Jealous guys need to come clean

 

IT'S not easy for a man to tell his partner he feels jealous. The vibe at the prospect of telling her - especially if he hasn't done it before - is decidedly uncool. He can feel it will demolish his masculine street cred and give her too much power over him. After all, he's still got his pride. Coming out from the mask of invulnerability to admit to jealousy can seem too costly a risk.

Only last December John Lammon, a 58 year old Co Kildare father of two, was jailed for life at the Central Criminal Court for murdering a man he believed was having an affair with his former partner. In interviews with gardai, Lammon said: "I am very sorry for what happened because I am not that type of violent person. I would put it down to that I was jealous of Michael Doogue."

Jealousy is a universal human experience yet men don't often talk about it. They'll sing about it (Tom Jones's Delilah: "I felt the knife in my hands and she laughed no more"; John Lennon's Jealous Guy; Led Zeppelin's Heartbreaker Joe Jackson's Is She, Really Going Out With Him?) but when's the last time you heard a group of guys in the pub talking about how they manage feelings of jealousy? Jealousy can flood men with an intense sense of inadequacy and an abject fear of abandonment. It can carry with it delusions of infidelity and catapult a man into states of panic and terror. He sees the woman as emotionally more powerful than him. Feeling unequal and threatened, he doubts his lover's commitment to the relationship.

Some psychologists believe it all goes back to a boy's closeness to his mother and the painful realisation in time that it's Daddy she's married to, not him. Watch any toddler muscling in and breaking up his parents' hug.

The plot is sown deep within us in real life before we've even heard our first fictional story of the eternal triangle. Clive Garland, a psychotherapist specialising in men's issues at the Clanwilliam Institute in Dublin, says that if men feel insecure in their relationship they can feel jealous. When they're jealous - and he believes it's a normal phenomenon - Garland says that the best thing men can do is to tell their partner how they feel: "Most men fry to play it cool and not admit they're jealous. Find a way to talk it out with your partner. If you can go over to her and tell her you're feeling jealous and insecure, you're on a winner." Garland believes that men who fail to manage their jealousy become possessive and feel the need to control the other person. The need to control is a way of avoiding feelings of jealousy.

"Men's jealousy has far more implications for women's health than for men's health," says Roisin McDermott, chairwoman of Women's Aid. "Jealousy can lead to paranoia in the man. He believes he owns her." McDermott disputes the explanation or even sometimes the justification for murders of women as crimes of passion: the if I can't have you nobody will concept.

"She's dead. He's alive. Why didn't he kill himself if it was a crime of passion?" she says, urging men to recognise that jealousy is self originating rather than caused by a woman's behaviour.

Psychotherapist Rob Weatherill says that jealousy is a universal social sentiment which is not revealed very often because it's not seen as appropriate. He associates it with the child's inordinate demand for love and recognition. Men who were damaged or repeatedly humiliated as children will be more likely to be in need of recognition and more likely to control their partners.

ALLUDING to Freud, Weatherill says jealousy can involve an unacknowledged homosexual love for the rival male. Primordial energies and passions and the denial of the homosexual element are very strong: "The two men are more likely to kill one another for their (repressed) love for one another - not for the woman. The woman is incidental."

Rob Weatherill believes the jealous man's repressed homosexuality has the potential to attach to any other man, real or in fantasy.

Dr Harry Ferguson, senior lecturer in the Department of Applied Social Studies at UCC, says jealousy is hugely denied but pervasive. He sees it as part of the masculine shadow. Violent men convince themselves their partner is having an affair. This forms part of their rationale for battering them. For the jealous man "other men are perceived as threats to the integrity of the man's estate which is jealously guarded".

Left unchecked, normal jealousy can become a pathological condition called morbid jealousy. Dr Art O'Connor, consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin, says that jealousy can become all consuming and dominate a relationship.

The morbidly jealous man can accuse his partner of having affairs. He searches the woman, checks her under clothes or looks for semen on the sheets. Combined with alcohol, morbidly jealous men are dangerous and can kill - although Dr O'Connor has also seen homicide cases where the morbidly jealous murderer is a dry alcoholic.

For most couples, all that is required is for men to say "I feel jealous" or, for less brave souls, "I'm feeling a bit left out". More often than not, this self disclosure will lead to reassurance and a healthier relationship than before.