This topic has been coming up a lot lately. It’s a sticky one that claws at us. Pulls our hearts green and makes them hard. Nothing seems to pollute a loving relationship as effectively as jealousy.
What I am going to propose is probably edgy, especially if you’re feeling jealousy in your life right now, so take a deep breath and let’s go on an adventure.
Everyone does not experience Jealousy.
Jealousy is not permanent.
You don’t have to keep it,
If you don’t want to,
But you get to choose.
I don’t experience Jealousy. But for that to be useful to you, you’ll need the whole story. I used to have it. It would slink around in the back of my mind whispering to me. Fucking with my good will and spoiling my mood. It was sneaky and sinister. Often feeling like some sort of creature inside of me that simply wanted me to be in pain.
But I am fortunate to have grown up with role models that had done the work. People that I looked up to who were willing to breathe through it and move on. Move to the other side.
My parents for starters, even if they did experience jealousy, did a phenomenal job of always moving towards love and compassion. Support and a desire to honor each other and us. To give freedom and the benefit of the doubt. That’s a powerful lesson that I’m endlessly grateful for.
In my teens I spent a lot of time around one of my best friends’ families. They were polyamorous and her mother has two husbands. A triad of sorts. I would be lying if I said that jealousy wasn’t a thing that this family experienced. But I am still amazed at how rarely jealousy showed up by the grace and willingness with which they moved towards compersion. They’re still together.
What a lovely notion, compersion. To feel joy and excitement for a partner’s experiences with another partner. That’s the stuff of legend, my friends.
During those times I had a few long term girlfriends. And jealousy was definitely a thing. But it wasn’t until I dove into polyamory myself some years later that the real challenge began.
The difference between monogamous life and poly life is for an entirely different post, but as you are experiencing or can at least imagine, nothing brings your shadows to the foreground quite like openly and willingly sharing your partner.
I started in poly as a single guy. Lots of open, honest conversations. A few dates cut short. Conversations turned awkward. But mostly I’ve had some amazing experiences, and along the way I met a girl.
We dated for a time and eventually “became official”.
Naturally, we had an open relationship.
To make a long story shorter,
It was quite a process of exploration.
A relationship is a set of agreements. It’s the ways in which we choose to be together. And let me tell you…
We tried every set of agreements we could to make our freshly born open-relationship work.
Tell me everything.
Woah, don’t ask, don’t tell.
Ok wait, tell me before you go on a date.
Nope. Tell me after.
Nevermind, tell me after three dates.
Shit ok, tell me when you meet and we’ll see.
Give me details.
No no no. No details.
Ok, can I ask for details?
Tell me whatever you want.
Wait, give me a heads up before you start.
Ok, not that much heads up.
On and on it went. We reformulated until our heads turned blue. We read so many books, talked to experienced poly couples, went to parties. Yet something was always sneaking in the background.
Eventually it became clear that the sensations weren’t changing with the agreements. And then it hit, and this has become one of the founding principles of how I choose to be in relationship:
If I love a person, and I want to honor them, I must honor their freedom and sovereignty as much as my own. If I want to choose a thing, they have the choice as well. If I want to be a certain way, I cannot deny them that way. I want to be able to give them unconditional trust. And that requires that I do not restrict who they are at their most deepest. I want to give my partners unconditional love, and for that, I must endevour to remove conditions.
Jealousy became the obvious culprit.
We had been formulating agreements, thinking that’s what being in a poly relationship meant. But the entire time we had been creating a buffer between ourselves and the emotions we didn’t want to deal with. Didn’t want to feel.
It became a new journey.
No set agreements.
Be who you most want to be.
Give powerful support.
At first it felt harder. More nebulous. Instead of bumping up against agreements when she went on dates, I only had my own jealousy to talk to. And talk we did. I went in circles with myself. I did a lot of emotional thrashing. But I had committed to this process. There was no out, so I stayed in the room.
And the interesting thing is,
When you don’t give it an out,
When you don’t label it and leave it,
When you don’t avoid it,
Jealousy doesn’t last.
Now to be sure, Jealousy is a composite emotion.
It contains all that you love to share with your partner:
Appreciation. Attraction. Desire. Bonding. Attachment. Inside jokes.
