“Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy – in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.”
― Robert A. Heinlein,
Abusers like to use jealousy as a control mechanism. Like all abuse, it starts out subtle. You will probably think it’s normal. A simple request to cut ties with an ex (just FYI this really isn’t an ok behavior, even though it seems to be a societal norm). After a while it will escalate. The abuser may start constantly asking who other people are and why you’re hanging out with them. They may start this process with the gender you’re attracted to. A1 and A2 both did this. I was constantly grilled on who certain guys were. Whether they were long time friends or coworkers, it was always a question.
Eventually questioning turns into accusations. I remember once I woke up early on the weekend to go feed my friends’ cat. They were out of town and I usually fed the cat anytime they went away. Knowing that the rest of my house would be asleep, I decided it would be a good time to stop at the store. When I got there, the store I was going to was still closed. They were scheduled to open in about 20 minutes so I decided to head to the store next door and waste some time. About 10 minutes into my time wasting I got a text from A2 wondering where I was. I told him I needed to go to Sally’s and I’d be home soon. He asked me who Sally was, so I explained it was a store and I just needed to grab one thing and I’d be home. Now, if this was a normal relationship the conversation would have ended there. Our conversation didn’t end there. The next thing he text me was that I better not be lying and that I better not being doing anything I’m not supposed to be doing. I was livid. I wanted to cry right then and there. I couldn’t understand why he would say such a thing. I’d never cheated on him. Hell, I’ve never cheated on any of my partners. It’s just not the way I roll. I’m a very loyal person. Loyal to a fault.
A1 actually did cheat on me. I attributed a lot of his jealous behavior to this. In my mind I felt that he was just making sure I didn’t cheat on him as revenge. I realize now that that was all part of the abuse. It was another way to control me. He used it as an excuse. He would get so mad that he forbade me to let the guys I worked with walk me to my car when I worked the late shift. The guys were simply making sure I stayed safe. Something I appreciated. His jealousy and control were more important to him than my safety. For the record, the guys I worked with still walked me to my car at night, despite me being forbidden to walk with them. Or rather, at least one of them would just so happen to be leaving the same time I left and had to walk in the same direction. I wish I would have listened then when more than one of them told me that A1 shouldn’t make me feel bad about being safe.
A2 used to tell me that if I wasn’t checking up on him that I didn’t care about him. He also made it clear that if I didn’t respond to his text or call right away, that I must be doing something I shouldn’t be doing. Even if I was at work, he insisted I text him back. He constantly accused me of cheating on him when I would be working late. I worked retail and anyone who has ever worked retail knows, when you close you stay until the store is clean. I would constantly get the “the mall closed at 9, it’s 10:30 where are you” text. Even after I would explain that while the mall closed at 9 we closed at 9:30 (or even 10 sometimes) and that we needed to clean the store. Not to mention, I worked 25 minutes from home and, no, he didn’t like it when I ignored him because I was driving. It got to the point where I actually started to feel guilty for working late. I started to feel like I was doing something wrong. It wasn’t just with work either. If I went out with a friend for lunch or took the initiative to go for a walk to get some exercise, I felt guilty. I felt like I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing.
What really sucks is that because of having it basically ingrained in me that no communication from someone is a bad thing, I start to kind of freak out a bit when I don’t hear from my current boyfriend right away. The good news is he’s super awesome and understanding and it’s really helping me to unlearn that behavior. A few months ago his phone was broken. It wouldn’t charge. I called, and called, AND CALLED, and it went straight to voicemail every time. After the 2nd time I started to get upset. I left a few angry messages. I text him constantly, and each text grew more and more angry. My rational brain knew that there must have just been something wrong with my phone. My rational brain knew that when he got everything sorted at, he’d call. My irrational brain made me drive to his house the next day to see why he wasn’t calling me back. My irrational brain apologized for being crazy when I got to his house and he showed me his phone. My wonderful boyfriend just kissed me and told me he loved me. I didn’t like the way I felt that day, when I was agonizing over why he wouldn’t call or text back. I hated how angry I was and how emotional I got. I realized that I was still letting my abusers control my behavior. It was a good step toward healing and as I write this, my phone lays in front of me. It lay silent and that’s ok. Even though I called my boyfriend 30 minutes ago and he never answered, it’s ok. I know he’s just sleeping and I’m thankful that I’m finally at a place where I’m ok with that.