What books have you read recently? I try to walk 5 miles a day and one way I make it enjoyable is to listen to books and podcasts I wouldn’t normally have time to read. Here are a few of my recent favorites. Podcasts: The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. If you want to read about an abusive culture in a church setting, this is horrifying and riveting. Not for the faint of heart. Non-Fiction: The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr – a must-read for those of us who have been told God doesn’t allow women to teach in his church. Not true according to Barr a professor at Baylor University. I highly encourage you to read or listen to it. Fiction: “The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes – a great story about women’s resiliency, tenacity, and friendship as well as The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah.
How about you? What are your recent favorites that made you think in new ways?
This week’s question: What’s the best way to deal with a jealous spouse? My husband is jealous of my daughter, brother, dogs, horses, and even the baby raccoon he rescued and I raised! I’m sure the chicken we just raised together will be next!
Answer: I sense in your question, a bit of the answer within your humor. Your husband has a problem. His problem is he’s insecure and his insecurity manifests as jealousy when you shower attention on anyone but him, including animals.
First, let me say you cannot fix his problem. That’s his responsibility to address. And an insecure person usually tries to fix their problem in the easiest way possible. By attempting to control you.
Here’s how it works. He feels insecure and threatened when you’re not giving him your attention. Then he gets angry, critical, or sulky. If that works to get you to stop doing what you’re doing and pay attention to him, he feels better. It’s similar to how a person with OCD handles his or her fear of germs. It temporarily feels better to wash your hands fifteen times with antibacterial soap. But after a bit, those scary thoughts about germs come back and now you have to go wash again and again and again. The relief is temporary.
[Tweet “An insecure person has irrational scary thoughts about the stability and security of your relationship.”] For example, he fears if you love your daughter, then maybe you don’t love him as much. If you enjoy spending time with the animals maybe you don’t want to be with him. Or if you enjoy anything other than him, you don’t “need” him as he needs you to need him in order to feel secure.
Instead of admitting and addressing his problem as his own insecurity, he temporarily feels better by controlling you. By your humor, I imagine that’s not working so well for him. Frustrated, his anger and jealousy are escalating because he has yet to grasp that his insecurity is his problem to address.
Here is where many Christian women make critical mistakes in marriage. Out of love, goodwill, compassion, and a desire for a good marriage, they try to solve their husband’s problem. They try to make their husband feel more secure by diminishing themselves. [Tweet “They squash their own dreams to not rattle his.”] They dumb down their own intellect and thirst for learning so as to not “wound” his ego. They stop hanging out with friends or family when it becomes such a battle to have a night out or weekend away. They wear their clothes or style their hair the way their husband wants because it’s easier to give in than argue. She reasons, “Doesn’t love mean that I should please him first?” And, “Aren’t the actions of a godly wife submission in all things?”
But when a marriage has a regular pattern where his feelings/needs matters and yours don’t, he’s worth-more and you’re worth-less, there is a huge problem. You start to feel worthless. That is not God’s intent for you or for your marriage.
But how do you handle this? Here’s a two-pronged approach: Compassionate words and actions coupled with clear, firm boundaries. Demonstrate compassion for his insecurity that creates his feelings of jealousy and insecurity. Remind him that you love him and he’s special to you and remind yourself you can’t fix the broken part in him that doesn’t believe or trust your words and behaviors that don’t seem to get through.
Here are a few examples of how you can compassionately encourage him to do his own work to deal with his problem and still be true to yourself:
1. When you are busy with your daughter or animals and you sense him getting jealous (however he shows you).
Ask, “What’s bothering you right now?” This gives him the opportunity to look at his problem – He might say, “I’m feeling lonely” or “I’m feeling like you give the animals more attention than you give me.” Then you can say, “You feel that way a lot whenever I’m doing something other than spending time with you. We spend lots of time together, so what’s that about?”
Here is where one of his underlying beliefs might pop up. For example, he might say, “If you loved me you’d want to spend all your time with me instead of those animals.” Or “If I was important to you, you’d spend more time with me than with your daughter.”
I’m making an assumption that you aren’t regularly ignoring him or being indifferent, but rather you have the need and desire to have other things in your life besides your man and your marriage. If that’s the case, here’s what you need to say next. “I know you feel threatened by my relationships with my animals and my daughter, but I want to assure you that I have enough love in my heart for you all.” Then stop. You can’t “make” him believe that. But you can compassionately remind him of what’s true.
If he starts spiritualizing Bible verses pressuring to make him your #1 object of devotion, simply say, “God didn’t make me like you. Maybe it’s okay for you to only want to hang out with me or be with me, but I’m not like that. I love people and animals. God made me that way and I have to honor who I am. I’m not to be like you, I’m to be me.”
2. When you have plans to spend time with your daughter or extended time with your animals, you can say ahead of time, “Hey, my daughter and I are going to a women’s retreat this weekend. We love these times together talking about our lives and it’s really important to me. Is there anything you need from me ahead of time to make it easier for you?” It might be he’d like you to cook him a few meals, or make sure you schedule a date night when you get home. By saying this ahead of time, you are showing compassionate understanding for a weakness he has, without bending your entire life to accommodate it. By inviting him to take some responsibility for himself to express what he needs, hopefully he will sense your care for him even as you do something else.
3. When his jealousy rears up, name it for what it is. “You're jealous of my brother and our relationship” or “You’re jealous of the time I spend loving animals. I don’t know where that comes from, but I’m not going to stop loving animals just so you don’t feel those feelings. I think those are your feelings to work through.”
When you stay firm and loving, you will have the best chance of continuing your own growth to be the woman God calls you to be while still loving your husband. Hopefully, he will see your strength and desire to build some of his own instead of trying to squash yours.
Friend, what other ways have you dealt with an insecure, jealous person, whether it is a husband, girlfriend, or adult child?
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Thanks, Leslie for advice on this issue of jealousy. I especially appreciate examples of specific words/messages to communicate to a husband. I so value you, your training, experience and heart toward women in difficult marriages.
I always refer to Eccl. 4:4 for jealously and God just takes it away, or it never happens.
“And I saw all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy off his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing of the wind.”
Leslie, In response to your summer reading list, I have to say that I’d love to have time to read this summer, but we have just finished building a house and have been preparing to move into it all summer. Now that we are in it, unpacking is consuming what little energy I have left. I am definitely looking forward to a day of just chilling and reading a good book for a few hours. I have always enjoyed Kristin Hanna’s books, and I recently finished The Four Winds, which gave me new insights into the dust bowl era and how horrible it was. Now I am reading The Orphan Collector (one chapter at a time) by Ellen Marie Wiseman about the horrible Spanish flu, and how families were wiped out by it. It causes me to be so thankful to be living now, when we have medical advances to deal with the current pandemic.
Your response to this dear woman is once again so helpful. As women, we so often get caught up in trying to fix other people’s problems. May the Lord help us to realize where the dividing line is between what is mine to deal with and what belongs to someone else.