Soliloquy and Baxter, at KimchiCuddles.com, are based on
real-life former partners of the artist. (Used by permission.)
Stuff about poly is spreading around the web too fast to keep up with, but I've noticed something. The first thing people new to the subject often think of is jealousy, and nowadays they often know that polyfolks have a certain philosophy about it: that you can tame jealousy and manage it, by self-examination and by forthrightly asking your partners and metamours for help.
Moreover, goes the philosophy, you can use your jealous feelings for two good purposes:
– Analyzing your own fears, insecurities and triggers, and
– As an early warning sign of actual problems that your gut has sensed before your brain.
The trick is figuring out which of those two opposites is in play. We never said this was easy.
Any kind of relationship is more likely to thrive if you enter it with self-knowledge, first-rate communication skills (learnable
), fearlessness, generosity, and high integrity. In particular, cultivating these traits help you find partners who share them. But poly kind of forces the issue. Regarding jealousy in particular.
So it's a big oversight that I haven't said anything yet about Kathy Labriola
's book The Jealousy Workbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationships
, published by Greenery Press last September.
Labriola has professionally counselled hundreds of poly individuals and groups in the Bay Area for more than 20 years. Drawing on this long practice, she has compiled a big (8½ by 11 inch) open-relationship jealousy workbook with 42 practical exercises. They are embedded in chapters on determining whether an open relationship is really right for you, understanding your jealousy and its roots, finding its triggers, determining whether it might be appropriate for the situation at hand, and intervention strategies for managing jealousy and addressing the common real problems it may signal. The book includes chapters on best-practice communication skills, and jealousy tips and techniques from other professionals who have expertise in open relationships.
My opinion: This wise, readable, and practical book deserves to become a standard text in the poly world.
Here's what Anita Wagner, a poly activist who has been giving jealousy workshops of her own
for many years, had to say about the book at Poly Living East last February:
It may be the most important book ever written to serve the interests of polyamorists. I couldn’t wait to receive my copy, and I wasn’t disappointed. Exercise examples include the basic (Exercise Two, Clarifying Your Relationship Orientation) to more challenging (Exercise Thirty-Four, Imaging Looking Through Their Eyes and Being in Their Shoes.) [In Anita's workshop at Poly Living] we will break out into groups and try out some of the 42 excellent exercises Labriola has devised for helping make jealousy less vexing and our relationships more drama-free.
Here's a review
by Dave Hall, poly activist since ever, in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality
Dawn Davidson of Love Outside the Box
has also done poly jealousy coaching and seminars for many years. She snagged Labriola to co-host three audio webinars that you can listen to here
with the author.
Labriola also wrote the excellent book Love In Abundance: A Counselor's Advice On Open Relationships
(Greenery Press, 2010).
More recently.... Here's a piece on dealing with outsiders' questions by a "geeky, poly, kinky, and curiously intuitive rationalist." It appeared six weeks ago and is getting shared around the interwebs. She says, "Every single one of these answers is true for me." Pick one for any occasion.
Ten Responses To “But Don’t You Get Jealous?”
“But if your partner can have other partners, don’t you get jealous?”
1. Of course.
2. Yeah, but it’s not like I didn’t get jealous when I was in monogamous relationships. Monogamy isn’t a cure for jealousy, it’s just a different set of circumstances in which to experience it.
3. Yes, but I also open myself up to situations that can cause jealousy when I have friends who are friends with other people.... The thing is... they also enrich my life in enormous ways that I would never in a million years trade away.
4. Yes I do, and certainly there are some situations I’m going to get into as a result of being poly that are going to be really difficult, and be a potentially stronger trigger for jealousy than most situations I might get into while being monogamous. For some people, myself included, that comes with the territory.
5. Yes, and yes, sometimes it really bothers me. It also means I get more opportunities to face it head-on. The times when jealousy is really bad are the times when I am forced to examine where it comes from, and to learn about it, and, in the process, to learn about me.