And it contains all of your shadows:
Insecurity. Self Doubt. Loneliness. Comparison. Defensiveness. Fear of loss.
Jealousy is a deep, specific, particular sort of concoction on the sour side of emotion. It’s not accurate to call any of these ingredients jealousy on their own. It’s also not accurate to say that everyone’s jealousy has the same recipe.
We are, for better or worse, our own master chef.
As I stayed with my jealousy, I discovered my own recipe. I found the layers that were ruining my experience. I found the layers that were beautiful. So I went about the painstaking process of picking out the bits of dirt. Removing what didn’t taste good, so that I could send my girlfriend off on a date with that unconditional love I so deeply wanted to give. And it got really good. We tasted compersion and it was so, so sweet.
Eventually though, we separated for other reasons. I was in shock. Had a hard time accepting it. But our lives were going different directions, and she was ready to move on. It took me time, and one of the most profound periods of my life, but I moved on.
I continued being polyamorous, and have had many wonderful relationships both short and long since then. I had a realization years later: I hadn’t experienced jealousy since we moved through it. And even now, it’s still not an emotion I experience.
To be sure, this does not make me a saint. If anything, eradicating one of the big and glaringly obvious shadows just means all of it’s subtle little cousins can sneak about. I’m not even sure there are names for most of them. But they’re there and I’m still working on becoming more like I want to be in life.
And at the end of the day, most of my discomfort comes from self reflection. Nobody competes with me as well as I do. Nobody confronts me as much as I can. I am my own biggest challenge. And along with that comes a lovely mix of complex situations that draw out my shadows.
I’ve found that being specific with what I’m experiencing makes it easier to find, process, and remove that which I don’t want. Or at least lessen and loosen it.
And I have seen others move through this. Which means you can, too.
For what it’s worth I’ll say it again.
Everyone does not experience Jealousy.
Jealousy is not permanent.
You don’t have to keep it, if you don’t want to,
But you get to choose.
And the choice to relinquish it is a process. I got lucky. I had the role models I needed, the partners that made it possible, and a natural tendency to compete with myself before others. But others have done it as well, with plenty of different circumstances.
I can’t say what’s right, only that there’s an option,
And there are tools out there for you to use.
My dearest Brittany even wrote a course with her partner Conor on their experience of moving through and past jealousy. If you’re one of those “need a guide book but not a guide” types, it’s really well done.
And for what it’s worth here are some things I learned on my own path. Take them for what they’re worth to you, leave them if they’re not worth much… we learn by sharing with each other.
❄️🐺 Discomfort around others is not always jealousy. Jealousy is rarely comfortable.
❄️🐺 What might look like jealousy from the outside, or feel like jealousy from your side, can be a number of emotional and energetic states in another person. Ask more questions.
❄️🐺 Jealousy is almost always connected to love and appreciation. Look for the motives before tossing out the entire mess.
❄️🐺 Comparison sometimes leads to jealousy. Other times it leads to introspective self criticism. Notice when you are doing it, and look for the results.
❄️🐺 Jealousy is externally driven when internal awareness falters. Feeling for your current state can help move you through it.
❄️🐺 Don’t be ashamed to admit whatever shadow is moving through you. When exposed to the light of your awareness, they don’t last long.
❄️🐺 In relationships, we do the best for our partner when we practice being calm, gentle, respectful, clear… we move towards unconditional trust in this way. But some energy is better left charged, and so it is also valuable to develop durability. The ability to stay present and respectful while our partner moves something with charged energy is an asset. Both of these combined is a gift.
I look at this list -it’s helpful to write it out again- and I know that I don’t always nail it. I wonder if I should even share this post.
But seeing so many people working through jealousy,
Or believe that they are stuck with it for life,
I can’t help but wonder if there’s something useful here.
And while someone is using this for their processing,
I’ll be over here working on something else.
Because that’s what it’s about.
So in good faith,
This is for you.
May your journey be smooth,
And your growth be assured.
Onward and upward.
PS, if you made it this far, you’re a trooper. Share your experience with Jealousy or other similar feelings. Any good tips we can all use is fantastic!