By conservative estimates, there are currently enough wrongfully convicted people in prison in the United States to fill a football stadium.
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“This jealous lovin’ will make me crazy — I can’t find my goodness ’cause I’ve lost my heart . . .”
These Joni Mitchell song lyrics touch on two basic aspects of jealousy as I have experienced it.
First, there is that awful feeling of being down on yourself. It is difficult to feel good about yourself while in the throes of jealousy or possessiveness. There is something so mean and petty about those emotions. They seem much more damaging to self-esteem than their parent emotion, insecurity. This is because we unfairly blame the objects of our jealousy for the pain we are experiencing (“You did thus and such . . . you made me jealous.”), while deep inside we know we let ourselves become jealous. It’s a nasty feeling to own.
Then there’s the popular cultural concept of losing one’s heart — “If I give my heart to you . . . ,” “You stole my heart . . . ,” etc. Many of us have bought into these insidious little phrases more than we care to admit. And to free ourselves from jealousy, we need to keep our hearts right where they are. How can we lose, or give away, our center? Why not think instead of sharing what our hearts have to give? I believe that the more clearly we can see and love ourselves, the more clearly our love can flow to others. It is only when we are out of balance, when we have “lost our hearts,” that those unfriendly and unloving feelings of jealousy and possessiveness appear.
When my lover and I came together we were each ecstatic to have found a sexually tolerant mate, one who would allow extracurricular intercourse. Neither of us had ever known such a freedom, though we had both lustfully hoped for it. Transfixed with our advanced understanding, we considered this tolerance the irrefutable assurance that ours was true love — “I love you enough to let you do what you want.” We swore off jealousy and moved under the same roof. We knew, of course, that monogamy was easier, but wasn’t it an abomination of true love? We hoped to make Eros and Agape into the same thing. Amanda Ziller (Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins) was our model: “A strange spurt of semen,” she says, “is not going to wash our love away.” So that was our creed — until now. Lately one of those strange spurts of semen is no longer a stranger. It is too familiar, it comes from the same guy every week or so. I know the smell and it sometimes makes me sick.
In quantum physics I learned, intellectually, the basic instability of All Things, the irrevocable Flux of the Universe. Of course I already knew that all things change, but Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle confirmed it for me. One day I was looking out a window at the pavement below, trying to visualize the atomic reality of the asphalt. It’s just energy, I told myself, solid only in relation to my corporeal form, which is also energy. If I jump, I’ll simply mingle my atoms with those of the asphalt. I didn’t test the theory, but I did return home with the conviction that jealousy is a lie. If nothing is eternally solid — eternally there — I reasoned, then it’s a lie to possess something. We own nothing, not even the cells and atoms of our bodies. So I realized that love is not merely eternal, but exists outside the Spacetime/Energymatter system we inhabit. At that profound moment I could have walked in on one of my girlfriend’s extracurricular lovemaking sessions and handled it gracefully, perhaps with no malice at all. That’s what mental transcendence can do for you.
A friend tells me that jealousy is simply one of the human emotions, that we should never repress it. Sometimes — when it’s convenient — I believe him, but I also imagine that jealousy might be one of the unnecessary byproducts of human evolution. I grant that in Pre-Dawn man it may have served some function, but I can’t think what function it serves today, other than being a key ingredient in the recipe for violence.
