“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Shakespeare (Othello)
Falling in love is not just exciting: it’s a wondrous, life-affirming tonic that leaves us all a-tingle. Then there are those breathless moments of passion that follow. So seductive is the feeling of new love, that many people cannot stay in a relationship for long as they feel the magnetic pull towards another fresh romance.
But being drunk with passion has its ugly flipside: being dumped. And there is a particularly nasty kind of dumping guaranteed to turn your insides to sewage: being told by your precious loved-one that you have been replaced by a new sexual partner. Suddenly, you feel like a bag of entrails left outside the abattoir. In short, life as you knew it has ended with a sickening thud.
Why oh why can’t we just get over it and move on? Why can’t we wake up the next day and jump out of bed with a spring in our step, a free agent ready for new amorous adventures? Why does sexual jealousy turn into a blackening obsession that mortifies everything it touches?
I speak from experience, of course, having endured three catastrophic bouts of sexual jealousy by which I was reduced to a pallid, paranoid cretin. I was never brave enough to top myself. But with self-esteem at zero and falling, the mental strain was sometimes so intense that it makes me shudder to recall those dark and bitter days. To anybody who has had the green-eyed monster on their backs, the symptoms are all too familiar:
- Dawn wakings: when all you can think about is your ex-lover cavorting rapaciously with her new beau, trying to sleep is bad enough; but any light slumber is shattered at around 5am when you wake up with your heart racing into another day of morbid obsession
- No appetite: interest in food is eliminated with remarkable efficiency; as I got paler I also shed pounds of paunch. Actually, being dumped is a great way to slim, though certainly not my preferred method
- Drinking: the bottle seems like an easy means of escape, so you hit it with reckless abandon, until you realise that every time you get sozzled, the reason you drank so much in the first place hasn’t gone away; in fact it hits you like a bucketful of wet cement
- Smoking: my old nicotine habit rocketed with each new breakdown; the first thing you reach for at 5am is a ciggy, hoovered up so fast the tip becomes a red-hot poker; if any of my organs could complain, the lungs would have screamed for mercy at such times
- Becoming a bore: only your dearest friends have patience with you as you rant about your ex from morning till night, inventing absurd possibilities and pathetic schemes which all come to nothing
One thing I did avoid, mercifully, was any kind of contact with my dumper – that way madness lies. A mate of mine, however, didn’t have such willpower. He once followed his ex and her new lover back to her place late one night, then sat outside in his car and watched the windows light up through the house, until the bedroom light finally went out. As he watched, he was chain-smoking and imagining the new couple love-making. Sheer torture, no less. I would prefer to drink three or four pints of seawater myself.
So what did I learn? After all, these kind of emotional upheavals are supposed to be character-building, or so everyone tells you: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and all that. Maybe. Someone once said to me I was unlucky and it would have been better if none of it had ever happened. Maybe.
Well, for what it’s worth I did learn some things. For instance, jumping into bed with somebody else doesn’t work; falling in love with someone else does, but that can take a long, long time. I learnt that I’m probably an obsessive type, for whatever reason, and that these things hit me harder and for longer than other people. And that I was pretty useless at choosing the right kind of girlfriends (though usually they chose me). Perhaps the most heartening thing was the deepening friendships that developed when I was on my own: you certainly learn who your real friends are when you are having an emotional breakdown. And how much your family can support you, even though they get fed up of hearing your sob stories.
In the end, the sad truth is there is nothing you can do. Nothing works – nothing at all. Except, not giving up on life. Hold on, grit your teeth and hold on. Then, when you finally do come out of that long dark tunnel, you will sing like a nightingale with a bag of monkey nuts.