I’ve thought long and hard about this and find that I have almost nothing to say about this that hasn’t already been said before. And yet, I write about it…it seems imperative somehow. In a blog about men and women and shifting gender roles and relationships, how can the issue of jealousy not raise its hypnotic, mercurial head?
Jealousy – good or bad? That’s over-simplification.
Anyone who says they have never been jealous is lying.
Anyone who says that they have never wanted someone to be at least a little jealous of them, for them is also lying.
We’re insecure, we all are. Life is excruciatingly complex and changeable. Security is really a myth…a fairytale illusion that every single one of us wants and tries hard to bring into our lives in some way. We feel the need to cling to that which we hold dear and it also makes us feel good (whether we admit it or not) to be held close by other people.
Now to begin with, let’s define jealousy and possessiveness clearly.
Jealousy is rather martial, a desire to keep one’s territory untouched by others, an emotional “Back off! This is mine!” signboard. It is primitive, illogical, selfish, aggressive, and very fearful of loss.
Possessiveness is on the other hand, pride in one’s own. It’s rather difficult to explain this well in words. In Hindi, people one feels close to, a connection with are described as ‘apne‘ as opposed to ‘paraye‘…which denotes stranger but also something more….people one does not relate to, one does not feel a kinship with. It isn’t about ownership as much as it is about relationships. Possessiveness then, is an assertion, a recognition, a declaration of one’s ‘apnapan‘ with another. It doesn’t need bluster (though it might need expression sometimes)…it exists confident in the knowledge of its own existence.
It is the difference between
You belong to me.
We belong together.
In my most moralistic moments, I think of jealousy as an obvious, shallow, base emotion while possessiveness is deeper, subtler and richer. But that’s only when I’m sermonizing which I try not to.
I never thought of myself as a jealous person while growing up. I never felt the need to dictate anyone’s behaviour. On the other hand, I always had a strict code of attitude and emotion, trespassing which, would mean automatic severing of the relationship. Has it been arrogance? Perhaps. Combined with a degree of security. Or ego perhaps.
I had a good friend who had a habit of dropping in often and was besotted by my father. I understood that she was yearning for a father figure for various reasons I won’t go into and at the same time her own mixed-up adolescence made her friend’s father seem highly appealing. It never bothered me. One time she stayed over and the conversation laughingly turned to the thought that my parents could ‘adopt’ her. She grinned at me cheekily and said,
But won’t IdeaSmith mind? Sharing her parents, her room, her things, her life?
I nonchalantly tossed,
Nope. Stay as long as you like as long as you keep out of my books.
It was a redundant conversation, a game of which everyone knew the outcome. I knew no matter how much my parents fussed over my friends, nothing would ever change the fact that I was..am..their only offspring. As for the books, my friend wasn’t much of a reader anyway. All three of them knew that I wouldn’t openly express deep concern over a relationship. But she did it to needle me, for fun. And I said it to make her feel like her needling had some effect on me.
Sometimes people give you their jealousy as a gift, to reveal the secret of what they hold dear to them. She was asking for mine and I was letting her have some scraps.
When J and I drifted apart, someone said that I was just jealous because she had found a boyfriend who was taking up all her time. I’ve thought about that often over the years. But no, it wasn’t. Because she always had a life far outside me, a different college, a different set, the church group, family, and friends. I was angry with her but it wasn’t jealousy.
But yes, it was possessiveness. She didn’t feel like one of my own kin anymore since she went off to be a ‘good catholic girlfriend/housewife’. It hurt that a relationship that we both took so much pride in…didn’t exist anymore. As proof of my non-jealousy, her then-boyfriend/now-husband is also a good friend, a man I very much respect and admire and makes me very happy by virtue of the fact that he fell in love with my friend.
Possessiveness might well be the reluctance to vanquish that which one holds dear. That’s jealousy too I suppose but jealousy is so destructive while possessiveness, in contrast, is willing to make some compromises just so long as the relationship is kept alive. Jealousy is momentary while possessiveness is older, wiser, slower. To take hold of and to let go.
