Jealousy killed my marriage

Sam Evans* was married for many years, but he couldn’t live with his wife’s jealousy about everything else in his life.

Like everyone else, my marriage had its ups and downs, but as far as I was concerned, once our son was born the only thing that really mattered was to keep the peace and maintain a stable household for his sake. For years my relationship with my wife was more rub-along than romance. I think we could have sustained the façade, but for one glaring issue: her jealousy.

Spotting the signs

When I’d only known Julie for a few weeks and we were still madly in love, I came downstairs one morning to discover her poring over my phone bill, which I’d put in the bin. Despite my rose-tinted spectacles, I was instantly on edge when I saw she'd been crossing off the numbers of the people she knew, and putting a question mark by those she didn’t.

When I asked her about it, she said she wanted to know whether I was still in touch with any other women. Like most people, I have friends who are male and friends who are female, so this struck me as strange.

However, I pushed my doubts to the back of my mind and told myself I should be happy that she cared so much, so soon. In some ways I suppose I was flattered that she was interested in the minutiae of my life.

I should have taken more notice of those early feelings of unease. Years later, when we were married and our relationship began to unravel, I came to realise that this incident was only the first indication of the jealousy that would ultimately be the kiss of death for our marriage.

Unreasonable behaviour: the last straw

As a man in my 40s, I'm often asked whether I am married. When I say that I am divorced, the next question is usually: “What happened?” I don't have a simple answer to that. The reasons are complex, based on myriad episodes over many years. I tend to feel that if I tried to explain, the questioner would undoubtedly recall an urgent dental appointment. Even so, I can actually pinpoint a single moment when my marriage ended and that moment encapsulates why it broke down. It was a point of no return: my Rubicon moment.

A friend and his wife had come to stay for the weekend and we'd had a great time. Although childless themselves, they'd been brilliant with our son, and we'd tried to get out in the fresh air in spite of the incessant rain. We bought sandwiches for lunch and my friend’s wife held an umbrella over my son's head while he took a photo of the pair of them. Weeks later, it arrived in the post with a thank-you letter. The photo was charming, especially my son's hamster cheeks as he tried to stuff his sandwich into his mouth in one go.

The final cut

I remember taking a last look at the photo and smiling as I thought about the happy weekend we'd had with our friends. I went to bed, but Julie stayed up for a bit. As usual, I got up first the next morning and went downstairs to sit in the kitchen with my breakfast. The sight that greeted me was disturbing, to say the least. On the kitchen worktop was a pair of scissors and a dismembered photo. Pinned to the noticeboard, in among the receipts and reminders, was the cut-out head of my friend's wife. I was in shock, but I just carried on with what I was doing, made Julie a cup of tea and walked back up the stairs to our bedroom.

I put the tea down, sat on the bed beside her and asked her, in my most reasonable voice, what had happened to the photo. Had her reply been a colour, it would have been green. “As you couldn't take your eyes off his wife all weekend, I thought you'd like to be able to look at her every morning.” I was speechless. I knew that nothing I said would convince her otherwise, so I said nothing. As I took my tea back to the kitchen I knew my marriage was over.

A question of jealousy

Julie was not only jealous of my friend's wife. She was jealous of anyone and anything that attracted my attention or affection. This could be a book or a country or a hobby or a friend of either gender.

When I was younger, my father went on regular golf holidays with a group of friends and I once asked my mum if she minded. She told me that she loved him and anything that made him happy made her happy too. He told her he was the only man in his golfing group whose wife felt like that. So maybe my wife wasn’t so unusual. I don’t know.

Why do we attach the colour green to jealousy? It's so corrosive, I'd have thought that rust red would be more appropriate. For me, the green-eyed monster is a big red flag in any relationship.

*Names and other identifying details have been changed.

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The dismembered photo is

The dismembered photo is really creepy, like something out of a horror story. It's true that jealousy is corrosive but I think a lot of people find it hard not to be jealous in relationships. This is a real cautionary tale...

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