Jealousy – aka “The Green-eyed Beast” What shall we do when it attacks?

Published in Cosmopolitan Hungary in 2006

 Let us imagine you going away for a day or two. For business. You know that your boyfriend gets to work around 9 o’clock and has coffee before settling down to his computer. So you call him just to tell him that you have arrived safely and that you miss him. But he does not pick up his mobile. Okay, you think, fine. He is busy and he probably muted his phone. Then you call again at 10 and there is still no answer. Then you try his work number and text him, too. Just to be on the safe side. He does not answer, text back or phone. Now you are worried, very worried. You should be concentrating on your own work but you cannot. You keep phoning and texting him in complete panic. By 1pm you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You have visions of a deadly car crash, too but you mainly see your man in the arms of a blond bombshell. You suddenly remember how he was checking out that chick the other day. You can also recall that he did say he liked women with bigger boobs and you let’s face it: you have a pair of teeny-tiny ones, and… And then he calls around 2 and says: “Sorry, hon, I left my phone at home and I had to come to pick it up during my lunch break. I saw you’ve called. Is everything okay?” You sigh. The weight of the world has just been lifted off your shoulders.  But wait a minute! What the hell has happened to you suddenly? Are you going completely gaga? What came onto you? Because he obviously gave you no reason for you to feel this way, did he?

Well, what you have been going trough is not al all phenomenal, really. You are, like billions of people from the beginnings of time, were bitten by the green-eyed monster. You are, my friend: ’simply’ jealous.  And there is nothing special about feeling thus. We all get jealous from time to time. Everyone who says differently is lying. Or not human. But what is it that we feel exactly? What is happening to us? As the encyclopedia’s definition has it: “Jealousy typically refers to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that occur when a person believes a valued relationship is being threatened by a rival. This rival may or may not know that he or she is perceived as a threat.” Sounds nice but what is jealousy really? Madness? Or just the opposite: A completely normal human emotion, a natural part of our existence? “I am convinced that there is no-one on the face of this planet who has not been bitten by jealousy one way or another. – says Dr. Marta Baczako, psychiatrist – There are many kinds of jealousy, probably everyone of us experience it differently. And it is also different each time.”

For Nora, for example jealousy is part of her daily life. “I think it is better to be cautious. Anyone who is not jealous simply does not know men. Or women, rather, who can be extremely pushy.” The 26-year-old advertising executive regularly wonders what her boyfriend might be doing. Approximately in every single hour of her day, that is. Sometimes she phones or texts him and checks when those texts are received. She also frequently checks the time when he logs in or out of his account of an internet community site they both frequent, and she often checks out his friends there, too. She wants to know who is who and from where her boyfriend knows them. His boyfriend is similarly jealous. He wants to know everything about Nora’s life as well and wants to know about her friends and daily occupations. “ I would not want my boyfriend to meet girls ‘just for coffee’ or a drink or I would not like him to have female friends, either. Unless is it for business. One ‘little coffee can lead to another and then to God knows what else. I am not a nutcase. I am not irrational. I am only careful. I always want to come first, I cannot have any other woman in my beloved’s life and do not want his to fancy anyone else.”

Anna, a 29-year-old anthropologist, on the other hand thinks that Nora’s jealousy is irrational. Anna travels a great deal for work and has always been away from her boyfriend quite a lot. On top of all this Max recently got a PhD scholarship to France. “I used to be jealous, but it is very different now. It is different than any other relationship I have ever had. We have been together for a very long time now and we truly love and respect one another. We have been through a lot. I think it is because we are not each other’s ‘property’. He is his own person and so am I. Freedom is very important for us. I think everybody should have their own life. James notices other woman, as he is a man and not blind. But I trust him and know he would never betray me.”Sometimes we go through terrible times and feel that the whole world has turned against us, including our partner. Julia, who is a 32-year-old dentist and lives with her boyfriend Pali, experienced something similar. “It was a terrible time: I lost my mother to cancer and I was sacked in fast progression. My life was a shipwreck and so was I. I ate all day, mostly chocolate and ice cream and cried until I ran out of tears. And I tortured poor Pali all the time. I would tell him that I knew that he wants to leave me for someone else; someone nicer, kinder, sexier; and I would tell him how I understood, because there’s nothing I can give him anymore, really. Luckily our relationship survived this ordeal as Pali knows me well and loved me enough to make it through. He said he knew I would eventually pull it together; and I did.”

  “How we experience jealousy largely depends on what kind of emotional and behavioural patterns we bring from out childhood home. – says the psychiatrist – But we should not forget that the jealousy we experience as adults cannot be defined by our childhood alone.”  Jealousy, as the cliché has it, is almost completely irrational. There are people who have always had it and there are others who are usually do not jealous, but then a relationship – a certain man or woman or a situation – open up long forgotten unconscious wounds thus wakes up the ‘jealous beast’. And many of us are jealous of our partners because we feel we are not worthy of their love. In other words: we have low self esteem and we are sure sooner or later he will realise we are useless/stupid/ugly etc. Dr. Baczako thinks jealousy has many shapes and forms but in most cases we project our insecurity onto our partner. “Jealousy is a very complex, in many cases irrational matter. – she says – It has always existed, at least it sure existed as long as we can look back. It can originate in a wide variety of things and I believe it is worth everyone’s while to look into the roots of the matter. I think that in case of irrational jealousy when it takes over our lives and we cannot function properly, or even when it makes us feel uncomfortable, it is advisable to seek professional help.”

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