As a modern husband, 27-year-old Gregory Lewis White from California believes that he and his wife of a year can enjoy romantic relationships outside their marriage - "provided they don't interfere with the marriage" - without being jealous.
As an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, White spent a year studying 150 young couples at Berkeley, and found that they had problems with jealousy. More specifically, he found that the person more deeply involved in the relationship was likely to get jealous if the one less involved took up with someone else.
When White began advertising for 150 couples to participate in his research project, he did not specify that it would deal with jealousy. By chance, about a third of the couples who responded said they were having problems with jealousy, White recalled.
During the year-long study at Berkeley (White said he chose Berkeley because he thought the couples there would be more liberal sexually and more likely to enjoy an equal balance of power in their relationships), he asked couples to write their responses to such questions as "Have you ever tried to get your partner jealous over your relationship with someone else?" "How often do you get jealous?" "How nervous or anxious do you get over your partner's relationships with others?" "Do you agree to be truly in love is to be in love forever?"
Participants in the study ranged from a man who was so jealous of his wife's attractiveness to other men that he arranged for her to walk in on him while he was in bed with another woman, to a husband who, unable to deal with his jealousy over his wife's female lover, decided to walk out on the relationship entirely.
White concluded that "romantic jealousy is one consequence of an imbalance of power in the romantic relationship." He wrote in a paper presented at the American Psychological Assoc. convention that, "There is a strong relationship between level of involvement and jealousy, even among those people who are not faced with an actual rival."
Thus, he says, women are not more likely to be jealous than men, but were thought so because they "have occupied the more dependent or less powerful position in relationships while males have occupied the more powerful position."
"This may sound weird," said one woman in the study, "since I got out every Friday and Saturday night with another man, but since (my boyfriend) has been dating (another woman), I feel neglected and unloved and resentful, particularly when they do the things we have always done together like bowling, shopping, visiting his family, or just reading at home."
Such mundane sorrows are the stuff of life and social science studies. They have none of the Tolstoyan jealousy, that towering, life-shattering emotion. But then, jealousy left to literature has always had a glamour - from Plutarch to Proust to the intricate ironies of Graham Greene.
Jealousy in modern research-oriented society has not often been put under the social scientists' microscope. Private and government foundations which give financial support for psychological research have been hesitant to aid researchers in the study of human emotions, being generally of the opinion that the mysteries of the heart do not make for sound scientific investigation.
White is one of a few psychologists who have seized on the topic of jealousy. At San Diego State University, they're studying people's reactions to situations that make them jealous. At Indiana/Purdue University in Indianapolis they're researching the chronically jealous personality.
And jealousy, left to the popular magazines, has been zinging in and out of fashion. Until 1966, articles on jealousy in popular magazines said jealousy was natural evidence of love and even helped make a marriage better. (In a 1969 Good Housekeeping article, Dr. Joyce Brothers said that jealousy was "a perfect natural emotion and nothing to be ashamed of as long as we control it.")
Between 1969 and 1973, the popular theory on jealousy changed. By 360 degrees. Jealousy was considered evidence of a detective relationship. In 1973, George and Nena O'Neill, authors of "Open Marriage," said jealousy was "never a constructive emotion."
And in its March, 1977, issue, Psychology Today, reported that jealousy "is a complex mixture of physiological or instinctive developmental and social experience. Your jealousy, to put it simply, is a part of you. To reject it, to repress, deny or condemn it, is to reject part of yourself."
White's paper recommends that "developing counterpower within the context of the relationship or of the larger society may be a more useful way to deal with jealousy than understanding the personality-based or sex-based roots of one's jealousy."
Which is to say that Othello should have gotten himself a hobby.
Except that it would have been impossible for him to be jealous in the first place, since he held all the power in the marriage. But, now, Desdemona . . .