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Dealing with the ‘green-eyed monster' in marriage

Published:Saturday | September 17, 2016 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

- Song of Solomon 8:6

This is the first of a two-part article examining jealousy in the marriage.

Whether a couple has been recently married or tied the knot a long time ago, at one point or another the ugly monster of jealousy is likely to attack.

But it is nothing that some soothing reassurances can't cure. Once your partner knows that you have eyes for no one but them, all should be well in romance land.

In a perfect world, issues would be solved with just words, but unfortunately, jealousy, if not handled properly, can have a big impact on relationships.

Jealousy is not only a human condition, as the Jehovah describes Himself as jealous.

In Exodus 20:5 the warning is issued: "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me."

Dr Edina Bayne, associate pastor and member of the American Association of Christian Counselors said God's jealousy is matched in magnitude with His love for us. The distinction is that God's jealousy is always positive while ours is at times distorted because of our fallen state.

According to her, jealousy in marriage is natural and is a general sign of love that tests whether our mate really cares about us. For her, it is also a show of displeasure that confirms that the person desires our affection and is willing to ardently pursue us.

"God made us to be naturally jealous concerning our mate; ("...and your desire shall be toward your husband" Gen. 3:16). It is that special tinge of jealousy that lets us know who our mate is. We may love many people in different ways, but it is that slight difference that lets us know," she said.

Bayne pointed out that jealousy and insecurity are constant partners as jealousy is derived from feelings of insecurity.

"We are jealous when we believe we have lost or are threatened with losing something important to us. Frequently we express a sense of injury or loss through the emotions of anger, sadness, depression, or an aroused desire to assert ourselves in order to regain lost affection," Bayne explained.

Love's vulnerability, according to her, can render even the most secure person susceptible to the insecurities of jealousy.

However, the psychologist warned that one should be careful that jealousy does not "go overboard". Then, she said, it is no longer natural but becomes overbearing and stifling.

"Jealousy can have good effects, helping us with self-understanding, warning us of danger to relationships, and propelling us to increase attention to relationships that might become neglected. Jealousy can become pathological and involve the immoral attitudes of owning other people and their affection. It has a bad reputation, is pathological or delusional, because of its potential destructive anger and hate," she said.

"Out of control" jealousy, according to Bayne, can become obsessive, over-protective and cruel.

"Jealousy sparks angry impulses to prevent the competitor from winning or keeping whatever the spouse seeks - especially attention and respect. It promises to be a particularly hellish existence if the competitor is actually the other spouse, because this would mean that the spouse is seen as an outsider in the relationship," she said.

Bayne said the key is in getting a handle on it.

"By that I mean we need to identify the symptoms and be very deliberate in doing random acts of kindness, and displaying ardent expressions of love. You don't really want to keep feelings 'in check'. You want to change the situations that trigger the unhealthy jealousy, bring the relationship back into balance, and maintain right perspective," she said adding that through proper communication, we can allow jealousy to do its work of warning us that our caring, loving relationship might be in danger from outsiders.

Next week: Envy - jealousy's evil companion