Jealousy, in itself, is not a sin. According to the Bible God is “jealous” when we put other priorities and gods before Him. You can find a number of scriptures that state that fact. But is all jealousy wrong? Simply stated, no.
We’re told in 2 Corinthians 11 that Paul was jealous “with a godly jealousy.” So obviously there are times when being jealous has its merits. But it can also head towards a sinful path. That’s what we want to avoid.
There’s no doubt that jealousy IS a sin when a person becomes ‘envious, boastful, rude and self-seeking.‘ (This is referred to in 1 Corinthians 13.)
It’s also stated in the Bible: “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (1 Corinthians 3:3) That’s not a complimentary statement!
So, how do you know when your jealousy is “godly” or “worldly” and when it isn’t? And how can you make sure it doesn’t hurt your marriage?
First off, note that:
“Jealousy comes in different levels. Legitimate jealousy is a means to guard your territory. This comes from a sincere care and commitment to a relationship. Occasional jealousy includes occasional suspicions. That includes being uncomfortable when your spouse is with certain friends of the opposite sex. Chronic jealousy includes lies, threats, self-pity, and feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and insecurity.”
These “different levels” may help you to know if your jealousy is sinful or not.
Let’s take this further.
Jealousy can threaten and even destroy your marriage.
Dr Charles Swindoll refers to jealousy in his book, Marriage… From Surviving to Thriving:
“Few things turn off a mate faster than a suspicious, insecure, smothering and protectiveness. A jealous lover’s first concern is for self, which is the exact opposite of agape love (which is the type of love that God requires of marriage partners). Rather than being patient, the jealous lover zealously pursues what he or she wants, even to the extreme of controlling someone else.”
This goes along with the saying, “It is not love that is blind, but jealousy” (Laurence Durrell). Blind jealousy is destructive in a marital relationship. You need to control or eliminate it from your marriage, because of its toxicity.
As Ron Deal (the director of FamilyLife Blended for the ministry of Family Life Today) points out:
Our research revealed that feelings of jealousy (fear of being replaced), suspicion (trouble believing their partner), worry (how their mate’s previous sexual experiences compare to theirs), and fear (afraid of another relationship breakup) predict with nearly 93 percent accuracy couples with high versus low-quality relationships. Fears erode confidence. It sets the couple up to interpret benign behaviors in cancerous ways.
Jealousy can also related to the stepfamily dynamic. In biological families, for example, when a parent spends time with their children it also cares for the marriage. That is not necessarily so in remarriages. Nearly half (46%) of unhappy partners feel left out when their spouse spends time with their children. This is just another example of how first marriages and remarriages differ. A key point of our research is that an astonishing 7 of the top 12 stumbling blocks for remarriage couples are related to past relationship breakups, or because of the complications of being in a stepfamily.
Jealousy Can Act as a Poison
So, just how do you handle your irrational jealous feelings so they don’t poison your marriage? First, there are a few questions to sort through. “Do we need to swallow our feelings and ‘buck up’?” If so, or if not, how do we deal with jealous feelings? Frankly, these are age old questions. And they aren’t always easy to answer. But the following might help.
Here are some great guidelines that Dr David Hawkins and Dr Gary and Barb Rosberg give. Perhaps they can help you answer those questions:
• ELIMINATING BEING JEALOUS IN YOUR MARRIAGE
• GETTING RID OF THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER IN YOUR MARRIAGE
— ALSO —
Monica A. Frank, PhD has written a very helpful article on this subject where she points out:
“The more you are aware of your behaviors and other’s behavior that may maintain the beliefs, then you will be able to make better choices that can allow you to control the jealousy. It’s especially important to develop awareness of this. You may need to spend some time at this point to assess your jealousy. Honestly assess the behaviors, and the outcomes based on the behaviors.
“HOW DO YOU STOP IRRATIONAL JEALOUSY? Once you have determined the behavior, then you can make choices to change the behavior. Even though these feelings seem uncontrollable, that doesn’t mean they are uncontrollable. However, you may need to make a commitment to the hard work involved in making changes.”
