we hit last summer.

My husband is a good, decent, kind man. He's a great father and a good provider. He's never strayed, doesn't do drugs, doesn't drink, or harbor any other vices that a wife could be concerned about. But still, we were at a crossroads in our relationship, and were stuck in a horrible rut that seemed to be taking us down a path of sadness, heartbreak, and ultimately, separation.

I've always believed that God's hand is in everything that happens in our lives, and there are no accidents, because at the same time this revelation began to unfold in our marriage, a former boyfriend of mine surfaced on Facebook, and made a beeline onto my friends' list, and into my life.

At first, I was thrilled to reconnect with him. He was my very first boyfriend, and I'd always held a special place for him in my heart. But, when reminiscing turned into "what if" and "what could be", I realized I had come face to face with a MAJOR, possibly life-altering decision.

Once I realized this, I did what I always do when faced with a difficult problem -- I went to my best friend for advice, and talked to my husband about everything. We had several closed door conversations about us -- our past, our present situation, and the possibilities for the future. He was obviously upset with the way my thoughts were carrying me, but in the process of our many, MANY talks, he peeled away his own onion layers, and admitted to me that he was incredibly jealous of this guy, and would like nothing more than to have him out of my life for good.

Initially, that was easier said than done. I was happy to have my former flame back in my life, especially since I'd thought and wondered about him for all those years. In my mind, this person was just a friend, and I was more than a little annoyed that, if my husband couldn't trust him, he could at least trust ME.

Once we began really opening up to one another, we miraculously discovered that we still really loved one another, and were both hoping to reconnect but were at a stalemate as to how. This "interference" with my former boyfriend was ultimately the catalyst we needed to rekindle our feelings for one another, and make us wake up and realize how valuable we are to each other and how lucky we were to have each other.

The friendship with the former boyfriend fizzled out some when he finally got it through his head that I was never going to fulfill his "fantasy" and leave my husband AND my children (can you even imagine?), and run off into the sunset with him. Yes, he and I still chat, but only on rare occasions. I have to admit, if I had it to do all over again, I would never have reconnected with him in the first place. The sweet, handsome young man I dated has turned into someone that I'm not sure I really like, and it has blown all of my wonderful memories of the two of us completely apart.

My husband now immediately shares with me when he's feeling a pang of jealousy, or when something bothers him in terms of a budding "relationship" I may be developing with someone. It's become difficult at times, especially since I'm a member of the committee planning our high school's 30th reunion, and as a result, I'm happily reconnecting with a bunch of folks that I went to high school with. I've noticed it's hard for my husband to adapt to the fact that the woman who had only one or two close friends, and focused mainly on him, is now having conversations with lots of people on a pretty regular basis. I think, in some respects, I've created a monster with him. He's now telling me OFTEN that it bothers him when I talk to people so much, and that he's frequently reminding me "... you told me to let you know when it bothers me, so I'm letting you know." Ugh.

In one respect, I think his jealousy is sweet. I'm HIS, and he's not willing or able to fork me over to someone else very easily. But, on the other hand, I like all of these re-established friendships I'm experiencing, and would like to continue talking to my former classmates from school without feeling guilty or scrutinized. It's a fine line, and I don't know which steps to take to prevent falling off completely.

I'm glad my husband and I are a happily married couple again. We're MUCH better than we were a year ago, and neither one of us ever wants to go back to that dark place. But, at the same token, I'm remembering the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for; you just may get it." I wanted a husband that was more present and more attentive, and boy, have I got him!

So, I have to deal with the whole jealousy thing and try to figure out what the happy medium is. In the meantime, I'll keep reminding myself of another one of Margaret Mead's quotes: "Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man."