Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Republic of Jealousy

If there’s one emotion we’ve come to tame, for the most part anyway, it’s jealousy. Feeling envious of or resenting people because of their status, job, love-life or whatever is something we’ve realised doesn’t get you anywhere. Yes there are times we might look at others and think things are going better for them in certain contexts compared to us, but we tend not to let it occupy our minds for too long. To do so would be a waste of good energy.
Some pretty tasty Colombian ladies
The problems start in the mind

However in those very brief moments of envy, we get a feeling of what it must be like to live with jealousy practically all the time. And it is certainly not a nice place to be in mentally. Yet, from our own experiences and those of many we’ve talked to – both locals and foreigners, men and women – this appears to be a state of mind that a significant number of Colombian women (it may exist on the men’s side, but it’s something we don’t notice as much) live with on a constant basis.

Many will accuse us of wild generalising about this. So we must say that of course it’s not all Colombian women that have these traits but there certainly does seem to be a higher level of it here compared to other places we know. Yes, perhaps we’re just noticing such jealousy more in these parts than other countries, but when so many people refer to its routine existence, there must be some ring of truth to it.

Now if this is an emotion that doesn’t usually affect you, it can be difficult to comprehend why people have such feelings. Those who do strongly sense it though are, from experience,* next to impossible to reason with. No matter what you say to them or hard evidence you provide to contradict their perceptions tends to matter little. Best practice is to just wait for the emotional storm to blow over and make the most of the rare periods of calm.

The type of jealousy we’re specifically referring to is in a relationship/romance context. Indeed as a good Dutch expat friend here puts it – one who knows all about this as much as anyone – it’s not just jealousy. It comes in a ‘package deal’ along with mistrust and insecurity. All three are intrinsically linked.
A 'bunny couple'!
Happy couple (and 'Wrong Way')

To give an example, one of our best Colombian female friends, a married woman in her late 20s – somebody we would rate as level headed and easy going – openly told us that she doesn’t trust her husband**. Why? Well her ‘other-half’ works in the medical profession and one day she picked up his phone by accident to read a ‘thank you’ message from a female relation of a patient he had helped. A nice gesture we thought, but this was enough to send the ‘affair’ alarm bells ringing for our friend. An emotional confrontation with her husband followed.

When you’re a doctor that often may have to work long hours, we can only imagine what kind of heat you get and explaining you have to do when you do arrive home late to your loved one.

Here’s another over-the-top reaction told to us by an expat who brought his Colombian girlfriend back to Europe for a family wedding. At the reception, a long-standing family friend, an older lady, came over to talk to our buddy. A ‘it’s been ages since I’ve seen you’ kind of chat, normal stuff that happens at weddings. The fact though that our mate’s girlfriend wasn’t centre-of-attention and ‘her man’ was talking to another lady was enough to send the Colombian mildly hysterical. ‘How dare he speak to another woman at a family wedding?’

We could go on with similar anecdotes, but we risk putting our own sanity – and yours – in jeopardy.
When you come from a culture where such extreme mistrust/jealousy/insecurity doesn’t really exist, this kind of behaviour can be mind-blowing. We must state however, the old saying that there’s no smoke without fire does come into play among Colombians in this regard (see for more).

The important question though is which comes first, the unfaithfulness or the jealousy? You see it’s a vicious circle. There are plenty of infidelity examples and stories going about the place that only serve to raise suspicions for Colombian women at the slightest sign of potential ‘wrong-doing’ – way off-the-mark as they may be – from their partner. So the interrogation begins, which very quickly can turn into wild accusations and, yes, physical abuse. The kitchen sink and its implements in many cases are quite literally hurled at the accused.
Ted, from the film of the same name, in bed with Mark Wahlberg & Mila Kunis
There's always Ted

Thus, with very little breathing space and a frosty environment, a natural reaction for many men is to look for a break somewhere else. Some can find that by simply downing a few beers with the lads more often than previously. In this land of plenty though when it comes to exceptionally looking women, it can be very hard to resist the overtures of a nice, ‘friendly’ lady when your existing relationship has turned into an entrenched battle where you’re always under the cosh.

