"How Do I Get Past My Jealousy?": For Poly Newbies

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Like pain, jealousy is a symptom – not a diagnosis. If you have a stabbing ache in your heel, it could be bone spurs, it could be the onset of Lou Gehrig’s disease, or maybe it’s time to take off the stiletto heels.
Jealousy tells you there’s a problem.
It does not tell you where that problem lies.
And when poly newbies ask me for advice, often they say, “How can I get past the jealousy?”
The big question is, should you?
Look. Sometimes the problem is your insecurity. Your partner has showered you with love and attention, you know they’d be there if you really needed them, and yet somehow now that they’re out on a date you feel insignificant and small.
Those times, the diagnosis is “handle it on your own.” Yeah, it’s tempting to interrupt your partner’s good times to ease your own ache – but tromp on your partner’s happiness enough and eventually they start to resent you. And generally, you want your partner to come back from a date and be happy to see you, swept up in multiple loves, rather than feeling like they’ve had a good evening and now must pay the cost with you.
As such, most good polyamorous relationships involve a couple of lonelier-than-you’d like nights while they’re out having fun.
(I suggest getting together with friends. Or planning your own dates! And remembering the nights your partner’s presumably at home when you’re out having fun, and repay their generosity with your own, whenever possible.)
Yet jealousy is like pain. And this relentless focus on “getting past jealousy” often allows monsters to thrive.
Because if this jealous pain signifies an actual problem, the last thing you wanna do is “get past” it. If you’re hurt because your live-in boyfriend stayed at someone else’s house without calling home first, the “suck it up and deal” approach actually is terrible terrible advice.
Sometimes, you’re jealous because someone did something that ignored your needs, or treated you as disposable, or shoved you aside in favor of someone else, and that’s not okay. “Getting past” that is like the guy with shooting chest pains sitting in his chair and going, “All right, let’s muscle past this.”
The truth is, handling jealousy in a polyamorous relationships – particularly beginning ones – is really fucking tough. You need to do is to have the maturity to say, “Okay. I am crawling with jealousy right now. Why is that?”
And the answers to that are knotted with paradox. Swing to one of the extremes, and you’re doomed.
You have to realize that not every spasm of jealousy is anyone’s fault. Accidents happen between good people. Looking for a whipping boy for every bad feeling of yours will lead to disaster…
…yet you have to realize that some spasms of jealousy are someone’s fault because they’re treating you badly, and this jealousy is a pain that signifies a disrespect you should not tolerate.
You have to interrogate your own needs to say, “Yes, I am not afraid to ask for the baseline standards I require to remain happy in this relationship.” Even if they’re silly, or seem stupid, or you can’t properly explain why you need these things from your partner…
…yet you have to be careful not to shovel endless partner-sacrifices into a gaping maw of jealousy that will never close over. You have to know yourself well enough to not fall prey to slicing your lover to death by a thousand cuts, endlessly promising that this new thing they cannot do will somehow ease your pain when it won’t.
You have to look at whether you told your partner this was okay for them to do, and not blame them for acting on a willingly-given permission for something you now regret…
…yet you have to look your partner in the eyes sometimes and say, “Yeah, I thought I was gonna be all right with this, and I’m not, so I’m not blaming you for what you did but man I can’t handle that happening again right now.”
You have to be a bare-knuckle advocate for your own needs, unafraid to throw elbows when you see something that’s required to keep you sane and functioning…
…yet you have to have compassion and empathy for not just your partner but your partner’s partners, refusing to treat them like human dolls to be moved about for your amusement, remembering that they also have needs and working to negotiate towards a center that makes everyone happy, not just you.
All of that’s complex. But it starts with saying this:
“I’m jealous.
“What does that mean?”

1 Comment

  1. Dwiggs
    May 29, 2016

    Hey there,
    I just want to drop a ‘thank you’.
    A friend told me about your blog and this article in particular. Gosh I want to tell you way more than I should, but I’ll stick to ‘thank you’ instead.. This could otherwise turn into a comment longer than the article 🙂

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