"Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live."
A Little Background.
For the entire length of my friend's courtship, and many years into her marriage, she was reluctant to talk about sex let alone seek it out. Her husband found, in her, someone who needed him to help her broaden her horizons and happily set about coaxing and teasing her into, what he considered, the basics of the act of sex. She complied because he was "such a good catch" and resigned herself to the reality that, for her, sex was just uncomfortable, messy and not something she wanted a lot of. She was brought up to believe that marriage sanctified the fumbling attempts her husband made and she endured his advances for many years. She raised three children and tried to be content, but she knew something was missing. Other women spoke of orgasm like it was something holy, but she figured they were making it up to justify their loose morals.
One day, she noticed a box her daughter had gotten in the mail. Her daughter blushed but gamely opened the box revealing the small clitoral toy she had purchased from an online retailer. The two had a long conversation and the daughter was shocked to learn that her mother had never had an orgasm! For Christmas, she bought her mother a book about the female body and orgasm. Along with the book, she packaged a little clitoral toy and gave it to her mother in private. Her mother devoured the book with much blushing and head shaking. The things this author was brazenly talking about! The author was a doctor though, so it must be true. Soon after that fateful holiday, our heroine achieved her first orgasm, at her own hand, after exploring her genitals like the book suggested. The world opened that day for her! She found the online retailer her daughter frequented and placed an order for a few more daring toys.
She happily showed her husband, thinking that he would be just thrilled that his repressed and boring wife was being so adventurous and wild. He was interested and listened as she told him all of the things she had learned about her own body. The sex that night was fresh, exciting and everything he had been asking for! A few weeks later when he walked into the bedroom to see his wife naked and writhing around a fairly large dildo, things changed. He began to feel jealous of the toys and to be very abusive to his wife about her new found interest. Far from enjoying her liberation, he resented the fact that she had discovered it on her own.
My friend was understandably bewildered by his behavior. The more she desired him the less he seemed to care. He derided her toys and then tried to ban her from buying anymore. She wasn't going to allow this behavior and asked some friends what they thought about the matter. This was when my friend received some marriage advice that seemed so innocuous and sweet that most people assumed it was great advice. The advice was along the lines of: if your partner really doesn't like something you do for yourself, like masturbation, it is vital to the marriage that you respect his/her comfort level and sacrifice the behavior for the benefit of your marriage.
The Real Issue.
The problem with this type of advice is it doesn't deal with the real issues at play here. Jealousy is a deep and destructive emotion; ignoring it will not make it go away. It grows in the dark. If you can't feel like your partner loves you, and doesn't want to replace you, NOTHING they do, or don't do, will change that. It is a seductive power play that is inherently unequal and ultimately kills the relationship faster than outright deception because it is a subtle and poisonous form of deception. You are allowing your partner to tell you that you must act a certain way, behave a certain way, and feel a certain way in order to keep his/her feelings from being unmanageable. In other words, you are managing your partner's feelings! You are being defeated before you begin because you can't possibly know what your partner's true feelings are. You are also robbing your partner of a chance to grow.
We are all responsible for managing our own emotions, and ultimately our feelings are NOT paramount in the relationship, especially our negative ones. What is paramount to the relationship is acceptance of who and what our partners are, intrinsically. This is the meaning of unconditional love, which is the only kind of love that strengthens through adversity and lasts. Unconditionally loving yourself is the first step to unconditionally loving your partner. How can you love yourself without condition when you are denying yourself experiences that reflect who you are as a person? When you deny who you are to placate the fears of a partner, you are creating a power vacuum that sucks at your soul. This is not the way of love, which seeks the truth.
At the root of the power give away is a desire to end the suffering of our partner. This is a wonderful drive, but it is a self defeating proposition. Simply avoiding the triggers of an emotion doesn't deal with the underlying fear. Honestly looking at the problem and discussing the possible consequences is a step in the right direction and helps to build trust. It also has a wonderful side effect: it helps build true intimacy.
To get at the root of the problem, my friend and her husband had to sit down and have a really hard look at their entire relationship. From their courtship, each had been playing a role they deemed appropriate and wholesome but they had missed out on a wealth of intimacy because each, in their own way, was afraid of what that intimacy would reveal. She feared being a wanton, or "bad" woman, and he feared losing this marvelous creature he loved so deeply. He believed she stayed with him because she didn't like sex and he didn't pressure her. She believed he stayed because he was a good man and suffered deprivation that made him like every other married man! In essence, her frigidity and his self denial were deemed appropriate "roles" each could play. So much of their combined ego was tied up in believing the false illusion that they almost missed the opportunity to really connect, and that would have been a crying shame.
For any relationship to be successful, jealousy must be dealt with in a positive light. It isn't something to be feared, but rather, something to be examined. Once you get to the root of what is causing the fear, because that's what jealousy is at its root, you can begin to make real changes in your relationship that are positive and sustainable. You begin to deal with the fear and insecurity, and that's when true intimacy creeps in. When you truly know yourself, and your partner, your moments of jealousy become small and completely manageable. This is when just a small token like a hug, a smile, and acknowledgement that you are having a rough time ends the heartache. When you manage your own emotions and let your partner manage his/her emotions, you are free to be intimate. Don't deny yourself in an effort to placate a partner, lest you lose what makes you, and your relationship, special and unique.