In college, I bonded closely with another girl. We became friends very quickly and for two years after that were almost never seen without each other. People started to whisper that we were lesbians which made me scream with laughter and, look at them contemptuously. I knew the feeling. They just didn’t understand. I still think of her. No one, friend, family, or lover has ever made me feel as completely, utterly loved as she did. She just understood what it was like to be me. And I knew her within. I guess that really was the problem.
It was deeply thrilling but also fairly disconcerting to feel such a connection with another human being. Somewhere she sensed my restlessness and it seemed to turn foul inside her. She started to get…clingy. It was awful but after a while I hated being in her presence and would find ways to go out with other people, knowing fully well it hurt her…in defiance, in rage, in pain. It was awful.
And then one day before my birthday (and two days before hers) I told her I never wanted to see her again. That was probably the hardest thing for me to do, ever. I was younger then, far more restless, less tolerant of other people’s behaviour and far less emphatic of their feelings than I should have been. But then, I was only seventeen.
I well understood that her jealousy showed her desperation but I couldn’t bear to be needed so much. Then again…it is a potent poison….that feeling of being needed, utterly desired in your entirety. I have to say, I don’t think a man is capable of feeling this particular shade of emotion, whether it is jealousy or possessiveness…it just is too deep, too vulnerable, too raw. Jealousy that is expressed is touching.
And finally, there was the boyfriend from hell whose torturous treatment of me with the control games, the manipulation, the relentless emotional blackmail and abuse were all designed to hide and assuage deep jealousy. He didn’t like knowing that he wasn’t the only thing in my life and for as long as he could he stifled every other relationship, every other interest I had.
Looking back, I know it could only have been deep insecurity, terrible weakness..and that perhaps he was much more afraid of losing me than I was of him. I wish I could forgive him. But some wounds run too deep and the best I can do is tell myself that I need not think of any revenge for the pain he gave me – just living his life must be torture enough.
I feel vindicated when I realise that I have no desire to hold on to him, not even the thought of hurting him…that’s how little jealous, how little possessive, how little connected I feel to him. Jealousy is love warped and contorted on itself and he is not going to have even that from me.
It might still have been simple really if life had continued just like that, with other people being jealous/possessive of me while I serenely (or not) carried on with my own way. But life it may seem, has had other plans. I’ve been put on the other side and god, it’s awful. It’s terrible knowing that you shouldn’t be saying the things you are, doing what you are. It is awful seeing yourself as weak when everyone (including yourself) expects you to be a strong, ‘good’ person. It is truly terrible to be afflicted by jealousy.
And yet….what to do, there are just some situations and some people, with whom you can’t help yourself. All rationale and dignity go out of the window. Somewhere in each of us is a primitive Neanderthal that screams BLOOD when its territory is trespassed. And in all the maniacal clawing and seething, sometimes we lash out and draw blood from the very thing that we are fighting for.
I’ve been on the other side, suppressing that monster within instead of fighting it in another. It’s like being…or feeling….really poor and hungry and clawing frantically, desperately because you’re out of your mind with starvation. You’ll kill for food but you know all along it’s wrong and hate yourself for your wretchedness…and somewhere hope for some mercy, some compassion reciprocated from the object of your affection. And at some point in time, even that makes you so angry that you just want to tear up the whole picture that is your life…anything to stop feeling this way…but then you can’t really ever hurt someone you care enough to be jealous about. Not without drawing your own blood anyway.
I wish you all the very best, then. I hope you find kindness and even if you don’t, I hope you remember to be kind to yourself and to the monster within, which, ugly as it is, is still very much a part of you.
I was dreaming of the past.
And my heart was beating fast,
I began to lose control,
I began to lose control,
I didn’t mean to hurt you,
I’m sorry that I made you cry,
I didn’t want to hurt you,
I’m just a jealous guy,
I was feeling insecure,
You night not love me any more,
I was shivering inside,
I was shivering inside,
I was trying to catch your eyes,
Thought that you were trying to hide,
I was swallowing my pain,
I was swallowing my pain.
– John Lennon