I have a confession to make.
Some days, I am overwhelmed with jealousy.
I watch your happy families – loving husbands giving thoughtful gifts, playing with your kids, doing fun afternoon outings where everyone is getting along and I feel my gut roll with that familiar sense of yearning and ungratefulness mixed together. I wonder if you realize – how lucky you are. How easily it could slip away. I wonder if you are working hard or taking your life for granted. I can admit it – I search for cracks in your perfect surface, try to guess who will make it and who won’t. I play an over under game on your marriages and your happiness. I remind myself that for most people watching, divorce comes out of nowhere. Some families are putting on a carefully orchestrated opera. We’re happy, we’re happy. Everything’s fine.
So I watch. I try to get a hint, a sense. I roll jealousy around on my tongue. Oh, to have a doting husband and father for my children in my life. To have succeeded at the work of being married. Some days I think I hunt for clues that will help me put labels on my own marriage failing. Maybe if we had just paid closer attention…
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge your happiness, your fawning praise in status messages, your flowers for no reason, you heart bursting love swell when your husband holds your baby. I had all of those things once, too. We deserve those things. Those good things. Cherish them. It’s just that some days, you’re everywhere. Movies, commercials, saturating my social media feeds. Happy families who don’t need a mediator to plan Christmas. Your bright smiling faces are the reminders of my aloneness. That there is no one else to investigate scary sounds in the night or take the early morning shift so I can grab 30 extra minutes of sleep. That is what jealousy does – it reminds you of what you don’t have.
I don’t even want a husband. The mention of long term commitment makes me feel woozy. I’m not much of a romantic. I don’t even -like- roses. No. Jealousy is making me want my old life back. The one I willingly stepped out of to refind myself.
This is what jealousy does. It makes it hard to see the forest for the trees. It convinces you you want things you don’t want. it makes you diminish the beauty of your current reality. And it makes you hyper aware to any sign, in any small amount, of a lack of gratitude by those who have what you want. I see this most often at holidays – women carrying around their hurt at not being acknowledged in the way they wish they could, while other women come barreling in to play the who has it worst game – if you got a card, and I got nothing, I win the game.
I’ve been wandering around in the online dating world again (and by wandering, I truly mean wandering. Maybe even a little aimless.) I catch myself testing out new personalities – does this guy want the sex kitten me, or the demure me? Will he respond if I talk up my career, or if I diminish it? What’s going to work to hook this fish? And when it does work, how happy will we be? How long before I resent him for not buying me a card? Jealousy is doing that to me, too. It’s trying to convince me that -anything- is better than taking out the garbage myself for the rest of my life.
The question then becomes – how do I get a handle on it again? So I can stop searching for the cracks in everyone else’s surfaces? So I can stop trying to mold myself into something I’m not just to have someone at my side? I’ve been trying this:
First, I remind myself that I’m complete just as I am.
That a partner won’t complete me, because I don’t need to be completed.
That I can take the garbage out myself, I just don’t want to.
That there are many things being unpartnered has given me the freedom to enjoy and explore – and a man should want to complement that freedom, not take it away.
That there are surely friends in my friends list who are working through hard shit in their marriages, but there are surely others who really are that happy.
And this is what I want you to take away from my own little moments of seething envy: your partner doesn’t complete you because you are already complete. And your partner should compliment your ability to enjoy and explore the freedom you want. And you might be struggling right now – and that’s okay. And you might be doing great right now – and that’s okay.
Listening for the moments when jealousy makes me believe things that aren’t true is starting to be a part of my daily reflection. What is your jealousy trying to tell you? How can you make peace with it?
I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.
When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.
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