For more information, including linked articles pertaining to “steps that can help you make these changes,” please read:
• What to Do When Being Jealous Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage
Here’s another article to read. It approaches this issue from a different angle:
• EVALUATE YOURSELF IF YOUR SPOUSE IS JEALOUS
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Assorted Marriage Issues
17 responses to “When Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage”
(ZAR) I’m glad I stumbled over this article. My situation is, well, lets call it complicated. I have being married for 8 months and am hating it! I have a jealous husband, extremely jealous. He’s suspicious of everything I do. When I’m happy, Im cheating. When I’m down, I’m cheating.
I once got robbed and he accused me of setting up the whole thing. Help. My marriage won’t last like this. I won’t last.
(USA) It sounds like he has been hurt before. He’s going to need to TRUST you. Take some Christian based marriage courses NOW!! I’m not a big church goer, but, I am a believer and I try to practice good everyday in this crazy, fast paced, evil world. Communication, communication, communication. Does he feel your social life is all one sided? Find something that both of you really enjoy and do it together, just the 2 of you. And don’t ever put the word TRUST (as in a plaque or sign)in your house, it comes across as trying to sell it. Practice it, don’t preach it. Actions speak louder than words. I hope this helps.
(USA) I’m glad I stumbled over this article. I have being married 12 years but have been together for about 21 years. We have 3 kids together and I love my wife very much. My wife has done some things in our relationship that are shady. I have found a letter to another man (Rodney). The statement was made “I think I’m pregnant but don’t worry it’s not yours. HA, HA, HA, HA (this one she says that she was joking and it was just bad humor). Then found an email that says she has feelings for her x-boyfriend (David) on the back burner that she would really like to talk with him about one day while passing through the state (she had nothing to really say about that one).
Then I had another guy (Ralph) that my wife’s sister had sent sexual pictures to. Not naked just certain things were exposed like the top portion of her red bra in a so-cal zip up hoody while leaning over on a riding lawn mower kind of exposing the top portion of her breast and other positions that were sexual. That I am sure my wife told her sister to do but she said “I don’t know why she sent them pictures were for you” and she wasn’t even mad that her sister had sent them. I would have been very pissed, but it just seemed no big deal to my wife.
What gets me is that my wife seems to think it’s okay to be friends with any one of these guys. I have asked her not to communicate with any of them but she still does. The recent attempt was to Rodney again. She went up to see her dad and this guy lives in the same town. My wife is Friends with Rodney’s sister and my wife had face booked Rodney’s sister and told her that she was on her way up there for the weekend and my wife and replied to his sister and said “I heard that Rodney is no longer married? And where is he at now?
I asked why did she want to know where he was at and if he was still married. My wife replied “it was something that she heard about him being married and she just wanted to know and the reason I was asking about Rodney was that I heard that he was looking for work and he had asked about work in North Dakota.” My wife is currently working at. The rest of our family lives in Arizona. This was sent out Feb 19, 2012 and then she went up there on the 25th of the same month. Like I said before I love my wife and my family. I think she takes my strong beliefs in keeping our family together no matter what she does and uses it against me. Knowing that she can just do what she wants because I love her and our family and I won’t go anywhere.
Well, now the other side of the coin ME. Yes, before she was living in North Dakota we had been fighting and it wasn’t about other men in her life but family (our kids), how to run the house and how I am not giving her what she needs. It seems that she always runs to other men to get attention that I am not giving her (explains the last attempt at Rodney on Feb 19th). She could deal with the kids but not how I was making her feel. I have shut down to protect myself. My heart has hardened to a point because of the things she has done to me in the past and still doing in the present (Rodney). But I also don’t want to lose my true love but I don’t know how to fix the problems at home. She may not see that through the jealousy I have toward other men she makes friends with.
I also, like other men, have taken my wife’s love for granted. I am blind to what my wife needs like so many men but I still don’t believe her actions should be anywhere else but with me. She should have done anything else but reach out to other men. She doesn’t understand why I need to be so controlling. I don’t think I am. I’m just trying to protect whatever is left of our marriage. Well, I wouldn’t need to be so controlling, as she puts it. If she would just keep her side of the bargain and keep them guys out of her life like we had agreed and be that open book that we can build trust on.
