We've already opened up a can of whup-ass on one big green monster. Now it's
time to tame another savage beast:
Ol' Green Eyes: Jealousy
As holy/deadly no-nos go, Envy makes the big 10, even the big 7. Its
considered to be a flaw, a neurosis, a weakness, a sign of deep insecurity, a
pit of emotional quicksand.
Which is why many of you have also gotten in trouble in these pages for
forgetting the following fundamental principles of
1. We live in a co-ed world. (And work in co-ed workplaces.)
There are Single People everywhere, and many of them are nice and
(Back when you were single, they were rare, but now they're coming out of
the woodwork, right near your honey.)
2. Our partners come with pasts, and sometimes those pasts come to parties.
See Petty and
3. Men and women can be friends.
See The Man.
But we nust also cut ourselves some slack for the silly human-reflex
jealousy that is -- unless/until you lay it on your partner
-- excusable and normal. You know, as in (a) "I am so jealous that
s/he chose that person over someone -- i.e. me -- that s/he he didn't
even know existed at the time, or (b) "Ooh! I'm jealous of, like, everyone at
your office, on account of they get to see you all day and I don't," and (b)
the way BG was fist-clenchingly jealous -- though I really should have been
impressed with his taste and awareness of current events -- of an old
boyfriend's big crush on Benazir Bhutto. Silly us!
And now there's a new book argues that romantic / sexual jealousy is not
only normal, but also not necessarily a monster. In fact, it's one of the
adaptations that has helped our species survive.
Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love and Sex, David M.
Buss, Ph.D., writes: "Some theories propose that jealousy is an immature
emotion, a sign of insecurity, neurosis, or flawed character. Nonjealous men
and women, however, are not our ancestors, having been left in the evolutionary
dust by rivals with different passionate sensibilities. We all come from a long
lineage of ancestors who possessed the dangerous passion.
Jealousy, according to this theory, is an adaptation. An adaptation, in the
parlance of evolutionary psychology, is an evolved solution to a recurrent
problem of survival or reproduction. ... Adaptations are coping devices passed
down over millennia because they worked not perfectly, of course, but
they helped ancestral humans to struggle through the evolutionary bottlenecks
of survival and reproduction."
According to Buss -- who cites many examples of partners whose jealousy
turned out to be, well, warranted (like Jodi, the
first time)-- jealousy can serve as a self-protective device and/or
early warning system, spurring us to develop ways to keep our partners from
straying, or to be more vigilant.
I'm not saying that now we should all, by default, be circling our partners
warily instead of trusting them unconditionally, that you should--using
jealousy as a squirrely-ness detection system -- automatically suspect
that our partner is after his/her ex/ex-prime minister.
But I did go back and find some earlier letters that supported Buss' thesis,
even beyond the function of jealousy as infidelity tracking system. Jealousy,
in those cases, serves/d as a detection system for something, if not
actual cheating. It was helpful for Haley to
notice that her boyfriend wasn't jealous; Just Married's
husband's mild jealousy may have helped tipped her off to certain feelings
-- more complicated than just "unfaithful" ones -- of her
own. Jealousy and intuition are cousins. It's not easy being green with envy,
but it can be useful.
So what should you do when the big green starts oozing, X-Files style, in
your eyes? Well, you've got to look it in the eye: is it a hunch sprung
from habit, a past wrong yanked into present, the kudzu growing where your
self-esteem/security choked? Or: are there actual clues and triggers
-- akin to those that might tempt us to snoop --
going bump in the night right now? (And conversely: does your jealous partner
have bad judgment -- or good reason?) Make that distinction -- having
made sure it's not just an acute case of Bhutto -- and then gently
take up matters with yourself or your partner. (And hope s/he's not jealous
that you've just spent all this time with me.)
BG's Worry Corner:
Certain little jealousy gremlins are -- as we've just learned -- part
of love. They're often helpful; they're mischievous, at worst. But make no
mistake: this kind of
jealousy, on the other hand -- like, the kind where you hear yourself
saying things like, "S/he won't let me speak to anyone else of the opposite sex
s/he must really love me!" -- really is a scary beast
one that can eat both of you alive. Please consider all warning signs
carefully and take thoughtful
And finally, a Fun Bonus: How jealous are you? Ask Queendom or Swoon.
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