How Do I Not Trust Thee: Jealousy
A Suspicious Letter
Diane left some letters on the kitchen counter for me to mail, as she always does, and as I walked down the steps I quickly looked through them, as I always do. Among the endless bills was a hand-addressed envelope to a man at an address I didn't recognize in another state.
I thought for a second about asking Diane who he was, but I didn't want to appear, y'know, suspicious. So instead I went down to my office and acted suspicious, searching the name and address on the Internet. I finally found him on a government scientific Web site. And while I tried not to jump to any conclusions, I couldn't get my mind to stop considering the possibility...
Is my wife cheating on me with an algae researcher?
I wrote down the name and address on a Post-it (easier to eat if I had to destroy the evidence), mailed the mail, and went about my business. For the next two days I thought about how to bring this up to Diane. Then I got an e-mail. It was from the researcher. Oh my god. I clicked it open and there was just one sentence:
"Did you get the swizzle sticks yet?"
That mystery letter? A check Diane had written for something I forgot that I'd bought on eBay.
Okay, I'm an idiot. I'm also a jealous guy. Always have been. Probably always will be. If nearly 20 years of marriage to a woman who loves and completes me hasn't cured me, nothing will.
Jealousy is one of the few emotions that husbands have always been expected to express. Unfortunately, most of us express it really badly -- often for absolutely no good reason, and sometimes with disastrous consequences. It might be the only emotion that wives wish husbands would suppress.
After the swizzle stick episode, I started asking my basketball buddies about jealousy -- what Shakespeare called "the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on." (I didn't mention Shakespeare specifically because I didn't want anyone to throw the ball at my head. It was bad enough I was asking them to admit they actually had feelings.)
I was most interested to hear from one guy because I knew he and his wife had just entered a scenario rife with betrayal possibilities. After many years of being home with their kids, his wife took a job at a small company with a lot of younger single people. I was at a party recently where I saw her with some of her new male colleagues. They flocked around her, almost flirtatiously, I thought. It actually made me feel a little jealous on my buddy's behalf.
So I was amused by the way my friend denied the role of jealousy in his marriage. "Not as big a deal now as it was 20 years ago," he said, "but I've always had more to be jealous about than my wife, because she is a first-class flirt." Then he added, a bit irritably, as if the facts were irrefutably in his favor: "Look, her coworkers are all much younger and/or gay. And the one person she is hanging out with lots is 10 years younger, with a pregnant wife."
Oh, okay. Good thing you're not feeling threatened. And, of course, guys never cheat on their pregnant wives.
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