At one point I believed that she had stopped talking with these guys. But then I found that Facebook message (Feb 19th), about Rodney if he was still married and where he was. So then all the past came back and thoughts of distrust. But when it comes to both our feelings we both need to accommodate each other to make things work out. That means I need to start doing the things to make it known that I love her and she needs to make sure that my feelings are taken care of also. I know that she loves me but she needs to show me also. It needs to work both ways. Yes, she is better at it then I am. I seem to want for the good but then trouble happens and I shut down. That’s when the problems really start. I’m hoping for the best. I hope if I start falling back into my pattern my wife will be there to pull me out. I hope the best for all of you out there. I know it’s not going to be easy.
(UNITED STATES) It would be nice if a person could read something that would help without having to buy another book. Some of us live on a very tight budget.
(ZIMBABWE) Just yesterday I asked myself why am I still married to this highly educated man who is so insecure and jealous that in the last 5 years we’ve been married he has accused me of infidelity lots of times. I’ve reached a point where I’m just fed up, have explained to him that I wasn’t brought up to believe in cheating on your spouse and he still doesn’t believe me.
Ironically, he’s the one who cheated and had a child with another woman but I forgave him and thought we could move on. Could this be a sign that he’s still seeing the woman and feeling guilty about it and he wants to put the blame on me? Honestly I’ve had enough and I give up because he doesn’t seem to appreciate my honesty and straight forwardness.
(USA) Help! Growing up I was a minority and didn’t have a lot of friends around of the same color I could identify with, except a girl (I was a boy). We were friends for 7 years (age 7 to 14), in high school (over 10 years ago) experimented sexually though we were not a couple (out of sinful curiosity) before realizing we were completely unattracted to one another. Then remaining good friends since for the next 10 years after that.
I have been married 10 months. Before we got married my wife said she wasn’t the jealous type. Several months into the marriage, I wanted to introduce my wife to my childhood friend and she freaked out.
I wanted my wife and I to share Christ with the old friend who wasn’t really following God. Just mentioning that makes my wife yell and scream. And so my wife and I agreed I would send a letter to the friend about Christ instead of inviting her to our church. I sent the friend a letter talking about God and my wife accused me of sending love letters to her!
I ended up telling the friend my wife might not be comfortable meeting them. Then the friend who actually became saved and started going to church (right after they got the testimony) suddenly stopped going to church. I wondered if it was because as Christians my wife and I said basically we never would be comfortable seeing the friend again. I tried to let my wife know I am unattracted to this person and wished as a maried couple we could reach out to the unsaved – no matter who they are, and if nervous about opposite sex individuals my wife could talk to them in my place (female on female).
Growing up people remained friends if they were no longer attracted to each other. I do not feel Christian for my wife and I turning our backs on someone who has done nothing wrong they haven’t repented from.
You can only plant the seed, God does the rest. If you introduced God to your childhood friend and she chooses to back slide that’s not your fault. All we can do is continue praying for our loved ones. But your wife and her feelings should always come before anyone else because your committed to her. Don’t let anything or anyone come between you two it really isn’t worth it. Trust me, there are plenty of people out there who can and will talk to your friend about God and if she had that desire to know God she will respond. You are not responsible for her salvation. Focus on your wife; she needs you more than your friend. God commands husbands to LOVE their wife’s and love is suppose to be understanding, do your part even if she doesn’t do hers and watch God bless your marriage.
Your wife was right, there is no way she can trust another woman who would be communicating so freely with you. Put it the other way around, suppose it was a man who was communicating with your wife who could have been long time friend before you? When we marry we should accept to lose friends.
I’ve been married over 7 years and was never jealous but I found 3 years of flirting and sex messages in my husband’s facebook. I considered leaving him but we also have children so I forgave and I am trying to move on but now I’m jealous. I feel I can’t trust himm anymore… sometimes I think it’s easier to end the marriage… I don’t know what to do.