With that, the usually imaginary smoke that your partner initially smelled and saw becomes real and is given a source. A quintessential self-fulfilling prophecy.

So you see there are well-being reasons why we haven’t been too bothered to fully ‘commit’ to a relationship here yet.

*There are a few posts to choose from here, but a good place to start is 'Colombia's locas'.

**We don't need to explain that trust should be an essential part of any friendship or relationship. For more on that theme see 'Forever friends'.

ESSENTIAL VIEWING! For some Colombian agreement with this post, check out this short, humorous YouTube video (in Spanish, although it's pretty easy to follow without knowing the language):


  1. Good piece and all true! I would like to add that what is going on in Colombia when it comes to jealousy that it's mostly irrational jealousy, which is the worst kind because it's is all in the head off the jealous one. This is a nice link to read some more about that:

  2. Cheers for the link 'Monos Desnudos'!

    Perhaps some of our Colombian amigas might read it too..?!

  3. Hi Brendan,
    Another interesting post concerning how foreigners will experience "matters of the heart" with Colombianas/Latinas. I had various Colombian girlfriends and female friends, and even though so far I've been saved from really very intense jealousy/infidelity issues with Latinas, it definitely is an issue that foreigners need to dig into and understand if they want to have a long-term relationship with a quality Latina.
    Latina/Colombian women have an interest in non-macho foreign men, since so many of them are fed us with their macho/unfaithfull men, but then they will need to understand/accept that we are different, and that can be mentally so hard for them.
    I really don't know the female mindset of Latinas from every Latin American company, but from my point of view I do think that Colombianas are less "pesada/intensa" on the jealousy issue than Ecuatorianas.

  4. Cheers for the comment 'BelgaCol'!

    Really in terms of assessing the mentality of Latinas, 'Team Wrong Way' can only write about Colombia & Chile. The other countries we haven't been in long enough to give a fair appraisal.

    The Chilenas from our experience are not in the same bracket as what's mentioned above, but then again, Chile is different from the rest of the Latino world in lots of ways we reckon (see

    In terms of understanding the intense jealousy, can us foreigners really do that? Whatever about understanding it, we shouldn't just accept it. Irrational thinking in any sphere is not good!

  5. Read a number of your blogs and honestly, cannot believe the supercilious arrogance of the writing - an affected erudition that comments and classifies South American women with sweeping generalisations. The nature of the writing is such, that you are akin to a cuckold in a brothel discussing the merits and de-merits of the latest woman or in your case, latina or venezolana or colombiana or chilena etc. I bet you love your labels as you gaze with a coloniser's hubris into the Cartagena night. The last thing Latin America needs is another poxed and arrogant westerner dismantling their spiritus of people with integrity, honour, dignity and I know my extended family in Venezuela would find your uneducated rantings comical and pathetic(I am an Irish male Married to a Venezuelan woman).

    1. We won't insult your intelligence as you have ours. We've made these observations on our experiences and also those of others we have encountered and spoken with. Only yesterday we had a coffee with a Colombiana who agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed above and in other pieces where we've touched on such topics.

      These are real life experiences, not imaginary. And you'll find if you speak with many in these parts, locals as well as expats, there is concurrence. We've certainly aware of the danger (and arrogance, as you like to point out) of making generalisations. It's why we thought long and hard about penning such pieces. But from our own experiences and anecdotal evidence, we felt there was merit in writing about such topics.

      We apologise if you find the tone arrogant; that's not our attention. A day spent in our company, with our modest way of living, may dispel such beliefs on your part -- we hope.

