Shades of envy: He was jealous of his wife’s success…

Published: January 26, 2015

The physical act of killing Desdemona, Othello’s wife, is a moral analogy of killing a relationship because of misguided trust, rage and unsubstantiated jealousy.

“Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savour, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances can be life threatening.” – Maya Angelou

I am jealous of my wife, why?

I ask this of myself ever so often but am left without a satisfactory answer. She is a pretty woman but I am pleasant looking too. She is educated but I am academically accomplished too. She is well-liked but I am socially popular too. She is professionally successful but I am good at my job too.

Then why is it that I am envious every time she is a step ahead or a little behind? Is this my personality or a side effect of a patriarchal society? Is it because I am morally compromised and insecure in my self-worth hence I measure my sense of lacking every time she shines a little more than I do?

My friends do not notice the green shades of jealousy; it is because they do not see it. I make a great farce of hiding it well. Yes, I may be able to hide it from society but my jealousy eats me inside. I nurture it and come this Monday, when my wife gets laurels for her genius, what should my measured reaction be?

If it is measured at all.

That is, if I can get a grip on it.

What if my jealousy is so out-of-measure that it eats me whole, and turns to madness? Alas, surely that is bound to be.

I have seen many households destroyed because of a case of spousal jealousy. She can’t be doing better than me career wise? How can he be more liked than me? Is she more intellectual than I am? Is he better looking than me? Competing with each other can’t be a good thing for a marriage; jealousy and envy within the sanctity of matrimony can bring in devastation and nothing else.

Othello is a story about a man who kills his innocent wife because he believes that she is having an affair with another man. Yes Othello is incited by others, but he seeks solace in a wicked lie and kills his wife. Maybe he was looking to do the same all along, and all he needed was a little nudge in the wrong direction.

The physical act of killing Desdemona, Othello’s wife, is a moral analogy of killing a relationship because of misguided trust, rage and unsubstantiated jealousy. Not jealousy because of the presence of another love interest but envy due to the success and recognition of the spouse in all other aspects of marriage. Surely this is an angle of the play that is present in so many marriages surrounding us.

The envy of a spouse puts significant strain on a relationship; there is continuous pressure and unnecessary inhibition of initiative on the part of the one being envied for he or she may want to avoid wrath of the jealous one. Hence, one may live under constant fear and stress when achieving a goal.

There is resentment, anxiety and guilt at the thought of one’s own success at the hand of the spouse. The jealous aggressor may make the partner feel guilty about pursuing a normal life, and his or her envy may be a result of low self-esteem, lack of confidence or a childhood trauma.

My friend’s husband is much older than she is. They are both in the same professional field, and it is believed that he did not allow her to work because he was worried that she would outshine him. In a fair world, the situation would be acceptable if she chose not to work herself, but submitting to another’s pressure is recipe for a future disaster.

Interestingly enough, most jealous spouses surround themselves with people like themselves, untrustworthy and poisonous. Maybe this is a way of perpetuating and justifying jealousy, and allowing it to continue unabashed, unabated. In a broader sense, their behaviour is a reflection of themselves and since they don’t trust themselves, they certainly cannot trust others either. Hence being around people like themselves puts them in a realm where they believe that their behaviour towards their significant other is normal.

Tragically, we see so many marriages and relationships falling apart because of the same. The competitive need of some is so overwhelming that it supersedes all other emotions; love, togetherness, sincerity and compassion are all thrown out of the window when jealousy takes over.

Immanuel Kant, in his essay on ‘The Metaphysics of the Morals’, states,

“Envy is a propensity to view the well-being of others with distress, even though it does not detract from one’s own. [It is] a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others. [Envy] aims, at least in terms of one’s wishes, at destroying others’ good fortune.”

If one feels the above emotions for a spouse, the relationship is as good as ended. For, in my humble opinion, jealousy is an impossible trait to live with and hence it is best to part ways lest a compromise can be made. Green may be a beautiful colour, but alas, it is better to live with a spouse who supports any other emotion rather than the one where the green eyes watch and narrow, narrow and watch.

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

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