Often in our society, male partner jealousy is romanticized. When men are aggressive, controlling, and jealous, it is seen as just another way to express their “love” for their partner. This is often portrayed in popular movies, books, and television shows as an attractive quality in men. I have heard women with controlling and jealous partners make excuses for this behavior such as, “He’s only jealous because he cares” or “He’s only like that because he doesn’t want anyone else to have me.” But let me make this clear: there is a difference between wanting a monogamous relationship with someone and exhibiting controlling and manipulative behavior.
Being jealous can often be a type of abusive behavior, especially if it is a pattern. Examples of this include:
- Wanting you to spend all of your time with them and getting upset/sad/angry when you spend time with family or friends
- Not allowing (or simply not liking) you to have friends of the opposite sex
- Constantly making accusations of cheating (without evidence or good reason)
- Not allowing you to take advantage of a job opportunity because it involves longer hours, coworkers of the opposite sex, etc
- Spreading lies about family and friends to keep you away from them
- Shaming you for doing or wearing something because they’re worried it will make others look at you
While this type of behavior can certainly manifest itself in women, this is a more dangerous problem for men because of the way we are socialized. Popular culture tells us that these types of behaviors are normal or romantic in men. A jealous man is often lauded as a “passionate lover” rather than being called out for his controlling behavior, while the jealous female partner is often labeled as the “crazy girlfriend” or “psycho wife.”
Being jealous is an abusive behavior and is in no way romantic. While this type of jealous and controlling behavior can and does lead to physical abuse, it still a big deal if it never turns physical. Emotional and mental abuse has real effects and must be acknowledged as real abuse, this is essential to fighting abuse overall.
Women must first recognize that jealous behavior is abusive and not normal. Then we must forget what society has told us is “romantic and loving.” Secondly, parents must teach their sons that girls are their equals, and that being jealous is not natural or an appropriate way to express oneself. We must stop teaching children that when a boy picks on a girl, it means he likes her. This encourages abusive behavior as a norm. Thirdly, parents must raise their daughters to recognize jealousy and aggressiveness as abusive behaviors, and not as romantic. They must teach their daughters that love is not controlling, jealous, or obsessive. Most importantly, they must teach their daughters that it is not their job to “fix” or “change” a man. If he shows patterns of abusive behaviors such as jealousy, anger, or manipulation at the beginning of a relationship, it will generally just worsen as time goes on. It is important to teach girls the red flags and to end the relationship when she sees one.
It is time for us to change the norms. Jealousy is not romantic, and “fixing” a jealous and controlling man is often not possible from within a relationship. We must learn what true love looks like, and treat one another with it.