We’ve discussed a little about polyamory and what it entails in other posts, but for a quick review. Polyamory is the idea that multiple loving relationships can be sustained concurrently. Polyamory is not cheating as cheating implies a certain amount of non-consent by one or more of the parties involved. Now, what I really want to discuss today is one of the biggest pitfalls encountered in polyamory: jealousy.
Let’s start with a dictionary.com definition.
1. jealous resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself.
2. mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry,unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.
3. vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.
4. a jealous feeling, disposition, state, or mood.
Ok, so now we have defined jealousy, but if you look at all of these definitions, they’re actually more of an umbrella of emotions that we lump under the term jealousy. So my first piece of advice when you’re feeling what you think is jealousy is to take some time by yourself to reflect on exactly what you’re feeling and why you are feeling this way. Take a walk, listen to some music, or just sit in the sun. It doesn’t matter what you do. The important thing is to do some self reflection and work out exactly how you feel.
A big misconception about polyamory is that none of the people involved ever feel jealous and everyone is always happy no matter who their partner(s) is(are) with. I can tell you from personal experience and the experiences of many others that this is not the case. We all deal with bouts of jealousy. The difference is how it is handled. The next thing you need to do is allow yourself to feel these emotions whether it is anger, frustration, sadness, envy, whatever. Emotions are not bad or evil and it perfectly okay to feel negative emotions, so give yourself permission to feel however you are feeling.
Do you know what emotion you are actually feeling now? Good, now comes the hard part, figuring out how to deal with it. One of the most common emotions that is often confused with jealousy is envy, which tends to be a whole lot easier to deal with, so let’s have another definition.
1. a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.
2. an object of envious feeling
If envy is what you’re feeling, why are you feeling it? Is your partner doing something with another partner that they aren’t with you? Are they spending more time with a different partner and not meeting your personal needs? If so, generally this is an easy fix, all you have to do it talk to them. In order to be effective, it is better to use “I” statements such as “I have wanted to try (insert action here) and I feel a little bit envious that I haven’t gotten to try it yet” rather than “You always do (insert action here) with (partner’s name) but not with me”. In the first statement, you are taking responsibility for your own emotions and your partner is much more likely to be receptive in contrast to using the accusation in the second statement. Talk out what you want with your partner, perhaps come to a compromise. Maybe you want something that your partner is unwilling or even incapable of doing, since it is a polyamorous relationship, you can talk about adding in another partner that can fulfill that need for you. That is the joy of polyamory, one person doesn’t have to be everything for you.
If you aren’t feeling envy, you can still use similar steps to sort out the problem. Are you perhaps angry that you are feeling left out and not getting enough time with your partner? Again, take time to figure out how you feel and why you feel that way. Then bring it to their attention using “I” statements. “I have been feeling lonely lately, can we make an effort to spend more time together?” rather than “You never spend time with me anymore, don’t you love me?”.
Polyamorous relationships are a challenge, but well worth the difficulties. It is important to remember that emotions are part of being human and it’s okay to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling, but it’s equally important to share these feelings with your partner(s) are they are the one that can help you deal with them and they are the ones that can help you change any problems in the relationship. Communication really is the key to making polyamory work.
What other pitfalls do you find in relationships?