Abuse, Equality, women's issues

Jealousy is Not Romantic – by Charlie Grantham

Often in our society, male partner jealousy is romanticized. When men are aggressive, controlling, and jealous, it is seen as just another way to express their “love” for their partner. This is often portrayed in popular movies, books, and television shows as an attractive quality in men. I have heard women with controlling and jealous partners make excuses for this behavior such as, “He’s only jealous because he cares” or “He’s only like that because he doesn’t want anyone else to have me.” But let me make this clear: there is a difference between wanting a monogamous relationship with someone and exhibiting controlling and manipulative behavior. 

Being jealous can often be a type of abusive behavior, especially if it is a pattern. Examples of this include:

  • Wanting you to spend all of your time with them and getting upset/sad/angry when you spend time with family or friends
  • Not allowing (or simply not liking) you to have friends of the opposite sex
  • Constantly making accusations of cheating (without evidence or good reason)
  • Not allowing you to take advantage of a job opportunity because it involves longer hours, coworkers of the opposite sex, etc
  • Spreading lies about family and friends to keep you away from them
  • Shaming you for doing or wearing something because they’re worried it will make others look at you

While this type of behavior can certainly manifest itself in women, this is a more dangerous problem for men because of the way we are socialized. Popular culture tells us that these types of behaviors are normal or romantic in men. A jealous man is often lauded as a “passionate lover” rather than being called out for his controlling behavior, while the jealous female partner is often labeled as the “crazy girlfriend” or “psycho wife.”

Being jealous is an abusive behavior and is in no way romantic. While this type of jealous and controlling behavior can and does lead to physical abuse, it still a big deal if it never turns physical. Emotional and mental abuse has real effects and must be acknowledged as real abuse, this is essential to fighting abuse overall.

Women must first recognize that jealous behavior is abusive and not normal. Then we must forget what society has told us is “romantic and loving.” Secondly, parents must teach their sons that girls are their equals, and that being jealous is not natural or an appropriate way to express oneself. We must stop teaching children that when a boy picks on a girl, it means he likes her. This encourages abusive behavior as a norm.  Thirdly, parents must raise their daughters to recognize jealousy and aggressiveness as abusive behaviors, and not as romantic. They must teach their daughters that love is not controlling, jealous, or obsessive. Most importantly, they must teach their daughters that it is not their job to “fix” or “change” a man. If he shows patterns of abusive behaviors such as jealousy, anger, or manipulation at the beginning of a relationship, it will generally just worsen as time goes on. It is important to teach girls the red flags and to end the relationship when she sees one.

It is time for us to change the norms. Jealousy is not romantic, and “fixing” a jealous and controlling man is often not possible from within a relationship. We must learn what true love looks like, and treat one another with it.


Charlie Olivia Grantham is a twenty-something year old college student from New Orleans. She studies Sociology at the University of Southern Mississippi and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She is a self-proclaimed feminist, and takes a particular interest in Christian feminism. You can find her blog at charlieolivia.org and follow her on Twitter @CharlieOliviaG


3 thoughts on “Jealousy is Not Romantic – by Charlie Grantham”

  1. I think that the fundamental problem is the definition Christians tend to have of love. Love is seen as possession, control, and paternalism. Loving someone means “keeping them safe” and “protecting” them under the assumption that we know what’s best for them.

    It has really helped me to come to see love as liberation, rather than possession. Loving someone means encouraging them to become their fullest selves, not encouraging them to conform to your expectations.

    I think of a parent who has to “let go” of a child when that child becomes grown. Wanting the child to stay at home with you or pursue the same career as you did can be perceived as “love,” as it means the parent in some sense cares for the child. However, I would argue that this is more of a self-love, because it has more to do with the parent’s own sense of fulfillment than it does with the child’s. True love means liberating the child to become her own person.

    Of course, these two expressions of love aren’t mutually exclusive, but I definitely think that seeing love more as “setting free” than as controlling is something that can benefit Christians–especially when it comes to minimizing the normalization of jealousy in relationships.


  2. This is an excellent post. In response to Douglas’s comment above that Christians’ view of love tends to reflect “possession, control, and paternalism,” I daresay that if that is the case, then the church has truly lost its way.

    On another note, I think that many of the jealous types use their seemingly love-based jealousy specifically to justify their abusive, controlling tactics. Furthermore, from my experience those hyper-jealous types are often guilty of betrayal themselves and want to make sure their other half isn’t doing what they are doing. Sad but true.


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