Published originally for Vivid&Brave in September of 2015.
For a long time I’ve talked about owning my own issues and working through them. I’ve written several articles about polyamory for Vivid and Brave now. Many of them discuss jealousy, dealing with issues that arise, and the like.
Recently I’ve had some new situations in my own poly life that have lead me to re-examine a lot of what I *thought* I knew about polyamory. In doing so, and in discussing it with others who have been there or are going through it as well, I’m finding that there is an issue in polyamory that is discussed, but somehow at the same time, glossed over. That issue is jealousy.
Read any book or article on polyamory, any “questions from readers”, and you will see jealousy come up – a lot. And it *is* discussed, but not in as much detail as I would prefer. The typical answer you see, and I’m guilty of brushing people off with this answer myself, is “There is jealousy in polyamory but we find healthier ways of dealing with it.” Now, this is true. There is jealousy in poly. We do find healthy ways to deal. But that explains nothing of the process that gets us there, a process that some of us have to restart every time a new person or a new situation comes into our poly family or our world in general.
While the process is different for each person, a theme I am discovering is that jealousy very much exists for nearly everyone, and sometimes it’s more than a little bit. People I thought were “experts” at this came forward to tell me how stressed they felt when their partner found a new dating interest. The feelings ranged from anger to abandonment to anxiety, and all over the place.
Knowing this exists is the first step. What to do about it is the second. The solutions to issues like this can be very different for each person or couple (or triad or quad, etc) of course. We are all such individuals and we deal with jealousy in just that way – individually and uniquely.
I had one friend suggest journaling. When you’re feeling that itch of jealousy, sit down and write about everything that is happening in reality and everything that you are feeling in your head and heart. Then when you are feeling more calm you can go back and read it to analyze the emotions and where they came from.
Others suggest planning your own date night at the same time your partner is going out. Another thought is to spend that evening doing something you enjoy, some hobby you’ve taken up. Or perhaps you go out with a bunch of friends that night and have a fun evening out.
One thing I do hear often is that jealousy is often a symptom of something else. Maybe it’s something going on with you or maybe it’s something going on with your relationship. I don’t believe this to always be the case. I am in the best relationship I’ve ever been in. We are nearing our year and a half and still so thoroughly entrenched in NRE (New Relationship Energy) and disgusting with each other that we joke we give our friends type 2 diabetes just fromand hanging around with us. We have a healthy dynamic, we fight rarely if ever, we are on the same page with parenting our kids, we have an amazing and wonderful life together full of sexiness and fun and intelligent conversations.
Yet, when my Anchor started dating I fell apart. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with – the thought of sharing him with someone else. And at the same time he’s such a wonderful guy that there’s a part of me who knows others deserve to experience that as well. His first date with someone else broke all the “rules” we’d come up with, and we didn’t have many. It made me rethink if such things were necessary, more necessary, not necessary at all. When my ex and I dabbled in polyamory it was the opposite. I didn’t really mind what he did or who he went out with. I loved him, still do, but I didn’t worry about losing him because we weren’t at the best place in our marriage.
What has gotten me through my partner dating a couple of people now? Nothing yet, to be quite honest. I am still working on my jealousy and insecurity. We have talked it over many times and we both come to the same conclusion – we don’t want to be monogamous and so we are finding ways to make this poly thing work, even if we change it up a bit. When he is on a date, I go over “my truths”. It’s a basic list of facts I can say to myself that comfort me. I’ve found things like “He loves me”, “We have a great life together”, etc to be fairly helpful. At the end of the day, I am still learning and adjusting. What works for me may not work for others. And all the advice I’ve gotten from friends who have gone through the same thing hasn’t really helped me all that much, to be honest. What helps is that my Anchor and I communicate, we discuss things together, we process together after one of us has a date night, and we are always there for one another. Despite all this, the jealousy is still there.
One common thing I have heard from nearly everyone I’ve talked to about this, and I’ve talked to a lot of people, is that it does get better. There is that one date night where you finally “get it”. You get compersion, you feel it yourself, you are happy for your partner and their other partner. Maybe your metamour (your partner’s partner) becomes like family. Maybe they don’t. Maybe you are friendly, or maybe you aren’t. But you can still feel the joy for other people. And it’s this that keeps me going. Knowing that I do feel that, I have felt it, I *can* feel it, and I will feel this compersion again, and it will be wonderful.