Friday, August 11, 2006

Jealousy: recipe for relationship failure

Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.
- Maya Angelou, poet (1928- )

A charming quotation, though I disagree with the whole concept of jealousy. The word was fudged up to give a name for something apparently so mysterious and incomprehensible that it relieves most of us of any responsibility for its causes and its results.

A jealous lover is the most common use of the term. What have we here? Someone who has not tended sufficiently to the needs of a relationship that it is in danger of vanishing. Or someone who is so fearful of losing a partner, usually caused by a serious psychological problem or underdeveloped social or emotional skills, that he or she assumes that someone else is trying to take away the partner.

In either case, the jealous one has not done enough to cement the relationship or maintained it sufficiently to make it last. The jealous one feels insecure.

Another possibility is that the jealous one never had a relationship as sound as they thought in the first place.

The jealous one wants to hang on to something that is not worth hanging onto. The behaviour of the jealous one becomes repulsive to the other partner, making that latter want to leave the relationship even more.

To sum up, where jealously exists in a relationship, there is likely not enough good stuff to make the relationship last. By that time, the relationship has failed and the jealous partner wants to hang onto something for fear of being thought of as a loser. Jealously, ironically, makes that person a real loser. The captain going down with the non-existent ship.

Any relationship brings with it a set of responsibilities. It's up to the parties to establish what those responsibilities are and for each to live up (preferably more than the minimum) to that commitment.

Human nature being what it is, such that we overestimate our own contributions to a relationship and underestimate contributions of the other person, each person in a good relationship should feel that he or she does more than their fair share of the work to make a good relationship. Some relationship specialists suggest 85-15 as a ratio for each to believe, and each must be happy with their perceived contribution of 85 percent and the other's 15 percent.

Tough standard to follow? Not for someone who wants a relationship to last a lifetime. Any lifetime commitment requires a great deal of effort and sacrifice.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to put relationships into perspective.
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