WHEN you're in love with a beautiful woman, it's hard. Everybody wants her, everybody loves her, everybody wants to take your baby home.

Not my words, of course, they belong to Dr Hook from the pop group's 1970s hit song. It's the jealous man's anthem.

There's a little of the Green Eye in all of us. That is if there's enough left for you lot after I've claimed the iris, pupil, lids and lashes.

It's the ridiculous street surveys that leave the jealous person reeling in a red mist of anxiety and insecurity. You know the ones, where some woman wielding a clipboard grabs you by the throat as you pass through the narrow, shark-infested straits of York's Market Street, usually when you've got only ten minutes to grab your lunch.

One recent survey said most women admitted to having a grotty, worn-out collection of underwear in her drawers. In complete contrast and confusion, another survey was adamant that if a woman suddenly started buying fancy new underwear, she was having an affair. No win in the underwear stakes, then.

When you're in love with a beautiful woman, you watch her eyes...

Catch your partner looking in the wrong direction, follow the red laser beam of her innocent glance and if there happens to be a good-looking type en route, it's enough to set off a jealous streak. "Who's that? Do you know him? Do you fancy him?"

In fact she had merely been using her binocular vision to read the price on that designer dress in Droopy's window.

Maybe it's just an ego problem, problem is I've been fooled before...

Jealousy may well be a primeval hangover from the hunter-gatherer days when man hung onto his woman and his warm, semi-detached cave with a club and a grunt.

For men seem to be worse afflicted than women. There were not many love rivals about in Adam and Eve's day so the poor chap had to settle for "your apple's bigger than my apple."

The female of the species will admit to being jealous of another woman's youth, legs, skin, BMW, Harvey Nichols credit account. But there never seems to be any of that real deep-seated, unfounded conviction that he's having an affair. Unless, of course, he really is.

When you're in love with a beautiful woman, you look for lies...

When the jealousy runs deep, the laws of mathematics are completely inverted so that two and two make five every time.

That's when her every movement is questioned, then re-questioned in the search for inconsistencies. He starts to put her mobile phone bills under a microscope, looking for unfamiliar numbers phoned frequently. His inspection is every bit as frantic as a tax inspector going over your annual returns.

Did you here about the cad who peeped in his wife's diary and found the initials VJ entered at regular intervals? Now he had proof of an affair. Initials meant secret assignations, though there were no locations. Another indicator. He scoured the phone book for a man with the initials VJ. No luck.

Then he confronted her and the long-suffering woman laughed. She had been charting his moods to try to find rhyme or reason for them and when he was very jealous, she marked 'VJ' in the diary.

Another wedge in a wonderful relationship that was being soured - and just as surely destroyed - not by an affair but by jealousy.

I once interviewed a private detective about his exciting life. No murders or missing persons, though, because more than 90 per cent of his work was trailing wives or husbands suspected of having an affair. Even if those people were innocent, the marriage was over, he said, because by the time he was brought in the relationship had obviously deteriorated beyond repair.

So stop it. She's not having an affair, she loves you millions.

When you're in love with a beautiful woman, it never ends. You know that it's crazy, you want to trust her - then somebody hangs up when you answer the phone...

PS Thank you to Mrs Egan for her kind words about my Valentine's Day column. She described me as a moaning Minnie for my unromantic attitude.

In fact we had a lovely day with cards and presents. My card came in two halves, though, a result of my wife reading my column.

But she did forgive me and Sellotaped it back together!

Updated: 08:44 Tuesday, February 18, 2003