Tag Archives: jealous

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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Welcome to the Future

Last night was yet another amazing evening spent with my new beau.  I was recounting some of the night to a close friend of mine, telling her about how happy I was, how a meteor could fall on my head right now and I’d still have a smile on my face, but inevitably “the future” came back to haunt me.

“Don’t hate me,” she began, “But what does this mean for the future?”

I get it.  I understand the path we are taught to take always ends in marriage and kids and this one doesn’t.  But why is that so scary? 

“Uh, lots of hot sex with someone who adores me as much as I adore him?” I responded.  

But of course it’s more than that.  Of course I’m emotionally invested (meaningless sex really does it get me off, but power to the folks it does!) in this relationship, non-tradition though it may be.  And of course a relationship has to go somewhere.  Even if the habits stay the same, even if one doesn’t progress towards marriage or living together, being together for a long time will inevitably lead to a deeper connection– and that, admittedly, is something I do desire.  

But let’s pretend, for argument’s sake, that he were single and monogamous.  It really wouldn’t change where we are right now: enjoying each other’s company, figuring out each other’s quirks.  We’re still new to each other, and at this stage, we’re having fun and learning.  All relationships start this way, regardless of where they end up. 

So I can’t help but wonder, what’s the rush?  What’s the rush to see it “evolve”? And why does evolution only look one way (i.e. marriage)?  I think Darwin would be disappointed by the suggestion.  Yes, my options would be different, but so what?  Even if I had options like marriage and kids and living together, is that something I even want? Right now I can definitely say, “Hell no!” 

“Wouldn’t you eventually want to live with your partner?” asks my concerned friend.  “Not necessarily,” is the answer, but more the point, who says I couldn’t?  I’ve seen some very creative polyamorous households, for the record.  But really, I don’t know.  I’ve never actually lived with a partner (unless you count that semester from hell back in college, I don’t) and I don’t know that I’d want to.  I very much enjoy having my own living space, and even if I did agree to move in with someone, it would be with the caveat that I had at least a room that was all my own space.   A place to escape to, in case of emergency.  

“But don’t you get jealous?” she asks.  A fair question, and I tell her honestly, “Yes, sometimes.  But actually it’s good for me to get confronted with my jealously.  When I stop to think about it, I realize there’s really nothing to be jealous of.  When I’m with him I feel loved and sexy and desirable and heck, even important.  Each relationship is unique, and when I’m aware of this comparison begins to seem so foolish!” 

I really appreciate how open my friend is being, I know it’s hard for her to think I could be happy without getting married.  “When you do believe that marriage and babies is the path that people take and the structure you believe in, its scary when people you love step outside of that.” 

“I guess it’s just dawning on me now, truly, that marriage isn’t the ONLY path to happiness, to family, to love.  It’s disorienting, to be sure, but freeing too.” 

But really, what I can’t get over is what’s the rush? Honestly, what is it? Is it that my biological clock is ticking? Don’t worry, my ovaries never let me forget.  Is it that everybody else is doing it (I’m at that age, I’m going to at least a wedding a year)?  Or is it that life is short? 

Well that’s the irony, I suppose.  It’s because life is short that I DON’T see the rush.  Why am I going to plan for 5 or 10 years down the road when, in reality, the world could explode this evening?  I don’t know what’s going to happen next.  I could win the lottery, I could get hit by a bus, I could find a baby goat on my doorstep and be tasked with raising him to be a proud, badass adult goat.  I don’t know! And that’s the beauty of it.  

So yes, I’m staying in the here and the now as much as possible.  I’m focusing on all the amazing things happening in my life right at this very moment– the future will come soon enough no matter how (un)prepared I am.  So why concern myself with the amorphous FUTURE, when I can spend my time being grateful for everything already present in my life? 

THE FUTURE, as far as I can tell, has already arrived. 

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