Combat Your Jealousy/In-Laws – Fr. Lovasik


Art by Veronica Algaba

Combat your jealousy

Jealousy makes you eager to have all the affection and attention of your spouse. It may also be an enemy of honesty and sincerity, and consequently of love and harmony.

A jealous husband is one who feels uncertain about his wife’s love – usually because he knows he is guilty of faults that make him undeserving of it – and who foolishly thinks that he can hold her loyalty to him only by preventing her from being friendly with anyone else. He deprives her of every kind of social life that he can forbid or prevent.

He is suspicious of every innocent friendly contact his wife makes with others. He tries to keep her separated completely from her own family. This jealous possessiveness transforms any feelings of love the wife once had for her husband into feelings of hate.

It makes a wife’s duty of fidelity to her husband much more difficult than it should be.

An unreasonably jealous wife is usually in some degree responsible for the wandering of her husband’s love. It is natural that after several years of married life, some degree of taking one another for granted sets in. It would be better if the courtesy, consideration, and thoughtfulness that marked your courtship and the first years of marriage could survive through the years.

Your husband may strain to appear his best before other women and show his worst side to you, not because he no longer loves you, but because he considers your love safely in his possession. This conduct is no reason for jealousy.

If you are a jealous wife, put yourself back into competition not only for your husband’s love but also for his kindly attention. It is your job to win and hold, by giving proofs of your own love, the love you may think is turning away from you.

Jealousy is not a constant passion. Even if you have never felt the sting of jealousy, you may, under certain circumstances, experience a blind surge of it. Be resolved to avoid with utmost care those things which might awaken the passion of jealousy in your spouse.

Be patient and understanding toward your in-laws

One of the most common sources of jealousy is in-law trouble, which can pull a couple apart more rapidly than many of the other disintegrating factors, if this is the chief reason for argument.

Marriage does not release a husband and wife from the duty of honoring and loving their mother and father. But it does make duties to their spouse supersede duties to their parents. That is what God said clearly of Adam, the first husband: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

Some husbands and wives never quite leave their mothers and fathers. They permit them to have more to say over their actions and plans than their spouses do.

In-law trouble is very seldom caused solely by unreasonable jealousy on one side alone. If your spouse dislikes your relatives, look into yourself for whatever grounds you may have given for that aversion.

A wife who was spoiled and pampered by her family will sometimes seek an escape from new responsibility by running to those who will continue to baby her. At the first sign of disagreement, she will seek solace in the overindulgence of her parents. This will react unfavorably on her husband, who will gradually feel himself to be second in her affections when she has promised to hold him first.

Thus, antagonism for the parents-in-law will grow with every incident. If you are the husband of such a person, you will not awaken her to a sense of duty to you by violently asserting your rights or by using harsh language.

Never look upon in-laws as rivals for your partner’s affection. Filial love differs vastly from conjugal love, so there is room for both in the heart of every spouse.

As in courtship, you won your wife from possible rivals by making yourself appear so kind and noble that she could not resist your appeal, so after marriage you have to prove yourself superior to her parents and relatives in devotion to her.

You must back up your “rights” by continuous human expressions of love and interest. In this way, the competition between you and her relatives will soon end.

On the other hand, a husband who shows more than usual attachment to his parents almost always has trouble with jealousy on the part of his wife. He does not care what happens to his wife and children. His mother comes first.

He takes her side against his wife. He lets his wife suffer rather than deal sternly with his mother. This is especially the case if he feels that even after marriage he must donate a large part of his income to his parents, even though they are not in great need.

Getting along with in-laws calls for tact and diplomacy. You must make allowance for the tendency of parents to think of their married son or daughter as their little child whom they wish to mother still.

Try to keep the in-law relationships on an even keel by being patient and understanding, and you will have peace. If you think your husband is acting imprudently in giving help to his family, present your arguments to him in a kind way. You may even ask him to discuss the problem with a third and neutral person. Show goodwill by proposing a compromise.

Do not adopt a bitter, resentful attitude toward your husband, or say anything unkind about his relatives to him or to anyone else. Whether you win or lose your point, conquer and hide your feelings of bitterness. Showing them would be risking the peace and unity of your home.

Security for the future is bought at too great a price if it means that you are to be divided in spirit by a deeply rooted grudge. Many a home has been wrecked by such resentment, and there is little comfort in the wreckage even if you maintain you were right.

Give preference to your spouse

It is wise to establish distance from in-laws, if that is possible. It is true that there are many cases in which charity demands that an exception to this rule be made; nevertheless, there are other cases in which charity would be better served all around if some arrangement were made other than having an in-law in the same home.

After marriage, a wife’s first duty is to her husband, not to her mother. If her mother remains with her, it should be only on the condition that she will say and do nothing that would in any way mar the relationship between husband and wife.

If a mother who lives with her married daughter arouses suspicions in her daughter’s mind, if she interferes with her right to run her own home, if she nags and complains and makes unreasonable demands, the best thing to do is to rent an apartment for her and let her live alone.

Mothers-in-law should not be permitted to destroy family harmony. When you can do nothing except offer your home to an in-law, at the very outset try to come to an understanding and agreement with all the parties concerned as to the conditions under which you will live in peace together.

Let your in-law know that you are glad to be able to offer your home, but let it be made clear that the home remains yours, and that it is not to be spoiled by interference and meddling.

If there is no present way out of the difficulty, there may be room for an honest examination of conscience as to whether a wife is letting things get on her nerves that should be neutralized by a spirit of patience and charity.

Small annoyances, unavoidable with two women in the same household, can be blown up into major irritations. God will give sufficient grace to bear these annoyances and to better the situation by prudent firmness and willing charity. The advice of a wise priestly confessor will help.

A mother-in-law cannot be such a bad woman if she is the mother of the one you love very dearly. It is most important that you show that you prefer your husband or wife to everyone else in the world. You refuse this sign of preference when you insist on living with a parent, or taking a parent into your home when there is no urgent reason of necessity or charity to do so.

You are failing in your love if you pay more attention to what your parent wants than to what your spouse wants; if you are more concerned about your parent’s welfare and happiness; if you let a parent rule the household; or if you take your parent’s side in disputes.

This is like going back on the promise you made in marriage and acting contrary to God’s revealed plan for marriage.

“Never forget that it is God’s will that the parents should be the ones to teach the child to pray, as Mary and Joseph helped the boy Jesus to advance in wisdom and grace.” -A Dominican Nun, 1954



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