Tag Archives: jealousy

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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Patience is a Virtue

In one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever seen, The Mummy (1999), there’s a scene where the main characters are being chased by a mob.  Evy is trying to translate something that will help them stop the mob and Rick asks her to PLEASE hurry it up.  She simply responds without stopping what she’s doing, “Patience is a virtue.”  It’s always tickled me, and sometimes I use it to respond to impatience in real life.

However you feel about virtues, patience is a useful skill.  Very few things in life happen overnight, most of the time we have to wait.  And the better something is, the longer we have to wait! (Not the all the time, but often.)  Because of this, learning patience is downright practical.  Impatience brings a great deal of unnecessary discontent upon the barer.  Which isn’t to say don’t speak up or advocate for yourself when you need to, but learn to be patient too.  Timing is key.

This is very much how I feel about relationships.  I rarely go looking for a relationship, they seem to elude me when I do anyway.   But I wait, I meet people, I do things I enjoy doing, and eventually I meet someone I want to date and sometimes they want to date me too!  Sure, many of my friends are married, some married in their teens, most in their early to mid 20s.  And sure, it’s tempting to compare myself to their timeline, but what’s the use in that?

My beau and his wife have been married for 12 years.  They’re happy and they’ve built a life together despite challenges such as both of them being poly and very busy people.  It’s hard not to envy such a amazing relationship, but then I remember that my beau was 8 years older than I am now when they met.  There’s still time.  Heck, as long as we’re breathing there’s still time.  And surely their relationship did not come to be so awesome without hard work and–wait for it!–patience.

Truth be told, he waited for me, too.  We met over a year ago, really hit it off, but I didn’t call him… I was caught up in my own junk at the time, and it took me a whole damn year to call him.  But he didn’t prod me, he just waited.  And eventually I came to him.  If he’d pushed, I wouldn’t have.  (I know this about myself from past experience.) And now… now I feel like such an idiot for not calling him sooner!  But really, the timing wasn’t right then.  And I almost passed this up entirely because the timing wasn’t right.  What a terrible fool I would’ve been…

I can’t tell you whether it’s fate or coincidence, honestly, but sometimes life’s timing is uncanny.  Sometimes you get exactly what you need at exactly the right time.  And sometimes you have to wait a little while.

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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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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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Please Bring…

Last week our department hit our 90%-before-the-end-of-March fundraising goal.  Obviously, we were all pretty excited! But the department VP asked that we keep low-key about it for the moment.  Today, I received an email invitation to a celebration party.  Our VP’s husband is a chef, so she’s inviting us all over to her house for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.  Sounds great, right? Good food and a reason to celebrate! But I’m not sure if I’m going…

Well, why the hell not?!  The invitation was short and sweet.  It said:

Now it is time to celebrate!!!

[Date, Time, Location]

Please bring your significant other and join us for a few hours to celebrate hitting 90%!!!

See the problem? It’d be one thing if she said, “Feel free to bring your significant other,”  but this “please” business has me confused as to whether or not I am actually invited to attend should I NOT have a significant other to bring.  Seems far-fetched, right? It is a work event… but even if we dismiss that notion, there’s still the fact that every other person there will have a significant other with them, and I am straight up not sure if I will even have anyone to talk to!  The last thing I want to do is be mopey in front of my co-workers, but if I go and I’m the only single person there, that’s a very real possibility.

To clarify, here’s a quick breakdown of everyone in my department at work by relationship status: 8 of them are married, 3 others are in committed relationships, and one is single.  You already know which one is me.  To be fair, I’m also the youngest person in my department, but not by a heck of a lot!  The two co-workers closest in age to me (they’re a year or two older than me) are both married.

It’s not like this is a new problem, it’s just one that’s complicated by work.  I’ve routinely not been invited to events or suddenly was not able to spend as much time with a friend because I don’t have a significant other to bring to said events or double dates or whatever it is couples do with other couples.   I’ve never really understood couples-only events, to be honest.  Are your single friends less interesting? Do you have less in common with them? I just don’t see what there is to be gained by excluding people on the basis of their relationship status.

So here we have an event I might not even be invited to if it weren’t for work, again, on the basis that I do not have an S.O. to bring to the party.  So what do I do? Go alone? Skip it? Bring a friend? Bring my cat just so we can all be super clear about who the spinster is?

This seems like an unnecessary amount of heartache for what would otherwise sound like a fun Sunday to me.  Excluded before the party has even started.

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Jealousy

Sometimes I can’t help feeling wildly jealous of my coupled friends.  It’s not that being single doesn’t have it’s benefits, it’s certainly easier to make big life decisions when there’s only one set of needs to consider, but being single is such a constant for me, it’s easy for those “benefits” to pale in comparison to the benefits one gets from being in a couple.

And this is where the insecurity swoops in.  In and of myself, I’m fine.  I know that singledom is my natural state, that I spend a lot of time (maybe even too much) being introspective, and there’s nothing wrong with that–I’m just a specialty flavor.

But then I look around, and I can’t help wondering, “Am I just doing it wrong?”

Ironically, despite having many heterosexual coupled friends who, by nature of the laws in this country, already have more privileges than a committed homosexual/queer couple will, the jealousy I feel towards them is minimal.  It tends to be my other queer friends that turn me into a big, green monster–and not a cool one like The Hulk.  Logically, I understand that my hetero friends are pulling from a different pool than I am, which is much bigger than the pool of people I have to choose from. The sense of competition is much lessened, there.  But with my queer friends, it’s quickly becomes a question of, “Well, they figured it out and found someone, so why the hell can’t I seem to?” This line of thinking is both emotional in nature and inherently problematic.

So I could sit here and lecture you on how comparing relationships or relationship statuses is about as helpful as comparing trauma histories (that is, completely unhelpful and unnecessarily hurtful), but the truth is I do it knowing full well it’s stupid.  Some emotional reactions just do not heed logic.

One part of the problem is that queer communities are often so small, the longer you stay in one, the more likely you are to end up dating an ex’s ex, or in the case of poly relationships, find you and a friend are dating the same person.

But much of it is generic, “What the hell is wrong with me?” queries.  For example, I have a friend who came out relatively recently.  She’s a fabulous girl, so I can’t say I’m really surprised that she found a seemingly perfect match within a couple of months.  They’ve been together over a year now and they’re still so adorable you think you’re going to start vomiting kittens and rainbows around them.  Meanwhile, I’ve been out more than six years now and of all the people I’ve dated, not a single one has fallen in love with me (I can’t say the same was true on my end).  Granted, my friend is older than me and hence has more life experience, and I’m sure being a sexy, curvaceous femme doesn’t hurt.  But still, there’s that nagging question.

I wish I could even say she was an outlier.  But I’ve seen that happen a lot– gal comes out, finds her partner almost immediately, and commences with the domestic bliss.  The u-haul jokes are sometimes terrifyingly accurate. I’ve never even lived with someone in a romantic capacity! And not for lack of want or curiosity. My father, who’s a lot like me, recently revealed to me that he had never lived with anyone, romantically, before he met my mother.  This made me feel better for a moment.  Then I remembered he was 36 when he met my mother, and I felt worse.

I guess I just need to be patient.

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