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Welcome to my four part discussion on Bad Poly.
Today, we’re going to talk about a really central theme to polyamory: Jealousy. Before we dig into this, let me lay down some definitions that we will be chatting about:
Envy: When you want what someone else has.
Jealousy: When you’re worried someone is trying to take what you have.
NRE: New Relationship Energy- The excitement that exists when a relationship is new. Can last 3 months-2 years and beyond, and is individual to each relationship.
There is a consistent theme when I am discussing polyamory around monogamous folk. It seems that monogamous people don’t understand the lack of jealousy. I’ve seen, in some circles, polyamorous folk say that they simply “don’t get jealous” with the same sort of tone as someone who says “Oh, I don’t own a television”. This sort of “enlightened” poly enrages me. The idea that you have reached a higher level of understanding and relationships simply because you don’t feel a certain way is bullshit. It’s elitist, it’s obnoxious, and it makes people who feel jealousy or emotions differently than you feel outcast and as though they are “bad” for feeling a certain way. If you feel as though you are more enlightened than monogamous folk, or better than others because of the way you handle your jealousy, the following GIF is for you.
See, the thing is, people get jealous. Jealousy interacts with people differently. Some people don’t get jealous, or envious. Others only get envious. I’ve been mostly non-monogamous (though often non-ethically) for 9 years, and openly (and ethically) for 5. I like to think I’m pretty successful at polyamory. I like to think I’m pretty “good” at poly. Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret.
I get super fucking jealous.
I’m serious. I get super jealous. My partners know it, and I know it. I get really jealous when they start dating someone new and the NRE is strong and shiny. I’m super happy that they’re happy in this new relationship, but I am also always terrified that they will change their minds. That, for me, is the scariest part. I know that I- a person who could not happily be monogamous- have doubts sometimes about whether or not it would be easier to just not be poly. If I am having those doubts I worry that my partners, who are often newer to poly than I am, will have the same and choose differently. That fear is what feeds my jealousy.
There is an attitude in the polyamorous community that jealousy is bad, or that those who feel it are bad. That simply changing your outlook, or not being jealous would make things better. In my opinion, we have pushed away from the mainstream so hard that anything that matches those relationships that have so greatly failed us in the past is viewed negatively. Jealousy and possessiveness are seen as negative, instead of alerting us to the fact that maybe there are some red flags in a relationship.
For instance, an ex of mine was dating a person who was new to poly. I tried getting past the vast amount of jealousy I felt, but it was near impossible. I felt like they were trying to push for a monogamous relationship. While I would have been okay if our relationship changed (and eventually it did), I would’ve preferred it to be a natural progression of our love rather than an abrupt command because of a new partner. My ex was unable to see how this person was affecting our relationship. Eventually this person came out and requested a monogamous relationship with my ex, and he admitted I was right. The entire time they were together, I felt so much jealousy, so often, and with such intensity, That I was unable to be happy for them.
Usually for me, I feel jealous from the start until I discern that the person my partner is seeing is not a threat to my relationship, my family, or my life (in the way I live it, not my actual, physical life). My husband is dating a wonderful, amazing person now. I was jealous originally, but now I only have the occasional flare up of jealousy regarding her, usually due to a breakdown in communication. The jealousy I felt has decreased with time as she has shown herself to be a part of our lives as opposed to trying to change our relationship to benefit hers.
What do you do though if you’re “bad” and experience jealousy? How do you get past it?
What do you do if you’re jealous?
- Own it.Own your jealousy. Know that you are jealous. Make sure that you understand what you’re feeling. Sometimes, simply looking in the mirror and saying “I am feeling jealous, and that is okay” can help.
- Recognize *where* it comes from.Are you feeling jealous or envious? They are two very different things. Jealousy would be if your partner was dating someone new, and you felt that they were neglecting your relationship for their new relationship. Envy would be if your partner was dating someone new, and only watched a tv show with that new partner, and you wanted to have something that was special for the two of you as well.
- Pinpoint how to control it.If you’re feeling envy or jealousy, think of how you could “fix” the situation. In the above situation, if you were feeling jealous, and having more one on one time with your partner was the fix for it, make sure to think about that. What sort of time do you need per week or day to feel less jealous. In the above situation, if you were feeling envious, would finding a show that you and your partner could watch together as “Your show” be a fix? Think about that, and try to come up with concrete solutions to controlling these feelings.
- Acknowledge that these are your feelings.It is too easy to say “You made me feel ____”. Instead, try “I am feeling____ because _____”, or “I am feeling _____ because I am reacting to ____”. Yes, they seem bulkier, yes they seem harder to talk about, but they are far more effective in communicating how you’re feeling and why. For instance: “I am feeling jealous, because I am reacting to how much time you are spending with your new partner, and I feel that our relationship is being neglected” or “I am feeling envious because you have a show that you only watch with your partner, and I wish that we had something that was just ours.” would be ideal uses of these suggestions.
- Talk about it.Sit down with your partner and talk about these situations and work on compromising together. Don’t allow your feelings to fester, it’s much easier to see the dentist when you need a cavity filled than it is when you need a root canal. Handle your shit, and move on.
Next up, we’ll be talking about Compersion, and what to do when it fails!
Until Next Time!
-The Frisky Fairy