Tuesday, November 24, 2009


When I married a promiscuous woman I remember being jealous, perhaps even insanely jealous. I felt deeply hurt . I believed that if I was somehow a better man she would not have slept with another. I felt that I was inadequate. I blamed myself for her behavior. Men whose wives or girlfriends are promiscuous are indeed blamed for their behavior. I felt deeply humiliated by her public behavior. I felt deeply ashamed. I was stung by the distasteful gossip. Yet I'd known she had 'slept around' before I married her and somehow felt that marriage would change things. I believed in the power of love and that if I just loved enough she'd love too.

Society calls men whose wives sleep around on them "cuckolds." Women are not subjected to the same level of public scrutiny and condemnation for the behavior of men. Indeed women whose husbands sleep around are generally treated with sympathy. Men don't get or give sympathy to men whose wives sleep around. The wife or girlfriend publicly 'castrates' the man by her infidelity, unfaithfulness and act of 'covert' aggression.

A man was expected by society to control the behavior of his wife and later his children. He alone was held accountable for the 'public' behavior of his home. Because I didn't believe in hitting women I was told I was 'unmanly'. Indeed I met women who said, "if you loved me you'd hit me," and "if you were a man, you'd hit me." But I only hit people in self defence and did not feel my personal life was threatened only my social life. Somehow I understood these two were separate and not one in the same from an early age.

Her family even felt that I should "control' her behavior and blamed me for failing to do their job of moral training or indeed socialization. Her grandparents expected me to beat her and wanted me to drag her home and make her behave as they'd failed to do themselves. Perhaps they had or had not used force when she was younger and it hadn't worked. I was just ambushed by the end result.

My parents meanwhile had told me not to get involved with what to them were morally inferior people, or 'infidels' as it were. I hadn't married the 'good' girls that my parents had raised me among and who I was supposed to marry. "You made your bed, sleep in it," was what I remember being told. "That's what comes of wrongful yoking", some other self righteous, unhelpful, "I told you so" individual told me too.

I was attracted to her and thought I loved her. Of course love is blind these days where justice is not. I didn't feel 'good enough' or perhaps I might have been less 'tolerant' of the abuse or chosen someone of more character. But I didn't have high self esteem. Like attracts like often and usually we're joined by complementarity. The blind man marries the deaf woman and each complain about the others inadequacy.

At the time I didn't appreciate the significance of her alcoholism and how much addiction played into promiscuity or even jealousy with or without the alcohol. "Pathalogical jealousy" is most commonly seen with addiction. No amount of talking to her could change her behavior. Begging, pleading, cajoling, threatening, all of it was for nought. Drunk or stoned she might not come home or she might. I was just deeply hurt and blamed myself if not more for her behavior.

When her family sent me to bring her home after she'd spent the rent money on drinking, I was met with one of her boyfriends pointing a gun at me. I remember facing that gun. I was scared but also calm and angry at the same time. I'd learned by then and have had experiences since that have taught me that somehow in times of emergency things kind of slow right down more for me than perhaps others. It's frightening at the time and I never know before if I'll survive the thing I fear but somehow at the time it's always alright.

I remember looking into his eyes carefully and steadily and explaining quietly that his life was now mine, that if he pulled the trigger I'd kill him before I died and if he put down the gun I'd own his soul and he would forever owe me. He put down the gun. I walked away. She watched. She stayed. I suppose the marriage ended that night. I know I'd hoped that she would come with me but she didn't. I think I heard laughter as I walked away. She kept calling me and wanting me to be with her along time after that. Indeed she blamed me for not "controlling" her behavior too.

I just remember thinking her family was silly to think that I could control another person when they were at a distance. I remember thinking jealousy was silly too. I don't think I felt jealous like that ever again. I felt jealousy but it never went anywhere. I knew that I couldn't "control" another's sexual behavior. Hell, I had enough trouble "controlling" myself, saying no to all the sexual advances,saying no to all the 'married' women, saying "no" in general. Mostly I got tired of being blamed for saying no and then being blamed for being stalked. A lot of life one feels damned if they do and damned if they don't and frankly I'd rather be a 'hammer than a nail."

Like most people I'd rather say "yes" but I struggled with leading a 'moral' life in an 'immoral' time. I didn't do very well at it either.

She was a 'wild one' and we were young and 'wild' as only the truly young can be. But today I understand 'choice' more like those writings that say,"If you love someone, let them go" and the contrasting biker one, "If you love someone, let them go, if they don't come back in 5 days, hunt them down and kill them."

There's a lot of research I've been priviledged to read on "attachment", "identification with the aggressor", "gene theory", "Stockholm syndrome", "sex addiction" and "love addiction" and "codependency". I most enjoy Al Anon today. I became a member over 12 years ago.