6. Yes, but it also means I get to unlearn one of the worst root causes of jealousy for me. For me, poly provides an opportunity to unlearn this culturally ingrained habit of thinking oppositionally. When I was monogamous, and someone I was interested in decided they wanted to go out with someone else, it was easy to feel like that was because I wasn’t good enough — that I wasn’t as attractive or interesting as that other person. Being poly, though, means that when someone decides they don’t want to date me, it isn’t because some other person is “better”. If they’re poly, it means that they could date me anyway, which means that I don’t have to think about my rejections in the frame of “I’m just not as good as that other person is.” I get to practice thinking about them in the frame of “Something just didn’t work between this person and me.”.
7. Absolutely, but although I may sometimes feel jealousy about my partners’ partners, I also sometimes meet them, and talk to them, and make new friends....
8. Of course, but the same situations that sometimes cause jealousy can also teach me things about sex and relationships that I never would have learned otherwise. Maybe my partner has a kind of sex with one of their other partners that they’ve never had with me.... I get an opportunity to learn how to do that. Maybe my partner communicates with one of their other partners in a way I haven’t tried.... iIt gives me an opportunity to learn a new way to communicate, too.
9. Yes, but this is what I want. This is the way that I want my relationships to look, and if dealing with jealousy is something I’m going to have to work on in order for my relationships to look the way that I want, then it’s something I’m going to have to work on.
10. Yes, and it’s worth it.
(April 1, 2014)
Two polyfolks explain on HuffPost Live (2-minute video):
Ian Danskin and Aida Manduley joined HuffPost Live to share how they deal with jealousy in their polyamorous relationship. One important step that Manduley described was "acknowledging that jealousy might happen, then figuring out how to deal with it."
Manduley went into depth with HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani about what jealousy can mean in a polyamorous situation, questioning whether "jealousy is really code for other things," and stressing the need to ask what is really missing.
"What am I feeling like I need out of this relationship that I'm not currently getting? Do I have fears of being left behind? Is this person getting more time?" she asked.
Danskin's approach to combating jealousy was to look inwards at what else he's missing in the relationship.
"I don't necessarily think someone is going to get more of Aida's affection, because I don't think of affection as a depleting resource," he said....
Relationship coach Robyn Vogel's How to Embrace Jealousy in Open Relationship
(at Digital Romance, April 19, 2014).
Continuing right along, Reid Mihalko's "Day of Jealousy" phone calls
. Greenfizzpops writes, "I found this review of what advice was in them:"
1. Examining your jealousy gives you an opportunity to get to the root of what is making you feel jealous and work on that emotion (feelings of abandonment, loss, anger, feeling threatened, self-esteem issues, etc).
2. Discussing jealousy can strengthen a couple's "bond".
3. Unfortunately, jealousy is socially acceptable. It's more socially acceptable for a man who walks in on his wife having sex with another man to murder them than to cry about it and walk away. He's almost "expected" to act violently.
4. Jealousy is always telling you something, and you need to listen.
5. It makes you feel vulnerable to admit you're not in control of your emotions, or to admit that you feel inferior to another person.
6. Examine your "expectations" in your relationships. All relationships are based on someone's expectations of some sort.
Example: "We've been together for 6 months now, and he hasn't dated anyone else in that time, so that must mean we're exclusive…and I expect him to feel the same way". If an expectation is not being met it can bring on feelings of jealousy. Talk openly about it.
7. Manage and limit your negative emotions by:
a) Having a primary loyalty to your primary relationship.
b) Go for "common ground" (Be careful about dating an exclusively monogamous person...).
c) Always be honest and up-front.
8. Take "ownership" of your emotions. It's not fair to say, "YOU made me feel jealous when you started dating so-and-so". Take responsibility for your own feelings. "I felt jealous when you…" "I feel insecure when…"
9. Be as generous, open, and inclusive as you can be in all your relationships. Don't expect more than you can give.
10. It's OK to feel jealous. Don't try to hide or "stuff" your feelings of jealousy. Don't beat yourself up about feeling jealous. Be willing to be vulnerable. Cry. Ask for hugs and support.