      We're delighted for you that you've managed to find love with a Venezuelan woman. Unlike Colombia, we haven't lived in that country, only visited it on two occasions. So it would be remiss of us to make any comment about relationships and romance there. Indeed, you'll find that the vast majority of our stories on romance/relationships are focused on Colombia, as this is where we're living and experiencing such things. You've introduced the Latina generalisation.

      Thanks anyway for taking the time to comment and for having read some of our posts, even if they're not to your satisfaction. We don't expect everyone to agree with us and we welcome dissenting voices.


    2. You really need to have lived in Colombia to have experienced it. I'm (female) in a similarly happy relationship with a Colombian man to the one you speak of, but he's very much been the exception.
      The gomelos are the worst, since they look for a rubia girlfriend as an accessory much like buying a car. When I was new here I gave a couple of guys my number to get them to leave me alone when I was in a bar, as they were harrassingly persistent, and my friends weren't around. Probably the 3rd and last time I visited the zona t, only to receive around 14 missed calls a day at one point, or them trying to strike up a convo 3 months later 'checking in'. gross.

      Male friends dating both men and women have had identical experiences, 30 missed calls in about 2 hours off the same number is standard.

      One thing I will comment about my partner is that he's from a working class neighbourhood where they hate gringos.

      It would be interesting to compare your comments about Venezuela, not by gender or sexual orientation, since I've also been pursued by women in the same manner, but more of a class/political orientation would be interesting and if rampant neo-liberalism is a factor.


    3. Amy, yes, yes and yes. I feel your pain - have been through similar things with my Colombian husband. And, he is also from a low class neighborhood. Interesting angle, but totally plausible. I am happy with our relationship, but he does act like an overgrown cave-man at times which has led to our fair share of reckonings. In the end it takes constant compromise. He isnt as jealous as some men and women here, but I see it rear its ugly head whenever I am working with men - which is pretty regular.

  6. "gaze with a coloniser's hubris into the Cartagena night..." that's pretty damn poetic. But back to the posting at hand, look on OKCupid, for example, and gaze with hubris upon the question "jealousy: healthy or unhealthy in a relationship?" You will find most Colombianas on OKC will check that "healthy" response. (Don't know about the dudes; I didn't check them out.) The level of jealousy I've encountered here is, to me, unreal and a bit scary. I get where it's coming from -- Latin men are, for the most part, unrepentant poon-hounds -- but Jesus, it's tiring for a non-Latin guy to deal with sometimes.

    1. Obviously no arguments from this side on that Chris!

      Also I think anyone who lives in these parts for a bit will notice it pretty quickly.

      Anyway, I've made my points above!

  7. Yep Milo, bang on... This whole blog is infected by sexist nonsense, especially the grotesque idea that colombianas or "latinas" (these only exist in the US really) can somehow be regarded as a resource to be exploited. That arsehole above taking about a "quality latina". Catch yourself on, my friend! And the reproduction of stereotypical nonsense such as the claim that "if you're surrounded by paisas they must be ferociously attractive" or some other such bullshit. Disgraceful, laddish shite.

    1. We certainly don't see them as a resource to be exploited 'Anonymous', far from it. However, the actions of some do that themselves on occasions (see
      Plus, I think you'll find the Colombians play up these stereotypes themselves and they don't, like any stereotype, come out of nowhere.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  8. Interesting article . Thanks for sharing your experiences . I was wondering if u also found the " majority" of colombian women to be defensive or easily insulted ? Like easy to say the wrong thing even though it intentions were good type thing? Been talking with a colombian girl last month or so and I almost get that feeling. Just curious if its possibly a latin trait or just this girl as an individual? Thanks

    1. Hi! Cheers for getting in touch! In my experiences, "they" (and yes, one has to be careful to generalise, but these things don't just come out of thin air), can be uberly loving and then, in an instant, very cold. Generally, if somebody's getting easily offended it might be a sign that she's also "talking" to somebody else at the same time. This piece in my sister blog touches on this somewhat: