Nearly everyone deals with jealousy once in a while.
After spending the last four years exploring consensual non-monogamy, I still haven’t mastered it. When you have multiple concurrent romantic or sexual relationships, people tend to assume that jealousy doesn’t (or shouldn’t) affect you. But it can – and it’s a persistent feeling, with as many heads as we have fears, insecurities, and doubts. It can show up in the most innocuous of situations, and in those times we can be left wondering what it is that is bothering us so much.
It takes courage to admit difficult emotions and even more when trying to overcome them. It takes bravery and patience to sit with our feelings and use them to improve our relationships both with ourselves and with others.
I like to think of jealousy as a composite feeling as if it had multiple parts and components, numerous iterations and displays. Jealousy is nothing more than our fears, doubts or insecurities, most times. We feel threatened, left out, and excluded, and jealousy is right there to help us through it. We think horrible things and react badly, jumping to conclusions before giving others a chance to explain.
The first few times I felt jealous in a non-monogamous context, I brooded, convinced that I was going to be abandoned and that that was proof I was in fact as unlovable as I thought I was. I would detach emotionally whenever I felt jealous because I thought no one could possibly love me when they had other people.
Picking apart these feelings can seem like a waste of time, but we have so much to gain from this. So, next time you feel a tinge of jealousy, remind yourself that things are more complicated than they appear – that humans, such as yourself, have more layers than we realize. Stop for a minute, breathe in deep and try to make a bit more sense of what you’re feeling.
Don’t take this as an indication to pin it all on your partner or to try to find out what movement triggered your rage so you can forbid it. Try instead to just figure out what you’re feeling. And talk to your partner about it in a way that is not blaming but loving.
Don’t be afraid of asking for help in processing these feelings. Each time I do, it results in a more secure connection and better communication in my relationships.
When we try to combat jealousy through the so-called regular routes, we usually worsen the problem for ourselves and others. We either don’t talk about it and hold our feelings to ourselves, eventually exploding; or we blame our partner for our feelings, displacing both anger and responsibility. I’ve definitely done both and I can assure you it didn’t work.
Our emotions are not our partner’s fault unless they’ve broken agreements. We must learn to sit with our feelings, to quietly and compassionately pick jealousy apart. Ask yourself what you’re feeling around it: is it discomfort, insecurity, fear?
For me, it’s usually a combination of fear of abandonment and inadequacy that rips through me. I feel it immediately, this hot white rage that wants to detach emotionally and feels hurt and small and mad. If I listened to it, I would’ve left too many partners behind in crowded rooms. Instead, what I try to do is take a deep breath, find someone to talk to or go to my partner and ask for reassurance.
The third one is still the hardest one; I’m very used at processing feelings by myself, bottling them up and labeling them as I please. Asking for support or reassurance is very foreign, and I still feel weird about doing it. But when I do it, I get a great response and feel better immediately.
Whether you’re non-monogamous, single, or monogamous, engaging with your jealousy is important. Many skills can be freely adapted across relationship styles, structures, and orientations. Humans will be humans, and we tend to have similar fears, doubts, and hesitations when relating to each other. Whatever fear you’re clinging to, someone feels the same way, believe me.
We can’t guarantee our relationships will last forever and we can’t guarantee that they will never change. Loving includes a degree of risk that we need to be willing to take so we can allow ourselves to relate to each other honestly. We might not like it, but we need to deal with it. And, in my opinion, honest relationships and fulfilling love are worth it.
So, go on, face your fears and love deeply without hesitation.