Polyamory 201: Dancing with Jealousy

Jul 17, 2019


Hi, everyone! I’m Dr. Liz and welcome back to my Polyamory 201 Series. Today, I’m talking about jealousy. Now, I’m sure those of you who have been doing polyamory for a little while have run into several times where jealousy has popped up for you. And I’m also sure that when you talk to your monogamous friends about what it is that you are doing, you got the same question I get asked every time I talk to a monogamous person about my non-monogamy, “But what about jealousy? Don’t you feel jealous? I could never do that. I’m just too jealous.”

I’m being melodramatic. I get that. But also, I feel that jealousy is this weird emotion that we treat completely differently than literally any other emotion. There’s no other emotion within relationships that we avoid literally everything for because we want to avoid that emotion. We would never say, “You know, I don’t want to feel angry ever. So you’re not ever allowed to do anything that will ever make me angry.”

We assume that anger is going to come up at some point in relationships that we are going to have to talk about it and deal with it and we hope that they don’t make us angry super regularly. But we don’t ever say that a relationship is a problem if you ever feel angry or that if you’ve ever felt angry once, they can never ever, ever do the thing again. It’s so complicated in relationships.

Jealousy is a normal emotion. It is perfectly normal to feel jealousy. And I’m like a lot of folks who write and talk in the non-monogamy sphere. I don’t believe that it’s a worthwhile goal to try to get past jealousy altogether forever and ever amen. Jealousy happens. Jealousy is real. For some folks, there is a greater predisposition towards jealousy than there is for other folks. And that doesn’t make you wrong or bad or not good at this or not suited to non-monogamy. It just means that you’re going to have more work to support yourself when you’re feeling those feelings. And that you may have to make different request of your partners to help you deal with those feelings.

I think of jealousy and what is often called opposite compersion, which for those of you who don’t know, compersion is joy for another person’s joy. A lot of folks in the poly sphere talk about these as opposites that you can feel jealousy or compersion. You’re either upset about what someone is getting or you’re happy about it. And I find that those are actually separate emotions that combine for a lot of folks. It’s not as simple as, “I’ve stopped feeling jealous, now I feel only compersion.”

It’s often more, “I’ve trained myself how to find compersion even when I’m feeling jealousy.” So let me give you an example. One of my more recent partners had an interaction with someone that changed her agreements about their areas and he didn’t talk to me about it before he made that decision. After that point, I started noticing that when he told me about playing with other people, I was feeling a lot more jealousy. It was much harder for me to find my compersion. And that’s weird for me because compersion is my super power. I’m so good at being happy for other people getting super laid and having all the hot dates that they want.

So what I had to do in that situation was notice my jealousy, find a way to accept it and honor that that’s a feeling that I’m having and then find ways to choose compersion so that I can build that behavior in addition.

Ways you can choose compersion are about finding out like phrases or key terms or mantras that you can say to yourself to help remind you to be compersive. These could be phrases like, “When my partner gets more love, there’s more love to go around. I value my partner’s autonomy and support them in their decisions. My partner loves me and I know they’re always coming back for me.”

Or to ask questions that are going to help you understand their experience and see their joy so you can be a party their joy. And I think a large piece of jealousy is also about unpacking where that jealousy comes from for us.

For me, the jealousy in this situation was about feeling like my wants and needs weren’t being considered when he was out with other folks. Part of a tacit agreement of non-monogamy is that if I’m not going to tell you want to do with your body and police your body, it’s important that I can trust that when you’re making your decisions, you are considering how those decisions are going to affect me.

And my partner in this situation explicitly said that he hadn’t even thought about how it would affect. He hadn’t considered how I would feel about it or it might affect our relationship. And knowing that I hadn’t been considered was for me the trigger of the jealousy. Sure, it was kind of funky that he had made a change to our barrier agreements like that happens. It was much more that he didn’t think that I would want to talk with him about it first. It was much more that he didn’t even consider that I might make a change for me in terms of how I approach our relationship. So for me, one of the jealousy triggers was feeling like I wasn’t being considered, feeling like I was forgotten.

I think when we feel jealous, a lot of times what we are feeling is a mix of other things in addition to that simple jealousy. We are feeling the insecurities that we have. For instance, the person that that partner changed our barrier agreements with is someone who is a lot thinner than me. And even though I think I have a great body and I get a lot of positive reinforcement on my body, I was raised in a thinspiration, thin-focused, fat-phobic culture.

And so when my partner plays with someone who is thinner, there are pieces of me that worry that maybe the fat I have on my body is a problem. This partner in particular talked a lot about how hot certain of his current or former partners were but all the ones he talked about in that way were thin, really thin, and I’m not. I mean I’m not problematic in my body. My body is beautiful. But think is not a thing that I am and think is not a thing I’ll ever be. That’s just not how my body works.

My insecurity was driving a piece of that jealousy. My insecurity that this person was prettier or better or that someone that will make my partner like me less was driving a piece of that jealousy.

When we think about what it is that’s pushing that jealousy forward, what’s driving it, what’s underlying it, we start to have the power to examine, explore it, and change it. And that is so helpful and so essential.

And again, when we choose compersion, when we are offered the opportunity to choose jealousy or choose compersion and we decide to find joy in our partner’s joy, that gives us a boost. It gives us the ability to change how we are feeling and to move forward.

I’ve got some great stuff in my book about how to build compersion and I’ll put a link here to where you can find the worksheets and where you can purchase the book as well. And if you have questions about jealousy or how to overcome jealousy or how to – overcome isn’t necessarily the goal. But how to make friends with your jealousy, how to dance with it, and rather than letting it run you, please put them here on the comments and I will respond to you as soon as I can.

I’m loving this Poly 201 Series and I totally want to know what you all want to hear about in my Polyamory 201. So if there’s a topic that you’ve been thinking about that you’re not sure about or that you would want to hear a video on, please let me know. I’m always happy to take your suggestions.

And finally, I am in inviting all of you to come join me on Patreon so that you can help support videos like this and help me put out high quality content to education folks from all walks of life about how to have better relationships and great sex because great sex can change the world.

All those links will be on the show notes. As always, I’m Dr. Liz and I’ll see you next time. Bye!

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