by the Rev. Peter K. Stimpson

QUESTION: My husband is a jealous nut! He thinks that every man is attracted to me, and more than occasionally accuses me of flirting. That is so insulting. What can I do to get him to be less jealous?

ANSWER: Let me begin by saying that getting your husband to stop being jealous means getting him to start being more honest. Most jealous men doubt their self-worth. They usually hide behind a macho mask, hoping their bravado will distract you from noticing their fear of rejection. While they may cause you to be afraid of them, they are really scared of you.

To control their fear, they try to control you. Their logic is that if you are home, then you have no chance to compare them with other men, discover that you are "stuck with a loser", and leave. So, they may ask that you not work, or that you wait until they can come with you to the mall or grocery store. As this is generally impossible, they may become detectives, asking you to account for where you were and what you did. As their fear increases, so too do the accusations, often escalating from accusing you of flirting to having affairs.

Many women make the mistake of endlessly defending their behavior instead of looking into the soul of their husband. And, even when some women bravely ask their husbands what is wrong, they usually run head on into that macho mask.

But that is what you must do. You must consistently encourage your husband to reveal his innermost fears. While he will try to resist by defiant silence or childish blowups, you must lovingly insist that this issue be faced. This does not mean nagging him, nor pursuing him from room to room, but tenderly urging him to come to you. When he does, listen carefully, do not interrupt, and be empathic.

While you can reassure him of your love, remember that the focus must be on him. Therefore, get him to see himself through your eyes. Help him to recall those fine qualities that drew you to him in the first place. And whenever he slips and accuses you, sternly tell him that behavior is unacceptable, and again talk regarding his inner worth.

Is that hard? Yes. Is it impossible? No. But, without facing the issue, his abuse will increase, and your marriage will die. So, a little assertion now will save you from a big divorce later.

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