His beautiful wife returns from an extended bathroom break, leaving her husband with good friends at the table of one of their favorite bar and grills. “What took you so long” he whispered to her, “and who was that man talking to you?” She answered cautiously, “A stranger. He asked if we were celebrating a special occasion — your table is having a good time, he said.” Staring intently at his wife, the husband exhaled, “Is that all that was said?” Getting a bit irritated the wife answered, “if there were more Daryl, I would tell you. But he was nice and I answered him explaining this is our usual get-together once a month.” Responding in like, the husband replied “he acted like he knew you and couldn’t stop staring at you and your dress.” The wife, becoming increasingly angered, immediately responded “…and if he were, are you implying that I am unattractive and no man in this restaurant would dare compliment me or talk to me!?” Their friends at the table couldn’t help but notice the awkwardness across from them and gradually became silent.
Now the wife was completely embarrassed, again. He has done it again.
The irony of the moment is that there was a time when Daryl was that stranger, and couldn’t stop from approaching Leslie, determined to know her better. What is the problem now? Is there any problem at all?
I cannot begin to count the times I’ve found myself at the same table with couples, with friends. I can count the times when I was that spouse/partner being interrogated for either speaking to a stunning woman or noticing her beauty. I’ve also been the interrogator, a long time ago. It is truly a situation you want to avoid, perhaps at all costs if you are non-confrontational in public. But the reality is that it is not a situation — it is a symptom. A viral symptom.
Before suggesting an anti-biotic, let’s first understand the virus. The common label and description of this virus is called jealousy. Jealousy, as defined by Dictionary.com, is (1) resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc, or against another’s success or advantage itself; (2) mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc, as in love or aims; (3) vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.
A threat from a rival is an explanation sufficiently supported by science, more specifically primatology, the science or study of primates; our ancestral heritage. When it comes to raw emotions, our fight-or-flight DNA is deeply embedded in our instincts and genetics. In my earlier post The Nature of Love, I explored the genetic-wiring of protection, protection of valuables such as food resources or offspring. In most mammalian groups the male, and often the female or mother, will protect his and her young vulnerable offspring, even to the death. This “fight” is understandable. Most parents today would do the same thing if their children were in extreme danger or risk. But in our restaurant setting there are no children present. This is a night out strictly for the parents. We don’t know if Daryl and Leslie have children do we? Furthermore, if they do have children, would that really matter in this instance? Aside from neurology or transgenerational genetics deeply embedded, it is a secondary explanation. But for my purpose here it is valid, but insignificant: the strange man was not putting Daryl’s and Leslie’s supposed children in any real danger; none at all. Mark off “vulnerable offspring” as a cause.
Was the stranger a threat as a mate? The realistic answer is no. How much can really be determined about a person, or the initial chemistry of two persons in the first 5-10 minutes? The plethora of forward-looking answers are not so clear. Had Leslie and the stranger been given more time under different circumstances, who could say what might have happened. Leslie could speculate what might have happened. The stranger could as well. The stranger’s speculation (will?) might have been the same as Leslie’s, correct? Then again, they could have been directly opposed. The stranger could have delusions of grandeur if he thought he could have swooned Leslie’s heart…or libido. But both could be firmly within Daryl’s influence if his marriage is still vibrant and thriving after 20-years. That would depend on how things were progressing between Daryl and Leslie, right?
Our speculation of what if could go on and on ad infinitum if we let it. But we have indeed identified the correct question: How are things progressing between Daryl and Leslie? The perceived threat is not at all The Stranger. Yet, Daryl made him out to be. Why? That answer is truly the heart of the problem, right? It is the symptom in the form of a question; a question based in fear and/or jealousy. And if the symptom is not addressed, sooner or later it will become a marital virus.
Windows, Doors and Air
Did Leslie’s honor and integrity deserve questioning? For the sake of your time and superb reading skills, and my time and writing skills, let me say that Leslie’s integrity, in this particular situation, was beyond reproach. However, suffice it to say that Leslie and Daryl have had in their past reasons to seek reassurance, checkups to determine whether alive or dead. Some of the checkups were not to the liking of the other. I suspect all couples go through such a time, some more than others. Daryl is short on patience and so chooses to assess things rashly. He is quite confident of this skill, even arrogant. But I do not want to paint Daryl entirely in a negative light. He is only working with and behaving within what he knows from experience; experience that has not grown or adapted in the last fifteen or so years, at least within the interactions of real love. His number one misfortune? Stubbornly believing that all things stay the same if we faithfully maintain a status quo, i.e. especially love, marriage, and kids. A peculiar lifeview given our human nature and society’s hunger for movement, non-stop progression, metaphorically as well as literally.
Another misfortune was presuming that another, his wife in this case, was incapable of or lacking self-management, or at least refining her self-management when a challenge presented itself. However, on a deeper level the construction of Leslie’s and Daryl’s relationship — as seen in the bar and grill with friends — began mutually many years before this restaurant stranger. Leslie and Daryl built a house together, a home, an investment that goes beyond a dollar value, but one which includes a spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental value as well. A home is more than a mere building. Its foundation is made from the trials, tributes, and successes (or failures) of a relationship started the day they met. The rest is made with, from bottom to top, what each brings in and what they allow out. After all, a house is not a house if it has no door. It is not as pretty a house, if it has no windows. Or…I could be completely wrong. Personally, I could not live in a home with one door and very few windows, but that’s me.
