Christmas is just a week away. Please take some time to be with yourself and God reflecting on this miracle of Emmanuel, God with us. Read through John 1 slowly. Ponder the words, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness….he has revealed God to us.” What does that mean to you right now in your life circumstances?
It’s so easy to make Christmas all about the family preparations for the big day. Often we start the day exhausted, depleted, and a bit resentful that we did all this work to make it wonderful but are unacknowledged and unappreciated by everyone we worked so hard to please.
Or, perhaps you have no plans and no people to share Christmas with. Don’t be a victim of resentment and loneliness. Find a place you can serve others even less fortunate than you are. Bring blankets and sandwiches to homeless people. Volunteer at a Christmas dinner for those who have no means to have dinner. Visit a nursing home and bring small gifts for those who have no visitors. If you do that, I promise you that you will feel a whole lot better when you lay your head down at night than if you sat home sad.
PS: If you’re going through a divorce or have already and would like some tips on rebuilding your life – I will be doing a special FB live with Georgia Shaffer, a great girlfriend, licensed psychologist, and expert in divorce recovery. We are finalizing the date soon and will announce it via email. Keep an eye out.
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 with 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. If he gets angry, critical, or sulky when you spend time with your daughter, brother, dogs, or anything other than him and that works to get you to stop doing what you’re doing and pay attention to him, then he feels better. He doesn’t feel insecure anymore. It’s similar to how a person with OCD handles his or her fear about 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 only temporary.
In a similar way, a jealous person has scary thoughts about the stability and security of your relationship. If you love your daughter, then maybe you don’t love him as much. If you enjoy spending time with other things, even animals, maybe that means you don’t want to be with him. Or if you enjoy anything other than him, that means you don’t “need” him as he needs you to need him in order to feel secure in your relationship.
Instead of admitting and addressing 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 jealousy and insecurity are his problems to fix not yours.
Just as an aside, here is where many Christian women make critical mistakes in marriage. Out of love, goodwill, and a longing for a good marriage, they try to make their husbands feel better or bigger (more secure) by diminishing their own self. 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 hairstyle the way their husband wants them to wear because it’s easier to give in than argue. After all, doesn’t love mean that you should please him first? And, isn’t the test of a godly wife submission in all things? Wouldn’t you displease God if you stood up for what you wanted or needed or said no?
But when your marriage has a pattern where he matters and you don’t, he’s worth-more and you’re worth-less, you start to feel worthless. That is not God’s intent for you or for your marriage. Click To Tweet
But your question is how do deal with him? Two key steps: Compassionate words and actions coupled with excellent boundaries. Show compassion for his insecurity that makes him feel jealous and possessive. Remind him that you love him and he’s special to you (if that’s true) 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 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 respond, “I’m feeling jealous” 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 will pop up. It might be, “Well if you loved me you’d want to spend 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 a big assumption here 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 so, 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 you 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 like to be with a variety of people and I love people and animals. God made me that way and I have to honor who I am. I’m not to be 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, you can 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. You have nothing to be jealous of.”
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 loving your husband. Hopefully, he will see your strength and desire some of his own instead of trying to squash yours.
Friends, what other ways have you dealt with a jealous person, whether it is a husband, girlfriend, or child?