Slaying the Green-eyed Monster

“Mine!” was among the first words I’d ever blurted out. Not “Mommy,” not “Daddy;” but a claiming word declaring that something belonged to none other than me. I was never one for sharing. Selfishness mixed with a penchant for competitiveness, a dramatic imagination, and a fear of abandonment gives you my long-time companion: the green-eyed monster.

The green-eyed monster endowed me with special powers. I could sense a threat coming from a mile away. Take one glance at my object of affection, and you had just imprinted yourself on my radar for life. Come near us, and I’ll smile; but I would be plotting ways to make you go away forever. Now, don’t fret. This isn’t an article disguised as a murder confession; I never took jealousy that far (only in my head). Rather, take this as a cautionary tale from someone who knows what it was like to have everything to lose and what it was like to live in fear when everything that I claimed as my own was up for grabs.

One of my earliest memories is of me standing at the bottom of a staircase, mourning the imagined death of my parents and dreading that most unwelcome day when they would die and abandon me. I stood there weeping for hours while my parents were in the next room watching TV.

The fear of abandonment followed me throughout my life, causing me to become all the more insecure as I grew older. I took quick emotional possession of friends, attaching to them for dear life so they might never leave me. Third-party friends weren’t ever welcome. But it turned out that things just didn’t work like that. My friends wanted to hang out with other friends, which baffled me because they had me. Why would they want anyone else? I eventually came to the conclusion that I was unworthy. Those third-party friends, in all their coolness, unwittingly had me believing that I was inferior. I obsessively compared myself to them, and I was always the one who came up short.

For self-preservation, I eventually began to befriend people only to neglect and dismiss them before they could find me out as the undeserving person that I thought I was. I did the same thing with romantic relationships. I created a predictable system in which the relationship was under my control. I decided when the relationships ended, and therefore, no one could take anyone away from me because I would have already detached myself. If it so happened that they left me before I could leave them, I would remember that it was only right that they did. I had already predicted that that day would come anyway. My self-fulling prophecy proved I was right each time. And always being right was a wonderful feeling.

Self-fulfilling prophecies nourished my green-eyed beast and it thrived well into courtship and even marriage with my husband. Passions were at their highest, and the monstrosity of my jealousy was at its worst. The very same qualities that drew me to him, such as his sense of humor and warm nature, when directed towards other people, became ones I resented. In my eyes, he was flirting.  Even when I myself knew that I was imagining his deviousness and plans to leave me, I made it plain that I was on to him and accused him of infidelity. He would deny it, but I remained happier in my delusional world. Predictability was a necessity, and my preoccupation of his leaving me provided a familiar and safe place in my mind. I further justified my jealous behaviors by telling myself it was because I loved him so much.

Years passed, and I knew that the monster was roaring with laughter at me. Couples’ therapy only seemed to point out all of my flaws, an opportunity that the monster feasted upon. It saw me continue my accusations, destroy our pictures and souvenirs, and turn over and break our furniture.

And yet somehow, we were still together. I was confused by this, and confided in a friend one day. As I got around to embellishing my suspicions of his cheating, my friend grasped my hand, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Stop it. If you keep doing this, he will leave you.” That was the end of my tale.

I went home that day and found a cloth bracelet upon which I wrote the words, “Stop it,” to remind me to take control of jealousy. Wearing this bracelet was one of the first steps I took toward having compassion for myself and slaying the monster.

When the bracelet started to lose its effect, I was determined to treat jealousy as an emotional and mental infection and return to reality, which proved to not be all that bad. I was proven wrong for I hadn’t been abandoned, and I hadn’t left, either. Our new furniture remains in tact, and I found a vast field for my wild and creative imagination to frolic through writing. Instead of conjuring up stories about where my husband could be or whom he’s with, I’ve chosen to focus on how secure he makes me feel. I also rediscovered the joy of hiking and taking my dog out for adventures.

I know that the monster lies dormant somewhere. From time to time I feel it stir and must ask my husband for reassurance. But as I look over at him who’s now laughing at the TV with our son, I remember that I’m not alone.