I am 60 yrs old; my husband will be 77. I believe he’s having an affair with this girl who is my age. I will never forget the look in her eyes one day when I was at her house, like she knows now what, What nothing he sneaks around when I am at work. Has her at our home always sneaking around hiding something. He says you just pulled it out of your own head; there is nothing going on. Denial!!!! If he was on his death bed he would not admit to anything, and it is driving me crazy.
I don’t want to be jealous but I don’t know how to deal with this every single day. I’m at the end of my rope. I want to leave but then I don’t. I can’t really afford to either. We’ve been together for 38 yrs. I used to love to listen to country music but now I just cringe because there are songs that he thinks of her. I just give up; there’s nothing I can do to stop this. Only God can deliver me from THIS.
I am a very jealous person. I want to change my life for my wife and kids before it’s too late. I’ve been asking my wife to help me with this but she won’t talk to me about it. It seems that I’m jealous about everything and it’s hard to fix alone. I feel like she doesn’t care enough to help me. What can I do to make myself feel better about me and to make her help or at least make me feel loved?
Joe, you need to talk to a marriage friendly counselor. There are some underlying issues going on that it seems you need guidance for, so you can get beyond them –both personally and in your marriage. Please don’t say you can’t afford a counselor because it seems that you can’t afford, even more, to allow this type of issue (or issues) to continue. It can very well eat away at your marriage to a dangerous point. Plus, who wants to continue on in a dysfunctional marriage when you could possibly have better? A divorce would be MUCH more expensive than a counselor. It’s sure worth a try.
If you don’t know of a good, marriage friendly counselor I would encourage you to contact the ministry of Focus on the Family. They have counselors on staff, and they also have a great list of counselors all over the U.S. You can find their contact info at http://www.focusonthefamily.com. I hope you will and pray that the Lord will guide you in this journey. I’m proud of you for reaching out and trying to be the hero your wife and kids need (even though your wife doesn’t acknowledge it yet). Your effort will be well worth it in the long run.
I’m trying very hard. I’m doing the best I can to try to keep my thoughts to myself. I still slip up but it’s only been a few days. She just makes hateful faces or gets real mad. She really doesn’t want to be around me at all and still hasn’t tried to talk to me one time to try and help me or us. I help her more. I’m sure it’s still not enough; she’s pregnant. 3 months. She won’t be sexual at all pretty much ever unless she’s bugged too much. But she keeps me up a lot cause she has sex dreams a lot.
I feel so unwanted around her. She’s a teacher and I know she has work to do. I don’t bug her at work. We live 15 min from her job and it takes her more than an hour to get home. She picks the kids up at her moms and will just sit there I guess and talk till I have ask her when are you coming home several times. She just doesn’t wanna be around me or help at all with my problems. It makes it so hard to try and be better because to her everything else is more important. I just wanna be better and happy.
I live around her family 30 min from min and nobody to hang out with here and her family doesn’t like me. She just says aww don’t worry about it. I really do love her and wish we could be happy. I have to follow her around just so I can be around her. She’s always gotta be doing something and now I just wish I could too. Ever since I’ve been tryin it seems like it’s all my problem that I should deal with myself. I’ve asked her to talk to me everyday till yesterday and now I just quit asking. She will look up everything else in her life except ways to help. I’m very heart broken and wish my wife would care enough about me to hold her hand out and help lift me up. Please give me words of encouragement and things to do or say so I can get past this. Thank you.
Having been married 10 yrs w/ 2 children elementary school age, my husband is very jealous. I invite him out with my children and I, he rejects our invitation. I go out about 1-2 times a year with friends from high school. Keep in mind I’m in my mid 30’s my husband is in his mid 40’s. Recently I had clothing laid out to wear to an event, he voiced his opinion about my choice of outfit. It was a high-waisted dress pants with a nice shirt and vest… needless to say, I haven’t seen those pants anymore. I am not old and refuse to live as such!!
I’m in a second marriage and so is my wife. Her jealousy is so extreme it’s making me leave the house. Example. I’m putting my seat belt on and a couple laughing comes out of the store so I looked and my wife became violent, hitting me saying I intentionally looked at her. She has accused me of having a fling with her daughter, which that upset me very much cause I know I would never do that. We go out with friends and she’s claiming I looked at a woman with a raised eyebrow and went thru months of her angrily telling me I flirted with her. (This girl was with her extra large husband by the way.) She has been timing me how long I get home from work and if I’m 1 minute late she insisted I had sex with someone.
