Polyamory is supposed to be a relationship norm, filled with the abundance of love, and additional people that add joy and meaning to your life. But what happens when our reptilian brain kicks in and presents us with that unwanted emotion – jealousy? How do you deal with it? React inappropriately, or use that green-eyed monster to strengthen your relationships and ability to communicate more effectively? Below are a few tips and tricks that can help you deal with jealousy in polyamory. First things first, let us start with what Jealousy actually means in the romantic sense.
Romantic Jealousy is a complex of thoughts, feelings, and actions that follows a threat to self-esteem and/or to the existence or quality of the relationship. These threats are generated by the perception of potential attraction between one’s partner and a (perhaps imaginary) rival.Wikipedia
Jealousy is a fundamental human emotion that scientists have documented across multiple societies, and even in infants. With that in mind, it should be noted that there exists a large group of polyamorous people who believe that jealousy should not exist if you have correctly adopted the practice. Instead, they believe that you should be practicing an emotion called compersion, which is the opposite of jealousy.
Compersion is an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy. In the context of polyamorous relationships, it describes positive feelings experienced by an individual when their intimate partner is enjoying another relationship.Wikipedia
While this sentiment is a beautiful ideal to strive for, the reality is that jealousy is an intrinsic emotion that exists in humans. We could temporarily ignore or attempt to snuff that part of us out. But it is far more sustainable to learn how to deal with jealousy, or at least acknowledge that it can rear its ugly head from time to time. Here are a few things that have helped me over the years:
The first step is to acknowledge that jealousy is a natural emotion. Once that is accepted, you can start to take steps to deal with it. Jealousy is not insurmountable. While it has a strange habit of creeping up when you least expect, it is much easier to move forward if you are not trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. For many years, I tried to pretend that I was not a jealous person by nature, and that in fact bit me hard in the butt. If I had spent more time learning how to deal with it, talk about it, and make a plan to move past it I would have been much farther along in my polyamorous journey.
When you feel jealous, take a deep breath, step back from the situation, and evaluate all the causes and actions that lead up to that moment of emotion. What I find more often than not, is when my jealousy is at it’s peak, the cause is usually me feeling left out.
I don’t like sitting at home by myself knowing my partner is out having fun. And that is not, as I learned by reflection, because of what he is doing, but because of what I am not doing. While this is just an example and will not be true for everyone, taking that moment to reflect on what really triggered that envious urge puts things into a more rational perspective.
This, by far, is the most difficult of the steps to dealing with jealousy. Why? Because the most effective way of communicating is after the jealousy has passed and you can calmly discuss the situation and plan to move forward. In the heat of the moment, passion will almost always supersede reason and not solve anything. This becomes a challenge because, often, jealousy is only remembered in the heat of the moment. Very rarely do we even think about this feeling when we’re calm.
This really is a fight or flight response, and unless you make a conscious effort to discuss it at a future moment, it most likely will not get resolved. The hope is that reading about being conscientious of your jealousy will trigger in you a small reminder that you and your partner need to talk about how to respond when the other person becomes jealous.
Once the conversation begins, it’s always a great idea to recreate the last moment you became jealous. Explain the sights, sounds, who, and what of the situation to your partner. I cannot tell you how many times doing this in a calm environment has lead to all of us bursting out laughing. Was I really hungry at the time? Sleepy? Horny? Or just feeling left out? Or was it more serious? Perhaps the jealousy was a result of not trusting a new partner, or uncertainty in the situation as a whole.
Discussing this in an open, calm and free environment will usually lead to the strengthening of your partnership. While it can be daunting, there exists a real sexiness in this level of vulnerability and intimacy.
So, go on. Be brave and talk about your jealousy. But do it after the emotion has passed, with clear heads, lots of support, and in the loving partnership that makes polyamory so amazing!