What's Good (and Bad) about Jealousy?

It’s something we already know: Military couples face unique relationship challenges. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center found in a review of research that distressed military couples are more vulnerable than civilian couples to conflict – or jealousy – regarding relationships with other men and women.

Photo by    Vera Arsic    from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Research shows 27 percent of civilian males say they want their wives to increase their number of relationships with other men and women. That number is only three percent for military husbands.

(source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/review_mmilitarylife.pdf)

That is quite the difference! So, if you’re a military couple – how should you navigate these conflicts and jealousies? First, let us tell you this: There are different kinds of jealousy.

You feel jealousy when you experience the unpleasant sensation of a rival. No matter how much your spouse may attempt to reassure you, another person’s interest in your spouse raises all your red flags.

Jealousy comes in different levels. Legitimate jealousy is a means to guard your territory. This comes from a sincere care and commitment to a relationship. Occasional jealousy includes occasional suspicions, like being uncomfortable when your spouse is with certain friends of the opposite sex. Chronic jealousy includes lies, threats, self-pity, and feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and insecurity.

Legitimate jealousy guards the heart of a marriage. God calls you to respect jealousy that comes from your spouse in the form of warnings of danger up ahead. When your spouse is a secure person and desires to protect your marriage against cracks, you need to listen. Confront the issue head on by finding the reason for the jealousy and then making changes to keep you both out of danger and guard your marriage.

Healthy jealousy:

  • Shows you care and are committed to the relationship.

  • Protects your marriage by putting safeguards in your relationship against evil attacks.

  • Keeps each other (and your marriage) accountable through honest communication.

  • Helps you confront major issues and head them off before they become major problems.

Regard healthy jealousy as a gift from God that will keep you out of danger. Men: Trust your wife’s instincts. If she suggests that another woman is behaving inappropriately, your wife is probably right. Most women have radar, an innate alertness to nonverbal communication and an ability to translate body language into emotional facts. Your wife is probably able to see these things clearly, so don’t criticize or blame her warnings on insecurity. Women: Trust your husband’s instincts. He knows what men want and how they pursue it.

Unhealthy jealousy is altogether different. It stems from comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate, unimportant, inferior, and pitiful. When you carry this jealousy to pathological extremes, it will dominate your relationship. Some spouses have experienced a lot of loss in life (divorce, death, abandonment in childhood) and may bring unresolved issues into the relationship through jealousy.

A chronically jealous spouse will use self-pity, lies, threats, and manipulation to control a relationship. When the other partner resists, the jealous person reacts by becoming more controlling. Then the other partner resists further by confiding in a friend or seeking relief outside the marriage. Sometimes this leads to more jealousy and worst-case predictions.

If you have a jealous spouse, do some self-evaluation.

  1. Assess whether you are doing something that provokes the jealousy.

  2. Stop that activity for a time to show your spouse that you’re committed to the relationship.

  3. Increase your loving actions toward your spouse.

  4. Talk honestly with your spouse about the problem. Get his/her take on it (the feelings may be legitimate) and work together to find a solution.

If you are dealing with jealousy:

  1. Listen to others. If your friends comment on your jealousy, it must be a problem.

  2. Be honest with yourself. Ask what is causing the feelings. Are you trying to manipulate?

  3. Spend time with God.

  4. Think about your spouse more positively. Jealous people use their anxious thoughts and suspicions as cues to misread anything that their spouses do. Instead, take a deep breath and pray—for yourself and for your spouse.

  5. Express your feelings to your spouse. Own up to the fact. Be honest without being blaming or manipulative.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!