There are several sorts of jealousy. The principal is a natural characteristic of masculinity, common not only to all men, but also to the lower creation, and inseparable from the instinct of protection and sole ownership of the chosen mate. Femininity feels this, though rarely in the same degree. It is a strong characteristic of the average husband, and should it be altogether lacking in him, he is despised by other men, by women, too; the butt of furtive jibes, sometimes of open scorn. History records some cases of this complacency which resulted in wealth and high place for the husband, and the very fact that contumely attaches to the name of all such proves that to be destitute of a certain amount of jealousy is unnatural.
But it degenerates into a vice when carried to extremes, as it is far more often than is supposed. It is a malady of some minds, not always petty nor ignoble ones. This fungus of jealousy sometimes grows upon noble and generous natures, and one of the pathetic things of life is the struggle made against it, almost always ineffectually. Reason tells a man that he has no cause for this cruel emotion which ravages his life, but he cannot subdue it. Aware that it is making his home unhappy, he is helpless, caught in the toils of an irrational jealousy, and knows that there is no escape.
There are women, too, who suffer from this disease of jealousy. They cannot bear to see their husbands pay the most ordinary attentions to a young girl or pretty woman. Unfortunately, members of our sex have less self-command in this particular than men. They may be magnanimous enough to feel that a man may laugh and talk with other women without feeling tremendously attracted; but, at the same time, they suffer when he does so, and cannot hide the fact that they do so. Patience and self-restraint under physical pain are usually much greater in women than in men, but under stress of poignant emotion the former are much weaker. The result is that frequent scenes occur. The man, knowing himself to be blameless, is indignant at the accusation of preferring to talk to some woman other than his wife. She, unversed in knowledge of man's nature, throws at him the inevitable "You no longer love me."
It is during the first year or two of marriage that young wives are particularly prone to jealousy. They miss the devotion of the days of courtship, the ardour of the first few months of union when to be together was sufficient joy for both. They connected a changed demeanour with a diminution of affection, when it means only a new kind replacing the old, the transformation of an enthusiastic adoration into a gentle, steadfast tenderness, the beautiful mutual warm friendship that lasts on through all the trials of life.
Some forms of jealousy are almost too subtle, and yet inseparable from our complex nature. A girl may be jealous of her own good looks. She wonders if her lover would faill her if she lost them; if his love is for her beauty merely, and not for that intangible and yet very particular she, the soul and spirit of her. A young lover, whose singing voice is of that touching quality that reaches the heart, and makes the chord of life responsive, has been jealous of this great charm, and almost wishes himself without it, so that he might be sure of being loved for his very self. But the worst of jealousies, for a woman, is that she feels against her wealth. The heiress, in the humility of love, feels that her money is a much stronger attraction than she can ever be. That is why few marriages are happy when financial superiority is on the woman's side.
The Jealousy of Parents
Strange, again, is the jealousy sometimes felt by one or both parents about their own children. A father will feel aggrieved if his wife seems to love the children more than she loves him. Or the case may be reversed, and he may resent the love of the youngsters for their mother, seeing it to be greater than they feel for him. Or, the mother of sons who adore their father may feel lonely and neglected, and develop a very real jealousy about the matter.
In many homes these curious forms of jealousy make unhappiness. They exhibit themselves in trivial ways, too, even about favourite dishes. A man can easily forget the many times his wife has provided his pet forms of food, but if he is of a jealous disposition he will never forget how often she has catered for the palates of the sons.
Even pet animals owe many a kick to jealousy. One man, not unknown to fame, fond of dogs himself, yet developed such a rancour of jealousy against his wife's little terrier that she had to give it away. It must have gone rather willingly, for he made its small life a burden whenever he was at home, and retired into sanctuary under sofas directly his key was heard in the hall-door lock.
It is seldom that two very jealous persons marry each other. Even if they become engaged, the days intervening are too strenuous to end in marriage. Furious quarrels are inevitable, and the couple part - and wisely. They would be miserable together.
Perhaps the most selfish form of the passion of jealousy is that which inspires a man to forbid his wife to marry again, should she become his widow. It is seldom done in so many words, but by leaving his money away from her in case of her remarrying. A very jealous man may exact a promise on his deathbed that his wife Will remain his widow always.