Living with a Jealous Husband: Coping, Caring, Changing
- Friday, September 25, 2009
Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David Hawkins, director of the Marriage Recovery Center, will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
"He wants to know everything I'm doing, day and night," Tami said anxiously, tapping her fingers on the edge of her chair. Normally a self-assured woman, she had grown weary of her husband's subtle—and not so subtle—suspiciousness.
"There doesn't seem to be anything I can do to reassure him of my love for him, and it's killing our marriage."
"Tell me more about how his jealousy impacts you," I asked.
"It's stifling," she said with obvious irritation. "I feel like he watches everything I do. It's like he watching over my shoulders. I can't breathe without feeling like I owe him an explanation. I don't think he understands what he's doing is slowly killing my love for him."
I shared with Tami some of the symptoms of unhealthy jealousy:
- Excessive questioning about your behavior;
- Unusual insecurity;
- Easy irritability;
- Subtle paranoia and story-telling;
- Accusations of inappropriate behavior.
"These symptoms," I reassured Tami, "with no cause, are signs of pathological jealousy. If there are ‘reasons' for the jealousy, of course, that is a different matter."
"So," I asked curiously. "Was there anything to bring on this behavior? This kind of jealousy usually arises after there has been unfaithfulness."
"Never!" Tami said emphatically. "I go out with the girls on occasion, but I've never been unfaithful."
"How does he feel about you going out with the girls?" I asked. "Is it possibly poking at some wound of his?"
"He doesn't like it," Tami said. "But, I'm not doing anything wrong, and I shouldn't have to give up something completely innocent to make him feel secure."
"What exactly are you doing with your girlfriends?" I asked.
"Nothing," Tami said emphatically. "We meet at a local restaurant every week. Sometimes at a coffee shop. You'd think from his reaction that I was out drinking and carrying on. I'm a Christian and hanging out with Christian friends. We don't cheat on our husbands. But, I'll tell you. I've been tempted to since he keeps accusing me of it. I'd never do it though."
"Since you've never done anything inappropriate Tami, I think we've got to assume this is his issue. However, even if it is his issue, it's also your issue because you are married to him. You may be able to help him deal with his issues and certainly it will be an opportunity for growth in your marriage. Let's explore what you can do."
Tami and I then explored several possible action steps she could take to help her husband deal with his jealousy.
1. Understand some jealousy is normal. We have been created to be bound to one another in love. Scripture tells us to "cleave" to one another, in fact, and when a marriage bond is fragile in any way, jealousy is apt to arise. When there is any threat to feelings of security, jealousy is a one of the first symptoms of trouble. Don't be alarmed at some jealousy. Look for the opportunity in this difficult situation. 2. Explore the roots of his jealousy. Ask questions about his jealousy. Rather than reacting defensively, which is a natural response, ask him if there is anything at all you are doing to pique his jealousy. What exactly are his fears? What are his illusions? Are they rooted in issues from a previous relationship and tweaked by current behaviors. After he shares his fears, and feels safe in doing so, they may simply dissipate.
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