Jealousy is one of the most asked after things about polyamory. Not usually asked of me personally, but asked a lot in our Poly community's discussion groups and other workshops. So, this is my take on it. How do you deal with it, does it happen, how does your partner deal with it, etc
And as this is my take on jealousy it may not be entirely relevant to you. Who can tell but you.
I don't think I'm all that standard when it comes to jealousy, maybe I am. As an example I never have been jealous of my husband's male sexual contact. I just can't be jealous of a my husband and his male partners. I know of women who are or who have struggled with their male partner seeking or desiring male sexual contact but for me its not an issue... and here is the reason why, I think, this is the case for me.
For starters, I know my husband loves women. He loves men too, but he also loves women and when we first started out down this path, he wasn't ever likely to leave me for a man. And really that's the core of it. Whatever I can write here about jealousy... the core message is security. If you are secure in your relationship, then jealousy becomes less and less of an issue.
Yes I do get jealous, but never of other men having relationships with my husband. So, what do I get jealous of? When I spoke to my husband about him seeing other women, I was terrified. I initiated the conversation because I'm a big believer in equity and fairness and he'd given me permission to pursue a man, so why shouldn't he have the same?
Basically I was afraid he'd find someone younger, smarter, sexier, more successful, prettier, etc than me. How did I deal with it? I talked to him and explained how I felt and tried very hard to listen to the reassurances he gave me. I put boundaries around his activities until I felt comfortable. He let me cry on him, he listened to me, I explained how I felt, he reassured me. He was patient and kind and I tried very hard to be patient with myself and not push myself beyond what I could cope with... knowing full well that now I had cracked open this door there was no easy way to close it, I had to deal with these emotions and move on.
My jealousies are generally insecurities. Some people's jealousies are other things, and I can't really comment on them, since I haven't experienced them. So until I feel really secure in a relationship, which takes its own time depending on the pace of the relationship, I can feel insecure when other (often newer) partners are involved. And I'm happy to label it insecurity versus jealousy, I'm happy to call it what it is. And I'm also happy to go out and seek that reassurance that I am special, unique, loved and needed for who I am. Because if I feel that, then I feel more secure.
Over time, this has helped me understand that I am unique and individual and what I offer to the world is unique and special. There are no other Rebeccas around who are like me, or anyone else around that is like me. So if someone loves me, then they love not only who I am, but what I offer. So when I feel insecure I need to remember that.
Which really is easier said than done. So when I can't quite get the whole "I am unique and no one else is like me, so I cannot be replaced", I go to my partner and tell them how I feel and ask them for reassurance.
It all goes back to the poly mantra "communicate, communicate, communicate". Polyamory is built on open, honest and dedicated communication. If you aren't happy talking at length about your feelings, your partners feelings, negotiation and compromises... then perhaps it isn't for you.
The one other jealousy I suffer from is jealousy of time. I love my partners and I want to spend time with them. If I can't spend time with them because they are spending time with other people, then I sometimes get jealous of that. The only way I've found to conquer this is to a) tell myself to be realistic and b) tell my partner that I miss them and organise to catch up with them as soon as we both can.
Another solution, which is probably not even remotely for everyone, is to live with all your partners. This works for me now. The vagaries of time and distance aren't so much of an issue for me any more. They're both around when I want them and need them, I can spend time with one or both. Its making me extremely happy, but as I said, this won't work for everyone, and in fact I think it'd be more likely to work for a very small minority. Not all poly relationships are built to be live in relationships and that's part of what polyamory is all about.
Ok... now for partners of jealous people - what role do you play? I think its really important to listen and be patient with your partner when they are suffering. You may feel that their fears are trivial because you know that you love them and that you're not going anywhere, but to them right now, their fears are huge and it takes a lot of effort to be willing to admit that to another person to begin with. Be ready to offer reassurance, but try to make sure they actually hear you. If they come back tomorrow and the next day and the next day with the same fears and concerns, then what you are saying isn't getting through and you may need to try another tactic.
There are many good online resources for communication and this one isn't a bad place to start if you think that their failure to hear you is hurting themselves.
So to summarise. Jealousy is a natural emotion, and often born out of other emotions within yourself. Its important to own your emotions and it is completely valid to ask for reassurance. I believe that if you can own your emotions you will find them much easier to deal with in the long run.
Jealousy fades the more secure you feel in a relationship. Finding the security in your relationships is an important thing to do, and if your relationship is insecure, then that's a whole separate kettle of fish. To find the security do not hesitate to ask difficult questions to find out what you need to know.
Boundary setting is not a bad way to start with dealing with jealousy, but once the boundaries start shifting and moving, as they will, you can't re-establish them without causing resentment - be very careful about that.
And finally, partners of jealous people need to be patient, gentle and willing to both listen and reassure.
Ok, I'm done for now. I'll post again when I have another topic in mind that inspires me to write. If someone wants my thoughts on a specific poly issue, they are very welcome to suggest some through the comments field.