But it matters little where jealousy originated — I have to deal with it now. I entered my relationship with the understanding that promises are essentially lies. No one can guarantee fidelity. Many people pretend to, but then they fornicate on the side and are forced to lie — “the truth would hurt her.” At least my lover and I communicate. When she comes home carrying a strange spurt of semen we talk about it, or at least try to. And you’re damn right it hurts, it hurts worse than anything else in the world. And I don’t repress it, no, I go into a nonviolent but very aggressive rage. Then I get over it until the next time. But what’s the threat? I know she loves me, I really don’t think she intends to replace me with that other guy. Can a strange spurt of semen wash our love away? How about several strange spurts? I curse Amanda Ziller for being fictional — she couldn’t be like that in real life. I bet even Tom Robbins is a jealous god. But what about the pornographic film stars I’ve read about? One famous porn queen has been happily married for thirteen years, and her husband directs many of her films. They claim they’re not at all jealous. Now here’s a man who regularly watches his wife getting screwed by other men and he can handle it. That bothers me, intrigues me, because I’m certainly not that advanced. Or is that advanced? Maybe he’s just used to it. I do have the right to ask my girlfriend to stop carousing, but she says then she’ll resent me — which could rapidly deteriorate her love for me, she implies. When she’s out doing it I start feeling like I should be doing it too, not to get back at her, but simply to keep up (though I do want her to get a taste of her own medicine). Of course it’s not like I can go out and get laid every time she does. Who will deny that a woman has an easier time getting picked up?
If humans were incapable of loving two or more persons at one time, the problem would be more than half solved, though I suppose worse problems would follow. But love really does exist outside of space and time. Indeed, I am still in love with most every lover I’ve had, and even some that I haven’t had. If I were to make love to any of them, my current lover would be jealous. But she would not want to be jealous. Most couples we know profess monogamy while one partner or the other hops from bed to bed. My lover and I admit to fallibility from the start. We know that genitals can talk as loud or louder than promises. So we don’t fool ourselves. And we hope that neither of us takes undue advantage of our mutual sexual tolerance. But it’s impossible to draw the line between what is or isn’t permissible. We’re at the stage that we detest jealousy (note that the word contains the suffix lousy), but we still succumb to it at times. We tolerate extracurricular sex, but still cringe and cry when we find out about it.
Johnson City, Tennessee
Jealousy rips through me; unable and unwilling to be tamed by my “new age consciousness.” These emotions have nothing to do with spirituality yet for the first time in a long time; I experience my Spirit. Hello, you beast.
It’s too real to be analyzed. There are times when I can rationalize about the experience of a loved one loving another. Other intimate ones. This just doesn’t happen to be one of those times. You all know what I’m talking about — the anger, the gritting of teeth, trying not to experience how hurt I am. Jealousy is a dark feeling. You can rap and read and rationalize and spiritualize all you want but it is still right there. Jealousy is beyond the bounds of the controlled environment. It’s not in the 60 to 80 degree comfort zone.
With apologies to the Aquarian Age, my experience has been that relationships are not especially happy or long-term among couples of the New Age. The issue of possessiveness/jealousy is a particularly bothersome stumbling block for many. As someone who came of age in the Sixties and married in the early Seventies, I feel somewhat qualified to address this issue as a New Age veteran who has tried to create a non-traditional marriage for more than a dozen years.
One early misconception that I entertained was that the only alternative to possessiveness/jealousy was non-exclusivity/openness. They are merely different sides to the same coin. Making a relationship open does not solve the problem of possessiveness. It simply becomes a justification for acting out feelings of being restricted by the relationship. The jealousy that inevitably arises in your partner is labeled as bad and the burden of guilt is conveniently shifted. I could always argue the “rightness” of an open relationship, but I discovered that I could never be both loving and “right.”
I have found that I must cease being the director of my relationship and allow it to become what it wants to become. For example, a marriage must not become a way of fixing the past. Everyone’s mother probably didn’t love them enough. Everyone’s adolescence is probably full of slighted romances and bruised hearts. But for the sake of my relationship, I try not to seek vengeance on the past through my present love. The unreality that such a course brings to the marriage cannot be overestimated. You seek to join with phantoms from the past that you hate more than love. And if your partner has the audacity not to cooperate with your attempts to fix the past, more likely than not you will end that relationship and look for another who will not get in the way of your war with your own history.
The answer to the possessiveness/jealousy question seems to be a little willingness to let go of my illusions and plans regarding my relationship. Freed from the need to get anything from the relationship, the lure of finding another more suitable partner or the fear of losing my love to another is no longer in my mind. Instead, I try to step back and give the relationship permission to be reborn in each instant. The happiness that can result far outweighs the satisfaction of being “right” but miserable.