Reading & Relationships

Relationships- another equally vague prompt, but for today’s literary blogging purposes, I’ll make it a little more specific.

Romantic relationships.

Whether you’re somebody’s boyfriend or girlfriend, their significant other or their spouse, at some point in some relationship you have, you or your partner will encounter a subject matter that you will have to confront:

Jealousy.

A popular question that likes to be asked of today’s couples is “Do you like it when ______ gets jealous?” Surprisingly, quite a few people would say “yes”. This positive response to a word that traditionally carries a negative connotation can be attributed to how the person experiencing that jealously expresses the emotion that they are feeling.

Those who would say “yes” say yes because in my opinion, the jealously mentioned is simply in passing. In instances such as these, both partners know that each of them is capable of having friends outside of one another, and showing restraint when it comes to pushing away advances of someone who is not their significant other. They, as a couple, know that their relationship is so solid that they don’t have to worry much about where the other person is or what they’re doing, because no matter where they go, that have that special someone in the back of their mind. When this happens, the comments stated by the one feeling the jealously sound something like this:

  • You look so cute today, I’m so jealous that I’m not there with you!
  • You seem to be having a lot of fun with your friends- I’m so jealous, I wish I was there!
  • ______ is os lucky to be with you right now, man I wish that was me right now!
  • Enjoy, I’m so jealous!

The person receiving these comments doesn’t feel so bad that they’re engaging in activities that don’t always include their spouse or what have you. They are met with words of encouragement, excitement from their S.O. that they’re enjoying their life in other areas besides their romantic relationship. This support is coupled with a gentle reminder of “I miss you, and I like to see that you’re having a good time- I wish I could be a part of it because I like to see you doing things that make you happy, and I like to see you happy and I love you”. That’s what this kind of “I’m jealous” means.

Those who would, when asked say “No, I don’t like it when  ________ gets jealous” tend to give this answer because of reasons like this:

  • They tell me they are jealous all the time, and it stops me from enjoying my time with them and my time with others
  • They make me feel guilty for participating in activities that don’t involve them
  • They give me strict guidelines as to who I can and cannot communicate/ pursue friendships with
  • They’re always watching over my shoulder to see who I’m talking to/ know where I’m going
  • They make me feel like they don’t trust me enough to have other friends and not be romantically or physically inclined towards them
  • They make me feel like I’m their slave or their property

The worst part about being the partner on the other side of the jealously issue is that you feel like you have to answer to your romantic partner and keep them updated on everything you’re doing in order to keep them satisfied, in order to stop them from getting mad, in order to avoid some type of confrontation or backlash. There are some people though, who really just don’t care as much about keeping peace as they do about “getting their fill“, to put it more delicately. And let me tell you, this whole issue of jealously has been going on in our society for a long, long, long time. Let’s talk about some extreme cases.

In The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs,  jealously is portrayed by the relationships slave masters have with their slaves vs. that which they have with their wives. As we know, a very popular phenomenon of the time of slavery was interracial relations and child-breeding between master and slave. To start off with, interracial anything was considered to be taboo. To engage in anything relating to that under your own roof with your own slaves, one would think, would be morally unacceptable. At least that’s how the wives of slave owners saw it.

As a wife, having your husband copulate with a slave was an attack on your womanhood. Marrying your husband meant that he was yours, and yours alone. You were bonded to each other. Were you not a good enough wife? Did you not bear satisfactory children? Were you not attractive enough? What was it that made your husband want to have sexual relations with something you didn’t even consider human?

Many wives of slave owners saw it as a disgrace and thought their husbands should be ashamed of themselves. They were incredibly jealous, and exhibited the aforementioned characteristics of a negatively jealous partner- required their husbands to report to them about their whereabouts, made them feel guilty about their infidelity, tried to make them feel enslaved to their wives by virtue of their husbandly duties. The issue is that these very same men were those who were not so much concerned with keeping the peace.

Slave owners did not see their actions as immoral, they saw it as an expansion of their own property. Slaves weren’t people, they were things. And in order to run a profitable business, you need to sell a lot of things. But how can you sell a lot of things if you don’t have a lot of things? So men took to having sex with their slaves in order to have more slaves to be sold, and also to work their property. There was nothing immoral about wanting to be a good businessman. In addition, men were just using the resources given to them to fulfill their sexual needs, which were, judging to history, many and occurred often. They could report to their wives as much as they were asked to, but that tended not to stop them from continuing their goal of a nice surplus of slaves.

This led women mad- they would find the pretty little slave that bore their husband’s children(and it was a pity for you if you were a pretty little slave), and torture them- kick them out of their homes, out of their sight, keep them in rooms away from view, sell their children or watch them be killed. A slave owner’s wife would do anything she could to make sure that the source of her jealously was eradicated, as can be found in The Bondwoman’s Narrative.

What is interesting in this instance is that the very men who were enslaving those of the opposite and using them for sexual satisfaction were also putting themselves in a position where they allowed themselves to treated as if they were enslaved by their own wives. Not like it stopped them much, as I had mentioned. But what self- respecting man would want their whiny, complaining, overly- emotional wife on their case constantly?(Notice how I describe the role of a wife here- I address this convention of what it means to be a female in my post entitled “Men & Masculinity, which can be found on my home page).

On the same token, there were a few females, however, who were not so threatened with the affairs of their husbands.

“Southern women often marry a man knowing that he is the father of many little slaves. They do not trouble themselves about it. They regard such children as property… it is seldom that they do not make them aware of this by passing them into a slave trader’s hands as soon as possible”(Jacobs, 33).

They carried the same attitude as their husband about it, although acknowledging that “such things ought not to be tolerated in any decent society!”(Jacobs, 33). They were secure enough in their womanhood to know that there could be as many children running around the house as possible, and they were still the lady of the house. That type of attitude is much more trusting of a wife towards her spouse- her husband would probably say that he doesn’t mind that she gets jealous much, none of those slaves mean as much to him as her.

There were some men that really “rocked the boat” with their wives by having preferences over some slave mothers of his children and some of his slave children in comparison with his legitimates. Those tended to be the men that suffered the wrath of their wives. But as long as all was done for strictly business, everything was for the most part, fine.

Let me just say that I am making some generalizations and assumptions based off of my knowledge of the time period. I can much more confidently tell you what it is to be a jealous girlfriend in today’s society than tell you how it was to be the jealous wife of a slave owner. But, the idea of jealously is the same- when we see something or someone who is a potential threat to our relationship, we panic. But do we panic and trust that our loved one is doing right by us in accordance with the circumstances we are given, or do we panic and try to have an iron grip on them in the hopes that they don’t go astray. Do you want to feel enslaved by your partner, or do you want their confidence in your love for them? Jealously is a tricky thing- handle it carefully or it could cause a vast amount of damage to a vast amount of people.

– W

Works Cited:

Crafts, Hannah, and Henry Louis Gates.The bondwoman’s narrative. New York: Warner Books, 2002. Print.

Wilson, Harriet E.. Our Nig. Cambridge [England: ProQuest LLC, 2008. Print.

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One thought on “Reading & Relationships

  1. Pingback: Expressions of Love in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” | americanwomanwritingforwomenwriters

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