WILLIAM Shakespeare must have gotten a telepathic view into the life of 29-year-old Sylvia Richards when he was penning his classic Othello; for like Desdemona, she has to deal with a man who accuses her non-stop of cheating without a cause.
In the play, Othello was so convinced his wife was cheating that he failed to see through a ploy concocted by one of his wife’s admirers to break them up. Each trick became undeniable proof that Desdemona was cheating on him and in the end he killed her, before committing suicide. Like Desdemona, Sylvia has unsuccessfully tried to convince her boyfriend of three years that she has been faithful to him. But she points out that he would be the last person to admit that he is jealous or insecure.
“He’ll question me about other men, and he will show ownership when we’re out, especially if another man is looking. He’ll hold my hand or constantly keep his hands around me in public places like the supermarket or the mall, as if to show other men that he’s owner,” she shared with All Woman recently.
Her boyfriend, she says, also stalks her on Facebook and is sceptical of every comment made by a guy on her profile. As if this is not bad enough, he texts and calls her every few hours to see where she is and what she is doing.
“In the past he would make little comments about other men, but I protested and told him that he had to trust me if the relationship is to work. Now he does it subtly. We’ll have an argument and then he’ll say things like ‘I know you’ll cheat anyway’ or ‘when you cheat…’ she said, adding that the level of distrust in the relationship has fuelled many arguments.
Clinical psychologist Dr Karen Richards said the questioning, the searching of the clothes and other personal items, and the constant accusation of cheating in a relationship are sure signs of morbid jealousy.
“Some people are very obsessive, and when they latch on to a person, they latch on whole-heartedly and become obsessed almost, and any interest from anybody else, whether it is innocent or not is viewed as competition,” she said.
“I have known husbands who put GPS monitoring systems in their partners’ cars, check their wives or their girlfriend’s knickers (underwear), search through their drawers, their diaries, follow them when they don’t know they are being followed and even hire a private detective,” the doctor added. Dr Richards said this constant checking up on one’s partner is sometimes due to insecurity on the part of the accuser, and increases mistrust in a relationship.
Sylvia said she has tried on numerous occasions to get her boyfriend to understand that she has been faithful, but this has been to no avail.
“I feel like cheating sometimes just to give validity to his accusations, seriously. I know he doesn’t trust me, even though he’ll say he does. So I’m not 100 per cent invested in the relationship because there’s no trust,” she said. “I also don’t tell him certain things anymore –like problems I have with other men; or tell him what other men say to me, because he’ll just think that I’m encouraging them, and start fighting again. Most of our arguments are about other men, including ex-boyfriends that I’m still in contact with on a purely platonic level.”
But the doctor points out that sometimes those doing the accusing are sometimes themselves being unfaithful or have been unfaithful in the past. On the other hand there are men who just have a jealous personality, for which psychological help is needed.
She points to situations similar to what occurred in Othello where the man kills the woman then commits suicide after becoming convinced that the woman is unfaithful. In fact, she pointed to research that suggests that 20 per cent of morbidly jealous individuals had made suicide attempts. Below Dr Richards highlights some of the things that might trigger a morbidly jealous partner’s suspicion of infidelity.
*Smiling at a random individual or reciprocating usual pleasantries.
*Having friends of the opposite sex.
*Failing to call multiple times during the day.
*A request (by the partner) not to be interrupted.
*Mentioning the name of someone of the opposite sex.
*Random exchanges of pleasantries or polite interaction with a stranger of the opposite sex even in cases where such behaviour would be considered the norm, like an appointment with the bank manager or dentist.