Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
Soulsurfer

Jealousy

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

My wife is calling me jealous, her friends are calling me jealous, my mother is calling me jealous -- but my male friends are NOT calling me jealous. Instead, they are calling me "rational". So who's right?

The background is as follows: A few weeks ago I installed a special jacuzzi in our weekend house. My wife, still being a teenager (she's 19), is often over there with her lady friends, having ladies dinners, watching movies etcetera. That's all right with me, as long as they don't destroy my stuff while I'm working in the city. I don't mind -- under one condition: her friends must be females. But the other day, after a long day in very demanding business, I drive out to the house knowing that she'll come by later. I buy some things so I can make her a special dinner. But when I arrive at the house she is obviously already there -- with friends. Now of course I get a little bit disappointed, this was supposed to be our evening. But then I think to myself that she's not expecting me to come earlier, I wanted to surprise her, and perhaps she wanted to surprise me as well.

Then I find her and her friend together in the jacuzzi -- with another guy. This guy is the boyfriend of her female friend, but that fact doesn't stop my feelings at all. I get very upset. My wife is a little bit surprised that I am at the house so early, she tries to calm be down. Her female friend starts to question why I'm being upset, she doesn't understand it at all. Her boyfriend is very polite and tries to introduce himself. I can't decide whether I should smash his teeth or shake his hand. The fact is, they haven't done anything besides talking and sitting together half-naked in my jacuzzi. My wife later explains this to me as well, and she is actually a bit angry at me for suspecting her to be unfaithful or something. "It's all in your head" she says. "You can't be this jealous."

So why must all her friends, with the exception of childhood friends, be just females? It is very complex to explain. But basically, I don't like the idea of her getting new male friends without my consent. She knows that I really hate when she is signaling to other men that it is OK to flirt with her or try to be "just friends" (it's obvious that these guys are just being attracted to her looks and have something else in mind). Call it primitive psychology, but that's just the way I work. Of course I don't own my wife as I own my car, but I do want to "own" her psychologically, in the sense that I want to feel that she is exclusively mine.

Do you think I acted irrationally or rationally in the above context? I.e. is there a justification for being upset by an incident such as the one I have just described? For the record: I love my wife and I don't think she would ever be unfaithful. She is a very moral person with a rational sense of life. It's just that I can't deal with my own feelings in this kind of situations. They occur even when we're out dancing, and other guys want to dance with her. Maybe I am jealous. But where do I draw the line? How do I differentiate between "clash of values" and "jealousy"? Is it ever objectively justified and morally proper to be jealous, i.e. is it ever in a person's rational self-interest?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For the record: I love my wife and I don't think she would ever be unfaithful. She is a very moral person with a rational sense of life. It's just that I can't deal with my own feelings in this kind of situations.

I am reluctant to get into this, but I'm a sucker for Chinese fingertraps and hard-luck stories, so here I go...

As emotions are automatic reactions formed by prior thinking, it seems clear to me that while you consciously say you don't think your wife would be unfaithful on some level you *must* worry about that, or you wouldn't have these feelings. The question then becomes are these justified feelings? Has she given you any reason to believe that she would do such a thing? Have you had a bad experience with a former girlfriend being unfaithful? In other words, is there some fact of reality that pertains to her or to you that you are evading?

I want to point out that she is guilty of at least one thing, which is to continue to engage in behaviors *explicitly* known to her to make you uncomfortable. Even if it turns out that you are the one who is acting irrationally I would think she could accomodate that small wish of yours until you can work out why you have these feelings. Instead it seems she is only making it worse and feeding your paranoia.

I think some serious and honest introspection is in order for you. Topics will include why you think your wife would be unfaithful, why you are attracted to your wife, why you married her, why the thought of another man even dancing with her makes you uncomfortable, and many more. I would also advocate some professional therapy to help you with this process. Once you feel you have answers, then it will be time to reform your ways or confront her about hers.

Whatever you do, tread lightly: as there are no contradictions, one of you is wrong, and that could be a deal-breaker.

Above all, good luck.

d_s

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't really give advice other than to talk to her about it. I mean if she came home to you in a hot tub with a strange woman she would probably be jealous too. What should have happened is she should have let you know up front what was going to happen so that you didn't jump to conclusions. Of course expecting a 19 year old to actually think before acting is a pretty tall order, no matter how smart they are. I'm guessing you are older than your wife?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For the record: I love my wife and I don't think she would ever be unfaithful. She is a very moral person with a rational sense of life. It's just that I can't deal with my own feelings in this kind of situations.

This is, to me, the crux of the matter. Your feelings on this matter appear to be contradiction with your rational thought.

