Most people view envy in a negative way. It has been defined as the feeling one has when another person has a superior quality, achievement or possession that you desire or wish for. Identified as “sin” in some faiths, it has been associated with a constellation of feelings including guilt, longing, inferiority, resentment, and even ill will toward the envied person.
Do partners ever envy each other? Aren’t partners supposed to be happy for each other, proud when the other wins the golf tournament, earns the degree, outperforms her peers? Absolutely, and they are. Most couples operate from the perspective that when one wins, both win. No one looks envious of their partner on Jeopardy – they look thrilled.
For as long as there have been men, women, and relationships, there has been jealousy—the fear of losing the person you love to a rival. Romance and literature throughout the ages have extolled jealousy as the sign of true love. “He that is not jealous, is not in love,” said St. Augustine.
They have also associated jealousy with pain, distrust, anger and anguish. “There is no greater glory than love, nor any greater punishment than jealousy,” said Lope de Vega.
In the actual lives of couples, jealousy is a complex emotion with varied causes and different consequences. While it can re-affirm love and even create enticement, it can also assault self-esteem, reflect betrayal, justify possessiveness and cause violence.
Silence can mean many things. It can mean yes, no, agreement or disagreement. It can imply contentment or dissatisfaction, safety or fear. It can be accompanied by the smile of approval or the scorn of judgment. What do the sounds of silence mean between you and your partner?
As much as people are similar and men and women relate in some gender predictable ways—usually, it is a woman who says, “We need to talk”—couples are unique in the fabric of their relationship. How they speak, love, fight, eat, and watch TV is really specific to them and relationship they share. The meaning and experience of silence in their relationship is reflective of who they are as individuals and how they relate as a “We”:
Misinterpretation of Silence
One area that often impedes the growing, healing and resiliency of a couple is the misinterpretation of the silence between them. Whether they are new partners or seasoned lovers, couples have an uncanny notion that they “know” what the other is thinking and feeling, and react accordingly. Unfortunately, this often precludes expanded knowing of their partner because they fail to account for Non-Couples issues, history, induced reactions, and context.
Non-Couples Issues: While there are many “pros” to thinking as a “We,” one of the downsides is to believe that all your partner’s reactions including his or her silence are about you. The difficulty is that once you make that assumption, you are setting yourself and your partner up for stress and confusion. For example: Your partner comes home from work, says hi, and then silently goes through the mail. Worried you ask, “Is everything OK?”
“Fine.” Still worried you ask, “Why are you not talking?”
Now he/she sounds irritated “I don’t feel like talking.”
You move from worry to anger: “I wait for you to come home, and you don’t feel like talking?”
Partner walks into another room.
Remedy: Undoing this type of vicious cycle takes a mutual effort of trust. Try the following: