Tag Archives: envy

I’m way too jealous for that!

Lately, since I’ve started dating non-monogamously, I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments regarding jealousy.  Usually something to the effect of, “You’re poly? Damn, I’m waaaay too jealous for that!”  After mulling it over a while, I’ve come to the conclusion that jealousy really has nothing to do with it.  I’d like to propose that we are not inherently jealous, but that we’ve been taught that jealousy is an appropriate, perhaps even necessary, reaction to these kinds of situations.

Jealousy is a secondary emotion.  In other words, this means that the jealousy is blossoming from another emotion– almost always fear (which, coincidentally, is also anger’s primary emotion).  In the context of relationships these fears tend to be fear of losing your partner and/or fear of not being good enough for your partner.

Let me first say that your fears are unfounded.  For one, your definitely good enough.  Could your partner still leave? Of course.  That’s the risk you run with relationships.  But from my experience, people don’t leave a relationship they’re happy in.  Even in situations where there has been “someone else,” they were the catalyst to ending an already failing relationship, not the cause.  Which isn’t to say things couldn’t seem blissful and then one day your partner does a 180, it happens.  But it’s unlikely that if there have been no warning signs, something will happen out of the blue.

So jealousy is really just fear dressed up for the party.  And if everyone is communicating openly and honestly, there’s little to fear.  So what’s with the jealousy? Do we just enjoy tearing ourselves down? Or do we think, somehow, that we’re protecting what’s ours? Defending our claim?  Does anyone else think that sounds weird?

Relationships are just that– the way you relate to people.  You aren’t employing a servant or buying a flightless bird to keep in a cage.  You’re relating, you’re learning, you’re getting to know another person and sharing yourself with them.  So the possessiveness that can arise in relationships is actually kind of a scary thing.  We become defensive and greedy when we’re afraid, we try to hide our partner away and keep them close to us… and when they get fed up with being treated like a pet, we use this outcome as validation for our fears when, in reality, the fear created the problem from the get go.

No joke, if you want to chase away a partner as quickly as possible, try keeping them tied down.  Keep them from the other things in their life, friends, hobbies, family, etc. and they’ll leave faster than you can say, “Did I do something wrong?” A lover or partner is not meant to be the center of our lives.  Our partners are supposed to enhance our lives and support our choices.  If that’s not happening, it won’t last long.

The more we flesh out jealousy as an idea, the clearer it is to me that it’s a hallmark of monogamy, oddly enough.  Think about it: Where is jealousy more likely? In a relationship where each partner is emotional and physically exclusive, or one where partners, though emotionally committed, are free to find others attractive and pursue that?  Instinctively you want to say the latter, but the latter situation is one where boundaries have been established that allow partners to engage with other’s sexually without threatening the trust or the emotional intimacy of the relationship.  Your poly partner is going to tell you if/when they sleep with someone else.  In monogamous situations, we consider that cheating, which in turn encourages lying.

An example might help.  If I’m walking down the street with my monogamous girlfriend and I see someone else attractive, I keep my mouth shut.  If I mention the attractive person instead, the response is usually something to the effect of, “And I’m hideous??” or something as equally insecure and needlessly aggressive.  When I’m walking down the street with my poly boyfriend and we see someone sexy (which happens a lot) he might say, “Wow, she’s beautiful!” and I might say in return, “Yeah she is! Why don’t you go talk to her?”  One of those is going to result in a fight, and it’s not the poly example.

Listen, I’m not saying everyone should be polyamorous.  Clearly, monogamy works for some people and I do believe that some people are better wired for a monogamous situations.  What I am saying is that it’s funny to me that people associate jealousy with polyamory since what polyamory does is basically remove the barriers and insecurities that cause and feed jealousy.  To me, it’s more honest in that you’re admitting up front that you WILL find others attractive.  The difference is that in poly situations, we know that finding someone else attractive doesn’t mean NOT finding us attractive.   We know that both can and do co-exist.  What’s even better, though, is we don’t make you choose, either.  It’s not like you have to leave one partner to be with another.

But I do understand what people are getting at.  They want to know how I can handle seeing someone I love love others.  (It sounds like a silly question when I put it that way, huh?)  And the answer is two-fold: (1) I’m secure in the relationship my boyfriend and I have, and he does a great job of making me feel special and loved even though I’m well aware that I’m not the only person in his life in that capacity.  (2) I got over my insecurities.  And this really is the key.  For a long time I didn’t think I could handle non-monogamy, but at least I was honest about why: “I just think I’m too insecure for that kind of relationship.”  And at the time, I definitely was.  Confidence is sexy, sure, but confidence will also preserve your sanity.  That is, it doesn’t bother me seeing my boyfriend with another woman (or man–actually, that sounds hot, but I digress) because I’m confident in who I am and that he likes and cares for who I am, regardless of whether or not there are other attractive people around.

This isn’t a call for polyamory for all, that just wouldn’t work.  But this is a call for confidence for all– whether you’re monogamous, polyamorous, single or asexual.  Faith in ourselves is essential for survival, and if you only get yours from other sources, one day your well will run dry.  Learning to love myself (because it’s still a work in progress) has been simultaneously one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done.   It’s hard, but it’s well worth the rewards.

Consider starting small.  I know I did.  My therapist gave me these post-it notes to put around the house with positive messages on them.  I tried not to gag when she first gave them to me.  (Yeah, I’m definitely that person who rolls her eyes at “positive affirmations,” even knowing they can work.)   For weeks I sat with the post-it notes, unable to think of a single nice thing about myself that I actually believed.  And then it hit me, “Love yourself anyway.”  I started writing things like, “You’re a ridiculous human being, but I love you anyway.”  or “I have seen your struggle and I love you anyway.”  It managed to acknowledge my resistance to loving myself while still sending a positive message.  Go figure.   But those words have come to mean quite a lot to me.  They mean that even on days when I just can stand myself, when I muck everything up, when I want to just pull all my hair out and throw a tantrum, they mean that despite all the imperfections I should love myself… anyway.

Love more, fear less.

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Diminished

Have you ever heard the saying, “A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle”?  It’s a beautiful quote, author unknown, that speaks volumes to me about community, helping our neighbors, and giving for the sake of it.  But that’s probably because I’m a bleeding heart who works in the non-profit sector.  

But what if we applied this concept to Love? I would argue that right now, we don’t.  The model we’re peddle from day one thanks to companies like Disney is that somewhere out there this is a magical person who is your missing other half and all you have to do is find them! There are only 7 billion people on Earth, so how hard can that be? True love awaits!  

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than 5 minutes, then you already know I think this idea is bullocks.  There are just too many people in the world and too much love to be shared to say that we each have ONE person who’s our soulmate, ONE person who will be right for us for our whole lives through and ONE person whom will provide us with everything we need.  It sounds like a fairy tale because it IS a fairy tale.  

People ebb and flow in our lives.  Some leave as quickly as they arrived, others stay in it for the long haul, their involvement in our lives varying over time as we grow up, grow apart and come back together again.  I think of parents, for example.  No one would deny the important of their parents in their lives (for better or for worse), but most of us don’t talk to them every day.  We might even have friends that are our parents’ ages.  Does this mean we’ve replaced our parents? Does this mean we don’t care about them or love them?  Of course not.  When you’re 5, you spend every waking moment with your mother.  When you’re 25, you’re probably dodging her Sunday morning calls so she doesn’t know how hungover you are.  Our relationships change and evolve over time, but they are not somehow less important because they change. 

So back to my original question… what if we shared our love freely and weren’t ruled by ugly emotions such as envy and jealousy? Why do we hold onto this concept that by virtue of sharing our love, it is somehow diminished? 

It’s a insidious little thought, one that permeates every part of our culture.  The whole concept of “purity” or virginity is based on this idea– that you should only share yourself with ONE person, and if you share yourself with more than one person, you yourself are diminished– you, yourself, are worth less than you previously were.  Well I call shenanigans on this purity bullshit and all it entails.  Whatever higher power gave me this body also imbued me with bodily autonomy.  As long as I am sharing my love, and not hurting anyone, as long as I am consensually giving of myself, how am I diminishing myself?  The more I love, the stronger I feel, it just doesn’t add up.  

So if you’re a purist or a fundamentalist, if you think a woman’s worth is directly related to her virgnity, this is simply where we part ways.  I will never believe that a person’s worth is in any way tied to their virginity, regardless of gender, and frankly I find any other assertion disgusting.  We are more than the sum of our experiences, more than a series of actions taken or acted upon us.   Human beings are beautiful, complex creatures and I can’t think of anything much more meaningless than the number of people you’ve had sex with.  Like most numbers, it’s just used to shame.  Throw it out!  Love all, shame none. This is a SHAME-FREE ZONE.  

Over the years I’ve had run-ins with polyamory, as it were.  I used to say I just kept falling for people who identified as poly, but at some point I have take a closer examination of the fact that I keep gravitating towards people who identify as polyamorous.  Note: polyamory as in “many loves,” not polygamy as in many spouses.  (Which isn’t to say I’m against polygamy, but it’s not quite what I’m talking about.  Culturally speaking, polygamy is often tied to certain religious beliefs, while polyamory is basically the creation of many thoughtful, ethical sluts.)  

Recently I met someone who just awes me in so many ways, perhaps most profoundly in how much love he has to give.  He is, indeed, polyamorous and he has complete understanding of the idea that one relationship need not take away from another.  We are force-fed the idea of of monogamy (along with the marriage and picket fence end game) and the concept of relationship hierarchy.  And this is where I see a lot of new-to-poly folks fall into a trap.  They might’ve gotten rid of the monogamy thought, but not the hierarchy, and that will cause serious problems if you are juggling more than one romantic relationship at a time.  Trust me.  

But what if we throw both ideas out?  No more hierarchy, no more “primary partner” or “one and only”, just love.  Just love given freely.  It seemed so simple when it first hit me.  That jealousy is beyond pointless.  That I can love someone and have a deep and unique connection with them– and it doesn’t diminish what we have for me to love others, or for them to love others.  If anything, you’re just making the pie bigger.  More love, no shame, no jealousy, no competition.  I’m not saying it’s easy, especially when we’ve been taught the only way to be special to someone is to segregate them from all others.  But that’s not the way.  That sounds more like keeping a pet than loving a person, to me.  I mean, heck, even my cats are allowed to socialize.  

So I ask again, how is my Love diminished by sharing it with more people?  Knowledge is strengthened by spreading it around, I don’t see why Love is any different. 

Just use a condom.  Seriously, be safe.  

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