A. Either you think she won't cheat on you

or

B. You think (even if in some small way) that she may cheat on you if the temptation

is there (hence your emotional reaction)

You truly have to examine how much you trust her, and what foundation that trust is based on.

Now personally, I would have been much more concerned if it were my wife were in a jacuzzi by herself with another man vs. in the jacuzzi with another couple. Mind you, I'm not saying I'm exactly comfortable with that, but at least I don't think anger would be my first response. Other considerations would be the physical proximity of my wife and the guy, bathing suits or underwear, any past history between the two, my knowledge of the relationship of the guy and his girlfriend, etc.

That said, I will suggest (at the risk of offending some of the younger members) that 19 years old is generally a pretty young age to be involved in a long term committed relationship. At 19, many people still don't always consider the long term consequences of the actions they take. I by no means wish to suggest your relationship is set up for failure. But a look at reality should suggest to you that she (and you depending on your age) may still be "growing" into full adulthood at 19 or 20 years of age. There is a lot of life that has not been experienced yet at that age. This growth and potential change in her (and / or your) life can provide challenges in addition to those that already exist in a long term relationship.

However, my one suggestion in terms of action would be for you to have a heart to heart talk with your wife and determine what (if any) ground rules need to be established regarding your relationship. Both of you need to be conscious and aware of the feelings and concerns of the other and really work them out to some agreement. Should you fail to come to an understand or an agreement on important issues like this, your relationship is likely to fail.

If you haven't already explicitly worked out what kind of behavior you find acceptable and what kind you don't find acceptable, then you may have to give her a pass on this one. The most important tool you have for keeping this a healthy, long term relationship is your ability to communicate effectively with each other.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Call it primitive psychology, but that's just the way I work. Of course I don't own my wife as I own my car, but I do want to "own" her psychologically, in the sense that I want to feel that she is exclusively mine.

TELL HER THAT in exactly those words.

Even the most independent of women want to be wanted that way and want to be "owned."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you all for your supportive comments!

I've had some experience of sessions in psycho-therapy and cognitive psychology. To my big disappointment, none of the professionals could understand my values and convictions at all. The way I see it, I have spent a lot of money just to hear that I should really reconsider (or better: abandon) my flawed values. Their implicit philosophy is that my desire to "own" my wife psychologically is actually the key root of my emotional problems. In fact, one woman even joked about it, calling it the "Taliban syndrome" or "caveman primitivism"...

I'm now 25 and more experienced than my wife when it comes to relationsships. But because of her inexperience, I must confess that I am a bit afraid of her sexuality in light of psychological-developmental pressures (from her female friends and ultimately false philosophical ideas being integrated subconsciously). Compared to all other women I have known, she is extremely submissive and masochist. At first I liked that, since I am very dominant myself. But later it became more and more difficult for me to "surprise" her in our relationsship. She is so easily bored by routine and predictability; that can be very demanding and difficult to deal with sometimes.

I have done some serious introspection on this matter and concluded that I am afraid of losing her. Somewhere deep inside, I fear that another man who is better than me to dominate her the way she wants, a man who is better to create all those excited moments in her life, will snatch her away from me -- only he is an evil Ellsworth Toohey disguised as a good Howard Roark, and she lacks the means to discover that fact. Instead, she gets manipulated and slowly tortured, and I have to witness this happening from a distance, knowing perfectly well that I have no power to save her.

When other men make her laugh, or when they want to dance with her, or when they flirt with her, or just stimulate her mind intellectually -- I feel more or less jealous, depending on the circumstances. She enjoys being a magnet, and I don't want to take that away from her since I want her to be happy. So mostly I just throw out my own irrational feelings and fears, trying to be a rock not affected by the pressures of temporary winds. But this is getting harder and harder for every day now.

The main reason I love her is because she embodies all the most important traits that I admire in a woman's character: the perfect mix of almost childish joy and adult responsibility, blended into a mostly rational and happy sense of life. Her mind can make the most amazing integrations, on a scale that nobody I have ever met so far could possibly match, no matter their age. She runs her own little business and is very proud of herself and her many personal values. But she is also very complex and has to a certain extent been influenced by bad philosophies (particularily the C.S. Lewis brand of Christianity and the Kirkegaard brand of Existentialism).

Now, just to preserve the integrity of this thread and not delimit it to personal complaints, I would like to take this discussion to a more abstract level by simply asking you:

Would a real Howard Roark or John Galt ever be jealous? Is jealousy inherently tied to disharmonies in the correlations between the conscious and subconscious? If a man is jealous, does that necessarily imply irrationality of some kind, or could jealousy arise as an proper response from an objective and rational evaluation?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you sure the entire problem in your reaction is that you feel you might lose her? Or more to it, are you sure that isn't just a symptom of another problem? The possessiveness may lessen if there's something underneath that you can address. You might even find you can "own" her further without having to enforce ownership through restrictions.