How many doors and windows should a house have? What number of doors and windows would reflect a home’s character and those living inside? What sort of front door? What sort of windows? How many doors and windows?
If I gazed upon a house with one door, a steel door with massive hinges to hold its weight, three combination locks, and a handle as large as a post to open and close it, a small window up high beyond reach, my first impression would not be one that is welcoming. It certainly says do not look inside. Instead I see and feel fear; fear of vandalism, fear of robbery, a feel of self-preservation, coincidentally at the cost of natural light and air, two elements our human condition requires. They are also two elements Leslie requires. She is a highly social, engaging woman, whose beauty is radiant when allowed to be, and therefore is naturally attractive, particularly to others. Is attractive to be so feared? Is it to be so squelched, so imprisoned, that it suffocates to a point of lifelessness just so no other can enjoy it? To me, that is a house with an armed guard at the steel door and a tiny windowed home of which no one can see in much less get in, and that what’s inside — a treasure beyond measure — cannot get out or be seen by potential robbers. Coincidentally, if air is not allowed to enter and leave, there will be no treasure, no life for anyone to love, not even the resident designers.
The Consequence of Jealousy
I once heard that “the person who risks nothing, gains nothing or does nothing.” They just are… they exist as everything and everyone around them move on. Movement and exercise is good. Stagnation is bad. The former creates learned experience, wisdom, fulfilment; the latter decays from the surrounding elements, including parasites and bacteria. My question is now this: Is jealousy the best anti-biotic? No wait, to be more concise the question should be… Is it best to make them stay, make them fear leaving?
Not to insult my readers intellect, but the answer to the question is no. Unequivocally and adamantly no. For to do so would mean he or she are there not because they want to be or desire to be with you, but because they fear the consequences of leaving. And sadly, we all know that that condition is not love, not pure passionate, thriving, strengthening love. It is simply inflicted paralysis to stop or avoid loss. Unwittingly (or not) the inflictor, the warden or police officer has created a stagnate motionless or more tragic, a petri dish of loss. It is exactly the consequence they thought they were protecting against. Humans do not get stronger by being still, or by eating only one food. Humans do not become wiser by staying in only one place, reading only one book, listening to one story, or being with only one person. We do become stronger and wiser when we move, exercise, eat a variety of healthy food, and travel to far away places, meeting others and learning their culture. A house with many doors and many windows is certainly conducive to the strength and wisdom of its residents. At minimum it is a recognition and acceptance of what sustains them. At maximum it is the willingness to never stop learning, adapting, and growing because the air is always flowing, always fresh; cyclical. Alive.
So why do lovers, partners, or spouses employ this suffocating device onto their “loved”?
The answer to that million-dollar question is varied, but I believe I can sum it up. How? Because I was once there. I once believed — or tricked myself into believing — that nature could be controlled, even human nature. The higher the risks, the higher the security control needed. The higher the speed, the bigger and better the brakes. Or so my self-interests taught me.
And then it hit me.
Doctor, What Do I Have and How Do I Treat It?
The trick to gaining and keeping experiences you profoundly love is not to laden them with your puppeteer-strings, but to let them be and become what they are…then choose to stay and give their life and soul to you…because they want to. They burn to do so because they feel, they believe you are worthy; very worthy. My job was to make it worth their investment, before, during, and after. And if I want an excellent exchange rate, I must thoroughly know and understand the currency: myself. Not just what’s on the outside, but even the flaws underneath on the inside. Purify them both! Make them truly worthy, truly attractive.
Doctor’s diagnosis? Singularitis: the fear of existing alone, unloved, and the phobia of losing it when discovered and captured. Acute singularitis: belief that one person in your, or their, entire life is perfectly able to fulfill every possible desire, need, want, or fantasy without fault 24/7, 365 days a year.
The paradox of Daryl’s and Leslie’s restaurant incident had really little to do with a real threat, and everything to do with his uneasiness and her vulnerability. How did they reach that point in their journey together? Is it the “house” they designed together from the foundation? Is Leslie vulnerable because there is only one heavy steel door and a tiny window she cannot look out? Is Daryl uneasy because his beautiful attractive wife has been given unsolicited attention? Why did Leslie stop to speak with the attractive stranger? Why did Daryl feel the need to question his wife’s explanation?
What is my antidote for this very frequent occurrence between lovers and spouses?
It is very hard to go through life alone. It is better to go through it with people you dearly love and to be loved passionately in return. You need others, not just one and certainly not just yourself. The only way you will find out WHO those people are is by being vulnerable and courageous taking some risks yourself. And the more the better. I do not speak about quantity over quality, nor quality over quantity. On the contrary, it is quantity and quality that works and works well. Don’t be so damned afraid to try it! I’ve often mentioned Fear stifles, courage fulfills. But in this particular case, jealousy stifles, freedom fulfills. Freedom received and freedom given…and in generous equal parts.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
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