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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

Jealousy: Who’s At Fault?

  • 2009 30 Mar
Jealousy: Who’s At Fault?

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 t

Every once in a while I hit a “hot button,” and I surely hit one with the topic of jealousy. Many of you have experienced jealousy and possessiveness in your relationships, and because it is such a hot topic, you jumped in with your opinions about whether a man should be allowed to have a close friendship with a female coworker, in spite of his mate’s jealousy.

Jealousy, it seems, is part of nearly every relationship. Situations arise where we feel that achy-braky feeling in our guts, anywhere from anxiety to outright dread. We wonder if our mate can be trusted, or if we’re in for the fall of our lives. Many who come to The Marriage Recovery Center are struggling with problems stemming from an affair, perhaps an emotional affair that began with feelings of jealousy and wasn’t dealt with effectively.

The central question about feelings of jealousy is, “Do we need to swallow our feelings and ‘buck up,’ or are we entitled to request/ demand our mate change their behavior in sensitivity to our insecurity?” If we believe our mate is too chummy with a member of the opposite sex, do we have the right to ask/ insist on ‘hedges of protection,’ or must we listen to them when they tell us, “There’s nothing to worry about"?

Before offering a sampling of the many responses I received on the topic, let me lay out a few considerations:

  • The one who is dabbling with danger rarely recognizes it.
  • They often are defensive, protesting their behavior is not a problem.
  • They often turn the problem back on the worrier, claiming they are “insecure,” “crazy,” “possessive,” or “just plain nuts.”
  • Division and argument often ensues, as one side is pitted against the other.
  • Working together to sort out the issues and arrive at a reasonable solution is challenging and at times, seemingly impossible.

So, here are a few of the responses I received on the topic of whether or not a mate should change their behavior in response to their mate’s insecurities:

I think you're right about the jealousy issue being a joint thing. Even if she is making more of it than is true. Her feelings about the situation deserve respect and attention. If he really cares about it he will listen to her as she expresses them and then seek to do what will make her feel better about the situation. Yes, she needs to talk about them when she's calm, not when she's already upset. Yes, if he won't listen now she can forget about it after they're married.

This gentleman offers a very wise, and thoughtful response. What do you think? Here’s another:

If this girl’s boyfriend doesn’t stop hanging around with his female coworker, I would think he is not being honest nor sincere to his girlfriend, and he should make up his mind of who he really wants to be with, and if he is interested more in his female coworker he should call it quits with his girlfriend, or if he is really interested in his girlfriend he should call it quits with his female coworker. It’s just wrong.

Here’s another:

My husband is a pastor. In your article regarding jealousy you said to "cast your vote." As a pastor, my husband is dealing with women quite often. However, he is wise enough to recognize that nobody is exempt from moral failure. Together we have set up boundaries that we both follow. We will not meet behind a closed door with a member of the opposite sex - not even for counseling. If he is counseling a woman he tells her upfront that I will be sitting in. He does not go to dinner with a woman. He does not ride alone in a car with a woman. These are things that we have encouraged in our church as well. Part if it is to keep from falling into sin. The other part is to avoid all appearance of evil. Still, another part is to keep ourselves out of a situation where we could be accused of any misconduct.

And one more:

Obviously, he is doing things he shouldn't be doing, or he would be open about it. True, we are not to be jealous, though God is a "jealous God." I think if he is doing this while they are still in the pre-marriage situation, it will probably become worse if she does go ahead and marries him. Probably not the best idea. A good, non-accusatory talk should come first, though, to try to find out what he is really thinking.  Most of all, PRAY!

  • For the situation
  • For God's peace
  • For Wisdom
  • For Discernment!

The compelling theme to the many responses is that we are to be sensitive to our mate—even if they appear excessively insecure or jealous. We are not the best judges of our behavior, and if our mate is jealous, this must be considered and respected.

Are you struggling with jealousy in your relationship? Is your mate sensitive to your feelings? I’d like to hear from others who have overcome problems of jealousy in their relationship, and specifically how they have done it. Please share your concerns with me at

Published March 31, 2009.

Dr. Hawkins is the director of 
The Marriage Recovery Center  where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You, Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. His newest books are titled  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Healing a Hurting Relationship and  The Relationship Doctor's Prescription for Living Beyond Guilt.  Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.