If she agreed not to have other men around and then did so anyway, I would expect you to be emotionally uneasy until you discussed that point with her. If she has instead turned around and made fun of you for this, so much the worse. If she has brought her friends in on this while ignoring her breach of trust, this is worse still.

I can understand why you wouldn't trust her to always be there for you if she betrayed your trust here and was pretty flippant about it, having her friends and mother call you jealous instead of addressing her own failure. Is this kind of exchange typical in your relationship?

I don't know if she's capable of it, but it sounds like you need to sit together and break this down into pieces you can discuss. Any bits you pass over merely because they make one or the other of you feel uncomfortable or petty are likely to cause problems again.

If the above isn't off track (admittedly, I'm extrapolating a lot from a small picture) then it also sounds like you might need to sit down and think about other things that have bothered you in the relationship. Anything where you've blamed yourself and moved on - and which periodically revisits as an unwelcome memory - deserves more dissection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've had some experience of sessions in psycho-therapy and cognitive psychology. To my big disappointment, none of the professionals could understand my values and convictions at all. The way I see it, I have spent a lot of money just to hear that I should really reconsider (or better: abandon) my flawed values. Their implicit philosophy is that my desire to "own" my wife psychologically is actually the key root of my emotional problems. In fact, one woman even joked about it, calling it the "Taliban syndrome" or "caveman primitivism"...

This is a big problem in itself. While I still recommend that you interview medical doctors before you choose one, most all professional medical doctors are still fundamentally on the principle of protecting your life. Not so when it comes to psychology, where one can commonly find psychologists whose basic understanding and approach is antithetical to life. Treating physical illness is more clear since at least the standard of a healthy organ is more easily determined, but a healthy mind is somewhat obscure to a mentality that does not even grasp the nature of a consciousness. It is certainly possible to find the occasional gem among psychologists, but you can enhance your choice greatly by looking into Objectivist psyschologists, Ellen Kenner, Michael Hurd, or Cynthia Peikoff to name a few prominent ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The main reason I love her is because she embodies all the most important traits that I admire in a woman's character: the perfect mix of almost childish joy and adult responsibility, blended into a mostly rational and happy sense of life. Her mind can make the most amazing integrations, on a scale that nobody I have ever met so far could possibly match, no matter their age. She runs her own little business and is very proud of herself and her many personal values.

TELL HER THAT.

A woman wants to be seen and appreciated for her genuine virtues and it is a rare man who can see things like that and an even rarer man who can communicate it. Tell her you love her and WHY. Constantly. Smile when she pleases you. Compliment her. Bring her little presents expressing your pleasure with her. Enjoy her.

Nothing bonds a good woman to a man like being VALUED.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Would a real Howard Roark or John Galt ever be jealous? Is jealousy inherently tied to disharmonies in the correlations between the conscious and subconscious? If a man is jealous, does that necessarily imply irrationality of some kind, or could jealousy arise as an proper response from an objective and rational evaluation?

If you have evidence that your wife is unfaithful then yes it would be rational. Otherwise it isn't. Obviously there are borderline cases where you have reason to be suspicious but no solid evidence.

In this case I do not see any evidence of unfaithfulness, so I think your problem is realy insecurity about your relationship. My advice is to deal with that, not try to prevent your wife from doing things just because they make you uncomfortable. Doing that will just cause further conflict.

I should add that I trust my wife completely. She has been on camping trips alone with male friends and it does not bother me at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you have evidence that your wife is unfaithful then yes it would be rational. Otherwise it isn't. Obviously there are borderline cases where you have reason to be suspicious but no solid evidence

I never thought that unfaithfulness as such is the root of jealousy. I think certain men would have a good cause to be jealous of their completely honorable wives if they were hanging out in Jacuzzis with other men. It is more an issue of knowing yourself and knowing your wife and thus being certain that she would never want to be with another man… which isn’t a hard line case un unfaithfulness. Maybe this is a misunderstanding of ‘unfaithfulness’ on my part though; I look being unfaithful primarily as action oriented… I wouldn’t call my non-existent wife unfaithful if she became unhappy in our relationship, divorced me, and married someone else… however if she because unhappy, married someone else, and then divorced me – such is unfaithful (at some point being involved with someone else without my knowledge – providing a fraudulent sense of possession if you will).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In this case I do not see any evidence of unfaithfulness, so I think your problem is realy insecurity about your relationship.

