Avoiding Jealousy Primer 101

How does polyamory work? I mean, don’t we poly people get jealous?

Sure we do. We have been raised in a culture that lauds psycho stalking and ownership of people. Listen to any high school kids on the bus, and you will see this value firmly entrenched in our youth already. The following is an exchange very similar to something I heard recently:

GIRL #1 I tell you, if he really is out with Kim, I’m going to cut his nuts off. He’s mine! He’s got no business being friends with her!
GIRL #2 You better get your knife ready, honey, cuz I hear that Bobby is hangin’ not just with Kim, but Brittany, too.
GIRL #1 That’s it! I’m calling him right now! (dialing Bobby for the fiftieth time that day) Shit, got his voice mail again. Asshole. He’s probably with them right now. I’m going to his house.

The idea we own people we have relationships with runs very deeply in our culture. How many heterosexual people believe they can’t be friends with members of the opposite sex? Being a friend with someone they could potentially be attracted to is chock full of pitfalls, right? It’s a temptation! Oooh! And even if the friends aren’t tempted, it is still perfectly okay for their partners to be jealous of their friendship, so they shouldn’t be friends in the first place so as to not upset their loved ones.

This message gets repeated over and over again in our mass media. In how many films have you seen this happen? How many films demonstrate psycho jealous boyfriends or girlfriends and even applaud that behavior as normal? How many films are about the monogamous ideal? How many films have you seen where the subject matter is about the hero or heroine finding his/her One True Love?

Just a casual search on photobucket bombarded my eyes with the following messages (and the above green-eyed monster pic):



And we are just talking about friendships outside of relationships here, and the jealousy they can trigger. How about when friends actually DO become lovers? What is the culturally accepted response? How can we poly people not be acculturated into jealousy as a norm, when traditional marriage vows have the clause “forsaking all others?”

How many of us have friends who go through partners (heck, even marriages) like tissue paper, looking for that ONE person who can be The One? How many of us have done it ourselves? Truth is—it isn’t possible. One person cannot possibly meet every last possible need we have. When we limit ourselves to that one person, parts of our lives go unfulfilled. And if we subscribe to the jealous monogamous world-view, by limiting our partner’s friendships to people they couldn’t possibly be attracted to, we are limiting them and making it harder for them to feel fulfilled. If, say, my husband likes to knit, and I don’t know how and he wants to go to a knitting group that consists of all women, I’m limiting my husband’s potential if I don’t allow him to make friends with these women.

But it’s a slippery slope, some may say. Say I did let my husband go to that knitting group. What if he became friends with one of the women and started calling her? What if he went to her house? I mean, this could lead to cyber-sex or all kinds of other hanky-panky! Well, if my relationship is supposed to be monogamous, and I’m worried about those things, then my marriage isn’t very strong now, is it? Either that, or I’m a hyper-jealous person with issues.

Jealousy is destructive and helps nobody.

Some poly people are fortunate and never have the jealousy “bone.” They don’t understand why they feel like they should have to be jealous. Other poly people have to work hard at their jealousy, in order to get along with all the members in the relationship. They were acculturated (brainwashed) like the rest of society, into thinking jealousy is a normal and acceptable way of behaving. Instead, when these poly people feel jealous, they have to try to decode their feelings behind the jealousy in order to defeat it.

Doing this means taking responsibility for what we feel. We can’t say anymore, “You are making me jealous! It’s your fault. Stop doing this behavior that makes me jealous and I won’t be jealous anymore!” Generally, most poly people have learned that this tactic doesn’t work. And it isn’t true, anyway. How we respond to our feelings and how those feelings come about in the first place are all about us as individuals. This means that for us to “overcome” jealousy, we have to do some serious soul-searching. I don’t know about you, but a lot of people don’t like to do that. It’s a painful process.

When a poly person in a successful relationship starts feeling jealous, he or she might try to get to the root of the issues. Why is he or she feeling this way? Has something changed in their relationship that feels threatening? If so, why is it threatening?

Ultimately, the root cause of jealousy is fear. Fear of losing your partner, fear of being inadequate, fear the new, shiny partner is going to be the new favorite, fear of ______. You fill in the blank. That fear stems from insecurity. When we are secure in ourselves, we have nothing to fear. People with poor self-esteem and a lot of insecurities find the poly life a huge struggle. Ultimately, many of those relationships may not make it.

Another tactic poly people use for happy, jealousy-free relationships is compersion. Thinking about all the good things new friendships or partners can bring to your current partner’s life. Being happy about their lives being richer and more fulfilled. Being happy for them and excited for their new-found love. I felt this each time my husband found a girlfriend. It was so wonderful to watch him grow and blossom. He was so happy, his giddiness was infectious!

Trust is another tool poly people use to keep their relationships happy and jealousy at bay. Imagine that. Trust. How do we keep our trust? Communication. If you lurk around poly lists and communities long enough, you will hear the poly mantra so many times it will beat a tattoo on your brain. That mantra? Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Learning good communication techniques is very important.

Communication, trust, compersion, deep soul-searching, overcoming personal fears and insecurities, taking responsibility for one’s own feelings and actions… All of these are part of the recipe to a healthy relationship—monogamous or polyamorous—not just a poly relationship trying to avoid the pitfalls of jealousy.


Unknown said...

Okay. Enough. It isn't that I'm not an open-minded person and it isn't that I'm not happy for you for finding something that makes you personally happy; it's more that I don't care what you do or don't do with your love life and am sick of this topic. This blog used to be interesting until it turned into a "swinger's confessional." Pick a different topic, start a new blog of your own dedicated to your love life, anything. Just stop writing about polyamory already! Oh, and you may want to take note that dissing on what works for others doesn't enhance your argument. Thanks.

Alia said...