You can tell that jealousy is a prime issue in the poly world by all the discussion it gets. And you can tell that the standard poly wisdom about it is on target by how many different people in different places come to the same conclusions about what works.
The indefatigable Greenfizzpops published notes from a poly discussion group in Durban, South Africa. If you read nothing else here, read this:
...Jealousy is distinct from envy. It concerns something one has and is afraid of losing, while envy concerns something one does not have and either wants (non-malicious envy) or just wants the other(s) not to have (malicious envy).
Jealousy is one of the first things people ask about. "How does that work? Don't you get jealous?" or "Oh I'm too jealous, so I could never do that."
Our dominant culture has some pretty messed up ideas regarding jealousy.... that jealousy is proof of love... that acts of violence are excusable by feelings of jealousy. There's a whole mythology that control, jealousy, possessiveness and love all go hand in hand. In the face of this monolith of negativity, how do poly people handle jealousy?
Well, you pretty much have to change the way you think of it to handle it. If you think of it as a tool instead of a wall, you're halfway there.
When you really dissect what jealousy is, you notice that the bad feelings that people call jealousy are actually a whole bunch of emotions, an umbrella term for a complicated slew of things — insecurity, fear, anger, envy... and if you identify and address each issue making up the jealousy, it usually goes away.
For example, let’s say Dymitrje starts dating Sue. I suddenly feel very jealous. I tell Dymitrje and we sit down and talk about it. After some discussion, we figure out that what's bugging me is that Dymitrje is spending a whole bunch of time with Sue that he used to spend with me. So we work out a schedule in which I get enough alone time with Dymitrje. As soon as my needs are met, I feel better about the situation. Sorted.
The key word here is "enough". You have to have a fair amount of self-knowledge to prod yourself and figure out what your needs and boundaries are, and it's up to you to assert them.
Another example. Say I start dating Paul. Dymitrje feels really jealous and he lets me know about it. We talk about it and figure out that Dymitrje is feeling insecure — he has a fear that I'm going to leave him for Paul. I reassure Dymitrje that that's highly unlikely. [Notice that, being honest, she does not say it's impossible. That kind of honesty is actually reassuring, I've found, because it means the person says what is true. –Ed.] And then I go out of my way to act consistently and responsibly so that he believes what I say and start to feel less insecure. Sorted.
See? Its a process, and if you have a commitment to working these things out, its doable. Jealousy is everyone’s issue. Not just the person feeling it. Everyone has a responsibility to work through it.
Jealousy is not a unique emotion to itself, it is a combination of unpleasant feelings. Jealousy is a symptom — it means something else is going on.
A good example of something that causes jealousy is lack of communication. If I don't feel like I know what's going on, I get incredibly jealous, because I imagine far more than is really happening — fear of the unknown.
One thing to remember, though.... sometimes your jealousy is actually a red flag that you are in danger of losing something... your partner is about to ditch you for the new shiny, or someone is trying to "steal away" your partner. But this should not be the first assumption you jump to. Never ascribe to malice what may be adequately explained by stupidity, and never ascribe to stupidity what may be adequately explained by thoughtlessness.
- Try not to lump all those feelings together and simplify as one emotion, "jealous". Instead tackle each emotion separately. The reasons why you are jealous are most likely valid.
- Once you have all your issues listed out, go to your partner and discuss it with them. Communicate! You may discover that your conclusion are not in fact reality. Ask your partner to help you through these issues, because its pretty hard to do all on your own.
The bonus of all this processing is that by doing it, you strengthen your relationship. You get to know things about each other and build each other's trust through adversity. Communication skills are a polyamorous person's most useful thing ever.
She goes on to add,
There are a lot of useful URLS on the Internet about jealousy in polyamory. I include some below:
Whew. To lighten up in closing, here's The Five Stages of (Poly) Jealousy
from the Poly in Pictures comic. Enjoy.
Labels: books, jealousy