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27 August, 2009

So Jealous, It's All I Can Do


Jealousy is the elephant in the room that you can't not discuss. It is not a problem I claim to have solved in my own life. For anyone who isn't either a powerhouse of confidence or capable of complete, unflappable trust, jealousy is bound to creep into the picture now and then. When I say "jealousy", I mean the cocktail of fear, insecurity and dread that flares up when someone perceives a threat to one of their romances. In a nonmonogamous relationship, it's a subject that must be addressed.

It seems that not everyone feels jealousy - at the very least, individuals feel it in all manner of different ways. But for people who do have the bug, it often takes a few familiar forms. There's that tightness in the chest, the accelerated heartbeat - one wants to act, but how? There's the wriggling worm of fear that squirms around one's ventricles and squeezes. Seeing your lover kiss someone else and exchange the tender looks that were once reserved only for you might set your hands to trembling. Perhaps at night, knowing that your lover will wake in another person's bed, a sense of loneliness - loss, even - steals over you. For some people, it's not half so much about sex as about the time and affection lavished on other partners.

People take any number of measures to avoid jealousy. A common theme is to structure the relationship in such a way that it's not really open. Something is allowed - only same-sex relationships, or sex without love, or love without sex - but whatever sore point triggers jealousy is packaged away and never touched. If that doesn't suit you (and it certainly doesn't suit me) then it's necessary to gird one's loins and ask, when something triggers a sense of jealousy, why does it do so? Jealousy might feel hellish, but it's doesn't arise through spontaneous generation. It's an arrow - a blinding, neon arrow, pointing to emotional issues somewhere in the relationship or in your emotional landscape at large.

The people I'm dating now both have some connection with other partners. Leilani is very explicitly head-over-heels for her other boyfriend, a longtime heartthrob who's the focus of her affections. When she talks about him, I don't feel a pang. It honestly doesn't bother me to know that I'm not her primary concern. But when Margaret, the focus of my affections, talks about her sometimes-lover, I sometimes feel the touch of that wriggling worm of fear. It's as though, with Leilani, she began turned away from me, and any time she turns my way is a bonus; I've come to take Margaret's love as such a foundation, though, that any threat of her turning away worries me. This, despite the fact that she's never given me any reason to suspect she won't turn right back to me. If I feel jealousy, it's unfounded. So, whence does it stem?

There's a tremendously insightful pdf called Practical Jealousy Management that's available from Franklin Veaux's website. It's from a conference on polyamory in 2006. Veaux is always clever and usually helpful, even if I do hate the pseudoSocratized way he structures his FAQ. The story of jealousy has a happy ending in that handout. Of course, gentle reader, if you should have advice, complaints or stories of your own, I'd love to hear those as well.

If addressing jealousy isn't your style, though, read on! Do I ever have the hand-out for you. That's right: you never need examine the roots of your own feelings again, with this splendid new guide to Making Relationships Suck! Yes, that's right! Soon you, too, can sabotage every loving relationship in your life, alienating your intimates, enraging their O.S.O.'s, and driving everyone around you completely insane! And don't think that this guide applies only to polyamory. Oh, no! This guide will illuminate all it takes to irreparably screw up even a single relationship. You may already be using some of these techniques! Rest assured, though, that these professional tricks of the trade will add richness, subtlety and panache to your romantic mindfuck.

Edit For Synchronicity: this post from Polyamory In The Media just happened to coincide with my topic for today. It comes with the Carl Jung Collective Seal of Unconscious Approval.

1 comment:

  1. For me, jealously strikes when thinking about my partner with other people in public. I'm fine thinking about him alone with other people, but if people were to see him with someone else being all couple-y, I feel like people would wonder what happened to me. Would they wonder if I was so easy to replace? Would they think my partner is cheating on me? Or worst of all, would they think my relationship isn't serious because my partner can date other people? That's what scares me.

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