By Susan Leigh
How jealous would you be if your spouse or partner was regularly car-sharing with a much younger, good-looking business colleague, or exchanging texts with them into the evening? Modern life often involves travel, greater accessibility and flexible hours but those requirements can bring an undercurrent of unease with them.
I was recently chatting with an attractive lady who was feeling jealous of her husband’s relationship with his female co-worker. She was half of a successful, professional couple whose children had recently left home to go to university. She regarded herself as fit, possibly slightly overweight, but smart, well-dressed, up-to-date and interesting. However, she was aware that both she and her husband were leading increasingly separate lives and intimacy had pretty much dwindled away to nothing.
She’d noticed her husband dressing smarter, leaving home a little earlier in the mornings, arriving home later in the evenings and had even caught him checking his appearance in the mirror before he left for work!
I’m sure many of us would find ourselves feeling somewhat uneasy if faced with this situation, but saying nothing and allowing it to continue unchecked brings with it repercussions.
When we find ourselves feeling jealous it can be important to reflect on three areas of life;
Your relationship may have been left to take care of itself for a long time, especially if your career, children, friends and maybe elderly relatives have all been regularly in need of your time and energy. Before you know it conversations with your husband can become quick updates and reminders, after which you crash into bed, stressed and exhausted. Giving some time to your relationship, though, is essential, or you can find yourself gradually living in a house share with a friend.
Some couples try to ensure they have one evening a week for themselves even if they don’t actually go out. Some plan an occasional weekend away together or designate their bedroom as their personal retreat. It’s important to find a way to asterisk your relationship as worthy of time and attention.
What is going on with your husband?
It’s not uncommon for men to hit their mid-forties or early fifties and reflect on what they’ve missed out on in their lives. They’ve perhaps had a successful career, supported their family, but now all that’s coming to an end. There may be scope to discuss together how they’re feeling, what they’d like to do, maybe what they missed out on doing when they were younger.
Sometimes there’s a sense of, ‘is this it?’ that starts to fester. Talk about it together and try to negotiate various options. Music, travel, a particular hobby or interest may be something you could do together or as part of an interest group. Plan to listen rather than second-guess how he’s feeling.
How do you feel about yourself?
We can find our confidence rather badly shaken if we suspect that there’s someone younger, more attractive and attentive circling in our husband’s orbit. We may have had children, be self-conscious about our body, be approaching the menopause, or feeling our age and aware that we’ve not updated our hair, makeup or wardrobe for some time.
If we start to feel uneasy or unsure of ourselves we can be in danger of turning into someone we don’t like. A bitchy, angry and resentful person may start to emerge. ‘What’s happening to me?’ Do we need therapy to deal with our demons? Investing some time, energy, money can make all the difference. Even wearing sexy matching underwear can put a little sass into your stride!
But equally there are many reasons not to reproach ourselves. We may both have been busy and focused on getting through each day. Sometimes receiving a wake-up call can be a valuable reminder to focus on our relationship and start to take better care of it. Feeling jealous can show that we care enough to fix it, are bothered and threatened.
Sitting down and talking things through in a non-accusatory way can be a good start to addressing where you’re at. Own how you’re feeling, rather than hand out blame; saying ‘when this happened I found myself feeling upset and jealous’, is better than saying ‘you make me feel’. Discuss what’s changed or gone wrong and what’s needed now that you’re both moving into a different phase of your life and relationship. What needs to happen to improve your relationship, what steps could you both take?
Sometimes relationship counselling can be an important part of the process, where you set aside time for a regular appointment and invest of yourselves in order to move forward. Compromise can mean being flexible, trying new things, perhaps even things that don’t initially appeal. It can mean speaking up rather than staying silent, or perhaps conversely staying silent when you’re itching to have the last word!
There may be certain aspects that we cannot change but by working on ourselves, dedicating time to each other and our relationship we can reinforce and build on the closeness and experiences we’ve shared over the years, so enhancing what’s special and unique to us and our future lives together.