I was surprised to see the caller ID on my cell phone showing that my husband was calling me. I was still watching his car drive away as he left for work that morning.
“Hey, lover-boy, what’s up? Did you forget something?” I was half expecting to see his car turn around and return home as I answered the phone. Maybe he’d forgotten his lunch.
“Who were you waving to?” came his curt reply.
I was a little taken back. I answered with the simple and obvious truth: “The neighbor.”
I remember being quite shocked that my husband was so upset about this. In fact, he was angry. In his mind, I hadn’t any right to wave to the man who lived next door. He saw nothing innocent about it, and he went on to accuse me of cheating on him.
I remember hanging up, walking back into my house, and bursting into tears. What on earth just happened? I loved my husband with a pure and intense love. How could he possibly think I was cheating on him? Where was this coming from?
I began to muse over the little red flags that I had seen cropping up in our two years of marriage. I knew my husband had always shown a protective bit of jealousy, but I hadn’t really minded it. In fact, it was nice to know he loved me enough to be a little jealous. I even thought it was cute.
Before we were married, I remember him telling me that he didn’t like the way my boss interacted with me. He was certain this man was flirting with me, and it upset him. I didn’t see a bit of flirtatiousness in my married boss’s behavior. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask my co-workers what they thought. I was quite shocked to find that all of the people I talked to agreed 100 percent with my boyfriend.
Wow. Somehow I didn’t see it, but since everyone else did, I quit the job as quickly as I could. I was glad my boyfriend had spoken up and made me aware of what was really going on. I didn’t want to have any part in this man forgetting about his wife.
So in that instance, I thought his jealousy was helpful. But after we married, I realized more and more that my husband was very uncomfortable with my interactions with men, no matter how small. I realized that I was so subconsciously aware of it that I was actually avoiding shaking hands with men if my husband was around. I knew deep down that he wouldn’t like it and would be suspicious.
This episode of calling me on the phone to chew me out for waving to the neighbor was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As the tears streamed down my face, I searched the Internet for a 24-hour marriage-counseling hotline and called.
The woman who answered told me that she too had been in a marriage with a man whose love had turned into something too powerful. She explained to me that this kind of jealousy is a dangerous misinterpretation of love. And she told me that I needed to confront my husband with an ultimatum.
And so I did. That night, I sat down and told my husband that his excessive jealousy was choking me. I told him that I felt imprisoned by his constant suspicion and scrutiny of my actions. I told him that he had to trust my exclusive love for him or go get some counseling. And I told him that this unhealthy behavior had to end now.
I was so relieved to see my husband respond with love. He hadn’t realized that he had allowed his emotions to get so far out of control. He told me that it would never happen again, and it never did. I even went on to work in an exclusively male workplace. I was the only female in a room full of guys, and my husband never raised an eyebrow.
The difference between an abuser and a lover is change. If my husband had really and truly been trying to control me, he wouldn’t have changed. Our relationship would have been poisoned and devastated. But my husband was not an abuser. He was a very over-zealous lover who needed to take a step back and check his boundaries.
I am so glad the woman who answered me in my moment of desperation offered me such wisdom. If I had never sought out counsel that day, I might have never made that critical move to confront this festering poison that was creeping into our marriage. I encourage my readers to recognize red flags. Seek out help. It just may be the very action needed to root out unhealthy behaviors in your relationships.