ZAPoly Discussion Topic : Jealousy in Polyamory
Jealousy? Possessiveness? How does this whole thing work?
According to wikipedia jealousy typically refers to the
thoughts,feelings, and behaviors that occur when a person believes a
valued relationship is being threatened by a rival. Jealousy is
distinct from envy... it concerns something one has and is afraid of
losing, while envy concerns something one does not have and either he
wants to acquire (non malicious envy) or he wants the other(s) not to
have (malicious envy)
Jealousy is particularly relevant to polyamory. It is one of the first
things people ask about. 'How does that work? Don't you get jealous?"
or... "Oh I'm too jealous, so I could never do that."
Our dominant culture has some pretty messed up ideas regarding
jealousy.... that jealousy is proof of love... that acts of violence
are excusable by feelings of jealousy. There's a whole mythology that
clearly implies that control, jealousy, possessiveness and love all go
hand in hand. In the face of this monolith of negativity, how
do polyamorous people handle jealousy?
Well, you pretty much have to change the way you think of jealousy to
handle it. If you think of it as a tool instead of a wall, you're
When you get right down to it and really dissect what jealousy is, you
notice that the bad feelings that people call jealousy are actually a
whole bunch of emotions - it is an umbrella term for a complicated slew
of things - insecurity, fear, anger, and envy.. And if you
identify and address each issue making up the jealousy, it usually goes
For example. Say for instance Dymitrje starts dating some fictional
person called Sue. I suddenly feel very jealous. I tell Dymitrje and we
sit down and talk about it. After some discussion we figure out that
what's bugging me is that Dymitrje is spending a whole bunch of time
with Sue that he used to spend with me. So we work out a schedule in
which I get enough alone time with Dymitrje. As soon as my needs are
met, I feel better about the situation. Sorted.
The key word here is "enough". You have to have a fair amount of self
knowledge to prod yourself and figure out what your needs and
boundaries are, and its up to you to assert them.
Another example. Say for instance I start dating some fictional person
called Paul. Dymitrje feels really jealous and he lets me know about
it. We talk about it and figure out that Dymitrje is feeling insecure -
he has a fear that I'm going to leave him for Paul. I reassure Dymitrje
that that's highly unlikely - and I go out of my way to act
consistently and responsibly so that he believes what I say and start
to feel less insecure. Sorted.
See? It is a process, and if you have a commitment to working these
things out, its doable.
Jealousy is everyone’s issue. Not just the person feeling them.
Everyone has a responsibility to work through it.
So basically jealousy is not a unique emotion to itself, it is a
combination of unpleasant feelings. Jealousy is a secondary symptom -
it means something else is going on.
A good example of something that causes jealousy is lack of
communication. If I don't feel like I know what's going on, I
get incredibly jealous, because I imagine far more than is really
happening – fear of the unknown. One thing to remember though....
sometimes your jealousy is actually a red flag that you _are_ in danger
of losing something... your partner _is_ about to ditch you for the new
shiny, or someone _is_ trying to "steal away" your partner from
you. But this should not be the first assumption you jump to.
Also, don't assume "real" polyamorous people don’t feel jealousy. They
probably do, but just handle it differently.
- Try not to lump all those feelings together and simplify as one
emotion, "jealous". Instead tackle each emotion separately. The reasons
why you are jealous are most likely valid.
-Once you have all your issues listed out, then go to your partner and
discuss it with them. Communicate! You may discover that your
conclusions, are not in fact reality. Ask your partner to help you
through these issues because it is pretty hard to do all on your own.
The bonus of all this processing is that by doing it, you strengthen
your relationship. You get to know things about each other and build
each other's trust through adversity. Communications skills are a
polyamorous person's most useful thing ever.
There are a lot of useful URLS on the internet about jealousy in
polyamory. I've included a list of some below.
(good section on
Reid Mihalko's "Day of Jealousy" phone calls :
and had this review of what advice was in them :
1. Examining your jealousy gives you an opportunity to get to the root
of what is making you feel jealous and working on that emotion
(feelings of abandonment, loss, anger, feeling threatened, self-esteem
2. Discussing jealousy can strengthen a couples "bond".
3. Unfortunately, jealousy is socially acceptable. It's more socially
acceptable for a man who walks-in on his wife having sex with another
man to murder them than to cry about it and walk away. He's almost
"expected" to act violently!
4. Jealousy is always telling you something, and you need to listen.
5. It makes you feel vulnerable to admit you're not in control of your
emotions, or to admit that you feel inferior to another person.
6. Examine your "expectations" in your relationships. All relationships
are based on someone's expectations of some sort.
Example: "We've been together for 6 months now, and he hasn't dated
anyone else in that time, so that must mean we're exclusive…and I
expect him to feel the same way".
If an expectation is not being met it can bring on feelings of
jealousy. Talk openly about it with your S.O..
7. Manage and limit your negative emotions by:
a) Having a primary loyalty to your primary relationship.
b) Go for "common ground" (Be careful about dating an exclusively
monogamous person if you are already in a polyamorous dyadic
c) Always be honest and up-front.
8. Take "ownership" of your emotions. It's not fair to say "YOU made me
feel jealous when you started dating so-and-so". Take
responsibility for your own feelings. "I felt jealous when you…" "I
feel insecure when…"
9. Be as generous, open, and inclusive as you can be in all your
relationships. Be fair. Don't expect more than you can give.
10. It's OK to feel jealous. Don't try to hide or "stuff" your feelings
of jealousy. Don't beat yourself up about feeling jealous. Be willing
to be vulnerable. Cry. Ask for hugs and support.
-- South African Polyamory http://www.polyamory.co.za
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