The issue Soulsurfer brought up is very personal and complex. Nobody on this board knows him all that well. Hell, nobody here even knows his real name, let alone the myriad of circumstances that come into play with the situation he described. There are a whole host of details that need to be looked at to answer his question. On that basis, I would summarily dismiss any claims on this board that anyone here can answer his question.

This is not an endorsement of skepticism or complexity worship, but of context, and the fact that everyone here has an insufficient one to supply him with an answer. We can discuss the principles involved, but we are simply not close enough to the concretes to act as surrogate therapists or to provide a substitute for introspection.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On that basis, I would summarily dismiss any claims on this board that anyone here can answer his question.

Since Soulsurfer asked the questions and is "close enough to the concretes", don't you think it's his option to summarily dismiss those comments or suggestions which do not apply? It appeared from Soulsurfer's second response that he was capable of objective introspection and he identified some of the issues involved after the first few observations.

Godless Capitalist made a comment based on the information that Soulsurfer presented, which is also pretty consistent with following up on questions Soulsurfer asked in his initial post. If Soulsurfer doesn't think it applies, he can be the judge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Ayn Rand considered Jealousy an irrational or negative state of mind. Look at how she handled Francisco and Rearden after they ultimately lost in the romantic competition for Dagny. If there was ever a situation for jealousy, that would seem to be it, but Ayn Rand went out of their way to show them as not jealous, and to the extent they did show some form of jealousy, it was shown as an error on their part.

I think most jealousy comes from either wanting something unearned from another person, inaccurately judging another person, or expecting something unreasonable from another person.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wanted to focus on the more abstract essentials pertaining to the morality of jealousy, rather than transforming this entire thread into a personal live session of psycho-therapy. I probably made a mistake by taking too concrete and sensitive details of my private life to a public level. My only excuse for making this mistake is to point out that I am desperate, failing to find any help whatsoever from the professionals. I thought that maybe a real-life concretization, although a most limited one, would better highlight some essential philosophical principles for further discussion.

Since I have already said A, I might just as well say B and tell you what I will actually do to save my marriage and preserve my happiness: I will quit my job, sell some stuff I own and start a new career which allows me to spend more time together with my wife and the pursuit of other personal values (such as studying Objectivism). I love my work very much, but I am tired of feeding the evils in my country (75% of what I produce is taken away from me). Life is just too short.

Thanks again for your comments.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think most jealousy comes from either wanting something unearned from another person, inaccurately judging another person, or expecting something unreasonable from another person.

Jealousy as an emotion is by nature, aka a lightning fast value judgment. While it is negative, so are other emotions like fear and hate. I think jealousy qua emotion is not necessarily irrational, but maintaining that state of mind over a long period of time would be - just like living a life constantly filled with fear or hate.

When Galt found out that Dagny was sleeping with Reardon as I remember he was quite upset. What he did though was go see Reardon for himself, which brought him to a level of understanding and reconciled however he ‘felt’ about it before. I couldn’t see anyone go through that situation without becoming emotionally upset… the reason was because of the value he had in Dagny and had a reaction the perceived threat Reardon presented. The whole point though and what made the emotion possible was that he didn’t know Reardon… I would venture to say that for any Objectivist to experiencing jealously would require ignorance in a certain area – which they would then take the time to discover and in time understand.

I don’t think jealousy as an emotion presents any threat to Objectivists and I don’t think that perfect Objectivists wouldn’t experience it. Emotions have their place, and as long as they are kept in it – power to them… even jealously.

Imagine a guy who couldn’t be jealous to any degree. It would be nearly impossible for him to go on a date and realize (before the end) that his girl is going to home with the guy two tables to the left. Subconsciously I could catch on much faster and realize that I am wasting my time with this girl (in the situation where she was going to go home with the other guy the matter what – if with a different girl she actually did like me then such an emotion upon evaluation would lead to a different range of conclusions). I would say properly evaluating jealousy would either increase your love for someone or decrease it – people who fear the latter and evade any sort of evaluation or conclusion are the ones who get stuck with jealous feelings for the rest of their relationship (too bad for them).

So obviously I don’t think jealousy is immoral. Properly I think it’s an emotional evaluation of a situation maybe the consequence of either ignorance or a misunderstanding. Buy this is a good thing though because now you have a clue that you misunderstood something important or you have haven’t thought about it at all yet. If you maintain jealousy then that would seem more a product of evasion and evasion is immoral. I’m not saying it is necessarily an easy thing to get over either, it might take a long time the get to know someone well enough to cover any sort of circumstance that would have made you jealous in the past. So I think my position is clear enough – jealousy is ok, so long as steps are being made in the right direction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think most jealousy comes from either wanting something unearned from another person, inaccurately judging another person, or expecting something unreasonable from another person.

