I think it’s really important that I take some time to talk about jealousy. I revealed that I’ve decided to try out the poly lifestyle and of course, the question of jealousy always comes up. I’m hoping that this post offers some insight, not necessarily into the poly lifestyle, but into the emotion of jealousy itself and how we’ve been taught to handle it.
In truth, monogamous individuals can learn a lot from poly individuals when it comes to dealing with jealousy. Contrary to popular belief, poly people can and do get jealous. It’s a natural human emotion, regardless of what lifestyle you choose to live. The key difference is how individuals view the emotion and thus how its handled in each lifestyle.
We typically view jealousy in monogamous relationships as a result of the actions of our partners. For example, our partner flirting or getting a little too friendly with someone else. Maybe it’s going out for drinks with someone; and it doesn’t have to be someone who’s a potential romantic partner, it could be a friend, acquaintance, family member, etc. It really doesn’t matter who it is. The key point to focus on here is the idea that
They made you feel jealous
When we experience jealousy most of us never call it that (seriously, few people can admit they’re jealous). But essentially, we blame our feeling and/or behavior on someone else’s actions. “Well you shouldn’t have been hanging out with her anyway” “Why are smiling so much when he talks? Don’t give him the wrong idea” Ever heard a line like this? Maybe even said something like them yourself? Don’t worry, you’re not alone but there are better ways to handle it.
Still, when we feel this way, we have a tendency to place the onus on our partners to prevent us from feeling jealousy. We make it their responsibility to ensure that we never feel jealous.
Here’s the thing
No one can make you feel jealous
Read that again… and one more time. I know this is probably a new idea for most people, but hear me out. Only you can make yourself feel this emotion. There can be many reasons but it’s never because of someone else.
Let’s look at one of the examples up above, “Well you shouldn’t have been hanging out with her anyway.” Well, why not? Because he’s your boyfriend? Okay, but what does that mean? Does that mean he can’t hang out with another woman? Why not? Chances are, there’s something deeper going on here. Without drilling down the questions, I’m just going to spell out what’s likely happening here (and there could be other reasons).
In such situations, you may feel that this time with her should have been with you instead; and since it wasn’t, what does that say about you? I mean, why would he want to spend time with her when you’re here, right? There is a sense of “ownership” of his time that is invalid here. And I know many won’t like this, but maybe you feel threatened on some level. Even if you’re not conscious of it, you may be thinking, “he might like her more than me” and this may wear on your self esteem. His time, attention, laughter, happy moments, belong to you, right? And don’t think I’m picking on women, men are guilty of this as well. Either way, at the end of the day
You’re jealous not because of your partner’s actions but because of how you view their actions in relation to yourself.
In other words, “if they’re doing this with someone else, what does that say about your self-worth and your worth to them?” Marinate on that for a second.
Which leads me to the key difference in how poly people view jealousy. In the poly world, individuals take responsibility for their own feelings and explore them.
You and only you are responsible for your own feelings.
Instead of blaming their partners for making them jealous, poly individuals express what’s really at the heart of the feeling. Instead of saying, “Well you shouldn’t have been hanging out with her anyway”, a poly individual might say, “I feel nervous when you spend time with another attractive woman because I’m afraid you will like her more than me and I will lose you”.
Now that is a helluva thing to say to someone, not even going to pretend that it isn’t. However, that’s what taking responsibility for your own feelings looks like. To admit you’re afraid and to blame the feeling on the fear and not the actions of your partner. It does take a certain level of maturity and vulnerability to make such a statement. But it gives you and your partner an opportunity to address the feeling and offer reassurance. Perhaps your partner will offer to introduce the two of you or maybe you just needed to hear that your partner isn’t going anywhere and having a drink isn’t going to change that. Perhaps you need something else to make you feel better. Either way, candid and vulnerable discussion gives the two of an opportunity to work through it, strengthen your connection, and actually become closer.
So yes, poly people definitely get jealous. But the above is how it’s handled in the poly community, especially when there is more than one partner in the mix. Everyone tries to support each other’s needs, but those needs need to be communicated. Jealousy is usually the result of something underneath. The key is how its handled that makes poly relationships possible. They would be impossible otherwise.
Regardless of whether you’re poly or monogamous, owning jealous feelings and handling them in a mature candid way will lead to much more positive results than how it’s usually handled. You’re human, it’s okay to feel jealousy at times (not all the time though), what matters is what you do next.
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