Drop the Rock, writes of "jealousy", "Jealousy is a great danger in recovery. The kind of thinking that causes jealousy makes us believe that the world owes us much more than we are able to earn by our best efforts."

In psychiatric jargon, this is called "narcissistic entitlement' and speaks to the destructive anger that underlies the emotions of jealousy. Jealousy isn't an emotion of love but rather one of fear and hate. Hence the 'hunt them down and kill them" biker translation. Jealousy pollutes relationships and defines the truth about our own capacity to love. It says nothing about the other. It's blaming, deceitful, and controlling. In short, it's unloving.

Perhaps in a family it came from protecting children, a man bringing back the straying wife to the task of raising the children, a woman bringing back the errant man to the task of raising the children but between adults it has no such basis. And society is no longer structured such that men or women have control in relationships as the police and courts no longer respect marriage or family and would call any attempt to "control' another's behavior "assault", "kidnapping" or worse.

Jealousy is tied in with envy.

The book Drop the Rock says, "This state of mind produces not only jealousy, reactive depression, and an attitude that "life's not fair" but also anger at the world. Soon, that jealousy and anger turn against those people most dear to us. We are reminded that the Big Book calls jealousy that most terrible of human emotions."

Cognitive therapy teaches that our emotions are a product of our thinking. Books like Aaron Beck's student, Burn's , Feeling Good, teach that we need to consciously change our thinking, blocking negative thoughts and instilling the positive thoughts repetitively that we wish to live by. In the 12 step programs we say, "you can't think your way into right actions, you must act your way into right thinking." With that goes "fake it till you make it." The 'work' is in doing a step 4 and 5 and then looking at our character defects. When we point our finger three fingers point back. We have to look at our 'principles' and the 'institutions' and ask a "loving god our our understanding." And if that doesn't result in an answer as Phillips said in a book of the same title, "Your God is too small".

The serenity prayer goes, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can't change (other people and their actions?) the courage to change the things I can, (my thoughts, emotions, actions,?) and the wisdom to know the difference.(live and let live?)"

Later in life I learned a lot of things that would have helped me a whole lot earlier if I'd known them then. One of those things I learned was that everyone wanted to give me a job where I had responsibility without control. Being a doctor made me appreciate this most when a patient didn't take the medication I prescribed, didn't follow my directions and died leaving me to be blamed as a bad doctor for not saving his life. Often the courts aren't about "justice" per se but really are in the business of 'passing the buck' or finding 'some to blame." My Indian cousin said, "The RCMP always get their man. It doesn't have to be the right man. And if they can't get just any man an Indian will do." That said, judges and police have a tough job, especially today.

The whole area of "non adherence to medical regimen" or "non compliance with treatment' became a special interest of mine when I was a family physician and later community medicine resident. My work today with addiction is in many ways an extension of the interest in 'why people don't do what's good for them", "along with why bad things happen to good people". Experience with my own frailities and others has helped me become less judgemental of others.

Thankfully I learn a lot fewer lessons over time looking into the barrel of guns. Yet many people only learn from 'consequences'. It's a fine line between helping people and enabling. The only true 'experts' are the Monday morning 'quarterbacks" and "armchair critics". I confess to still finding their particular brand of arrogance and entitlement trying.

The term "toxic" often refers to people who are in the "victim" mode and "blaming" others. Their addictions are active, whatever their addictions are, and it's somewhat like watching a child having a temper tantrum or witnessing a violently insane person on a psychiatry ward 'acting out'in a "quiet room". We learn to stand clear, back off and wait till they're sane. The first rule of lifesaving is do not let yourself be drowned with the drowning. The golden rule says "love your neighbor as yourself." Self love again has a fine line between it and arrogance or narcissism. Yet without self love we can't truly love others.

Also we need to accept too that while alcoholics hang out with other alcoholics confirming each other in their disease, the jealous find the jealous and confirm each other's insaniety. The advantage of groupings is that they can multiply our positives or our negatives so it really does count who are friends are.

The equation of mature love is 1 plus 1 = 1 plus 2 plus. It's expanding and creative. Immature love or the attachment of fear is ½ plus ½ = barely one. That's what Erich Fromm described in his classic Art of Loving separating 'puppy love' from ''mature love'. Jealousy lives in the world of adolescent love. It isn't a part of mature love. Mature love is not the world of blame and judgement either.

If I had died that day it would not have been her fault or her life that was lost.

"Envy is very much caught up in desire. We are taught desire rather than deserve. Just because we want it must mean we are able to get it, right? The universe operates on a deserve principle – you will reap what you sow – yet we are taught if we just want it badly enough, something will happen so we can get it. No wonder we become frustrated and depressed."

"Envy brought hatred, jealousy, anger, fear, disrespect, and distrust. We wished failure and disaster on people who had become successful or had gained in any way."

"We discovered that doing is more important than having, and experiencing is more important than possessing." Drop the Rock.

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