She now brings it up everyday very hostile and violent. She scratches my face, grabs my private sector and throws things at me. The point is I have been faithful and she’s taking out on me what her cheating ex did to her. I’ve prayed and prayed and it’s just getting worse. What can I do to stop this childish jealousy?
Greg, There’s no doubt that something needs to be done. Her behavior is abusive, to say the least. It doesn’t matter if it is a wife or a husband who is being abusive, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong! There’s no excuse. Your wife has some emotional work that needs to be done. She needs to get some help so she doesn’t view “all men” or at least you, as being unfaithful, because her ex did that to her. I understand this all too well because my dad was unfaithful to my mom and several uncles were unfaithful to my aunts, so I approached life that men don’t value women in the same way that we value them. I (wrongly) thought that my husband would probably cheat on me if I disappointed him in some way. That was stinking-thinking in every way.
Eventually God woke me up and helped me to see that I shouldn’t push my husband into that cheating category just because he was a man. He was innocent, even though these other men (including my dad) weren’t. And your wife needs to wake up and stop putting you into that category just because you are her husband. She may not have even known she would feel this way before she married you. But once she did, her old insecurities reared their ugly head. And most disturbing of all is that she is allowing these false feelings to take over and push her into being an abuser. If you did these things to her, you would be in jail. There shouldn’t be a double standard in this. If a husband can’t abuse his wife without being put into jail (which he deserves if he does), then a wife should be subject to the same punishment. She definitely has impulse control problems and they need to be dealt with, as well. She doesn’t treat everyone this way, so why does she think she can do this to you. It’s because she has lowered her impulse control to give herself permission. Don’t listen to the excuse, “You push my buttons” because no amount of button pushing is an excuse.
So, what can you do about this? You HAVE to draw a line. There is a good book titled, Love Must Be Tough. Sometimes we have to take a tough stand on that, which is wrong so the marriage has any kind of chance of surviving. The actions by your wife that you wrote about in your comment is not sustainable, as far as allowing them to continue. You CAN’T let her continue to treat you this disrespectfully, in degrading, painful ways.
So, I recommend you read the book, and then I encourage you to act upon it. At a non-combative time you need to talk to her about this behavior. Tell her of your love for her and that you want your marriage to be a good one. But tell her of your feelings over this whole thing and ask her what she thinks you both can do about it. See what she comes up with. Tell her it CAN’T continue, nor WILL it! You have the right not to be abused no matter what she feels about it all. See if you can come up with a plan together.
Offer to support her in getting professional help from a “marriage friendly” counselor. Also, pledge that you will do your best not to linger in looking at another woman. We all look… when someone comes into our vision it’s only natural. But lingering, or looking twice is another matter. Be above board in showing that you are dedicated to her, and are not interested in being with another woman. (And make sure you follow through on this.)
All of this shows support for her to get the help she needs. If she won’t work with you on this, then you may have to separate for a time until she is motivated to work on her behavior. Sometimes that reality snaps a spouse to wake up and change their behavior. If that happens, make sure you don’t do anything during that time that would feed her insecurities. You will still be married, whether you are living together, or not. Act like it. The violence has to stop. The over the edge jealousy has to stop. That is only reasonable. You both need to partner in helping the other get through this time so you can build a good marriage, not a toxic one. … I hope this helps.
I have suffered with extreme jealousy to the point of dangerous actions. My poor husband has seen the darkest side of my being and it’s terrible. I never knew I had these issues until I started to get into “committed” relationships. Before coming to Christ I never wanted to be married in the first place. So being married and having these struggles has nearly shipwrecked my faith at times but God has been kind through many people and His Holy Spirit although He doesn’t condone my behavior at all. I’ve repented so many times, I’ve cried, driven for miles in the dark, prayed, smoked cigarettes, spoken to non profits, sought expensive therapy, it’s been a heck of a battle but I am happy when I see some progress. The key for me is to not give up.