Can any sort of reasonable justification be made for this statement? I'd like to see one. I am always initially hostile to such sweeping condemnations of such common emotions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let me tell a short story. Next month, before I start full time work (Soulsurfer: with a Swedish company :rolleyes:) I will be moving into a house with two other females - one who is quite attractive. When I told my girlfriend about this, she was a little upset. I assumed she was feeling jealous, but asked her why she was upset anyway. And she told me that she did not for a second think that I would be unfaithful to her - no matter how attractive the females were. She told me that what she was feeling was possessiveness, and not jealousy. That she hated the idea of having 'to share' me with others. As she put it: "I'm feeling the way Gail Wynand did with that statue of Dominique".

Do you think that maybe you are experiencing something similar?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
…she told me that she did not for a second think that I would be unfaithful to her - no matter how attractive the females were. She told me that what she was feeling was possessiveness, and not jealousy. That she hated the idea of having 'to share' me with others.

“Possessiveness” is a good word to bring into this discussion… Tentatively I would say that possessiveness is more general than jealously. I can’t offhand think of any examples where you can be jealous but not possessive (in a loving way of course). Whatever the relationship they are very closely related (possessiveness might be more of the implementation of jealousy, ie – pertaining to the actions; while jealousy refers more to the emotions themselves). However in terms of understanding what she said, check what negative connotations she is thinking pertain to jealousy. From my understanding of jealousy I’d say she was defiantly jealous… so we would probably disagree on what jealousy actually means. Maybe a good place to start if anyone wants to take a crack or at least find a good formal definition and throw in some examples (we already have a couple).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think Ayn Rand considered Jealousy an irrational or negative state of mind. Look at how she handled Francisco and Rearden after they ultimately lost in the romantic competition for Dagny. If there was ever a situation for jealousy, that would seem to be it, but Ayn Rand went out of their way to show them as not jealous, and to the extent they did show some form of jealousy, it was shown as an error on their part.

I'm not sure the situation is comparable. We know that Dagny was honest about her feelings; it was always clear to one man that she was done with him (romantically, at least) before she became intimate with another.

Unfortunately, in real life a woman as ruthlessly honest as Dagny is very rare. Nearly all of the women I've known (there have only been two exceptions) indulge in deceits ranging from "little white lies" (like "I never got your e-mail" or "I just don't have time") all the way up to... well, far worse things.

I've personally had two very rude awakenings this year (from differant women) to the effect that being too trusting and forgiving only gets you jerked around and burned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Since Soulsurfer asked the questions and is "close enough to the concretes", don't you think it's his option to summarily dismiss those comments or suggestions which do not apply? 

Of course. My comments were intended to discourage rationalism and armchair therapy. It's one thing to offer encouragement or general advice in an anonymous online forum; it's quite another to try to diagnose or analyze someone's personal situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I wanted to focus on the more abstract essentials pertaining to the morality of jealousy...

What do you mean by "morality of jealousy?" Jealousy is an emotion, just like sadness. Does it make sense to talk of the "morality of sadness?" One feels sad at a loss (of a job, friendship, etc.). It is a normal, automatic psychological response.

While we certainly don't seek to be sad, it certainly isn't deserving of moral condemnation. Now if somone like Bin Laden is sad that a bomb attack was foiled, it is not his sadness that deserves condemnation, but rather his ideas and actions.

The same with jealousy. If someone is jealous, what matters morally is what he is jealous of and why -- not the jealousy itself.

I want to caution against a certain line of thinking that leads to repression. One can't directly control emotions, as they are effects and responses. Don't say to yourself, "John Galt was never jealous; I'm feeling jealous right now; therefore I must be wrong and a bad person." If an unpleasant emotion appears, the way to get rid of it is to track down the cause, which can be external (for instance, an attack on your values) or internal (for instance, insecurity or holding contradictory ideas). When the cause is found, work to remove the cause -- and the emotion will take care of itself.

For heaven's sake, don't beat yourself up for being human!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just to be clear, emotions as such are neither rational or irrational, moral or immoral.

I never thought that unfaithfulness as such is the root of jealousy.  I think certain men would have a good cause to be jealous of their completely honorable wives if they were hanging out in Jacuzzis with other men. 

I would say not unfaithfulness as such but the fear of unfaithfulness, which in turn is based on lack of trust (perhaps deserved). I would have no problem with my completely honorable wife hanging out in Jacuzzis with other men. Sitting in a Jacuzzi is not the same as having sex with someone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...