An upside to Jealousy

Jealousy is a funny thing. It can creep up on a person in sneaky and unexpected ways, but it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing when it shows up.

Carlos and I have been apart for a month. For a month, he’s been sleeping alone, while I’ve had the company of our wiggly, gassy baby and our wiggly, gassy dog.

He spent a month jealous of the time that I was getting to spend with our littles, of the warm embrace of family bed, and hands-on parenting. He wasn’t seething with jealousy, but he felt pain at missing out on the things that he loves, which is entirely reasonable.

While he was enduring that hardship, I was dealing with the flip side: during one lovely afternoon, my folks watched Rockford while I took a three hour nap. That nap was the longest I’ve slept alone in a bed since immediately post-partum. And let me tell you, that was some sweet, glorious sleep. I think the dog might have been in bed with me, but no human hands touched me while I was sleeping. I didn’t have a lingering eye on whether Rock was going to take a dive off the edge of the bed. It was, without question, some of the most restful sleep that I can remember having.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love co-sleeping, I love our baby, I love family bed. I am not unsupported. But while Carlos was jealous of my time with our family, I was jealous of the unencumbered, quiet sleep he was getting away from us.

I guess this is another of those “the grass is always greener” situations that come up all the time in relationships. I might be totally jealous of the things that I imagine when I look into your world, but I have no idea what it’s actually like to be in there, or what you see when you look out. Of course, that’s not always true – we can talk about things and gain some understanding and perspective. As we grow in relationships with people, we gain insight into their drives and needs and desires. Carlos didn’t have to tell me that he missed sleeping with us, and I wasn’t surprised when he did. He doesn’t get ‘touched out,’ but he knows what I mean when I talk to him about it.

Often when we talk about jealousy, especially in romantic-partner relationships, there’s a feeling in the room that no good can ever come of it. Certainly no good comes from internalizing it and stewing, but we think there’s a strong case to be made for recognizing and talking about the feelings that come up in life. This is a small-stakes example – we were in this set of circumstances for a limited amount of time, and for specific reasons. Nonetheless, it presented Carlos and me with the opportunity to practice and refine one of the basic skills that keeps our relationship working – active, thoughtful communication. It’s not rocket science, but it is a tool, and like any tool you want to use, it needs to be kept sharp.

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