The Polyamorists Next Door

Exploring the world of consensual non-monogamy

Jealousy and Compersion with Multiple Partners

Polyamorists often face jealousy and use several strategies to deal with it, such as freaking out and trying to control others, discussing it and facing the underlying fear or insecurity, or feeling compersion—happiness at a lover's happiness with someone else. Some polys say they don't feel jealousy, either because they didn't learn it or they aren't "wired" for it. Read More

Excellent article, a couple of points

Jealousy is ALWAYS about fear. If you are being neglected and are upset about it, that is not jealousy, it is justified anger regarding the neglect.

On a side note, I am one of those people who (almost) never feels jealous. I have been jealous twice int he last 10 years. Both times the emotion lasted less than 5 minutes and I was actually ashamed that I felt it once I realized the feeling.

The author is correct in asserting that those of us who don't feel jealous have a tendency to feel superior to those who do. It is an easy trap to fall into because in some ways it IS superior. People who are not jealous that I have met (there have not been many) generally don't experience the fear and have supreme self confidence and sense of self. I know that for a while this caused me to feel superior.

Then I realized that my anger struggles are just as bad if not worse, and that we all have our own shit to work on. Not getting jealous is a blessing, but it does not make me superior.

Good point

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I am glad to hear that my research reflects your experience, good sign. Brave of you to recognize your feelings of superiority and remind yourself of your own foibles as well.

Cheers, Elisabeth

other root causes for jealousy?

My pleasure Elisabeth, thanks for the response.

I am in a wonderful conversation about this article on Facebook (of all places) and one of the points of discussion is the root causes of jealousy.

In my experiences the root of all jealousy can be tracked to fear of one kind or another. I fully admit this is a non scientific and relatively low sample size though. In your studies, have you been able to identify other causes at the most fundamental level?

Causes of jealousy

Most of the folks I interview about jealous link it to fear or insecurity, which is another kind of fear. Most often it is fear of loss or scarcity, which is a realistic fear. When people are able to talk about it and face the fear, along with doing things to ameliorate the symptoms by making sure everyone is truly consenting and getting their needs met, then things can actually go pretty well. Lots of people mention the person growth they get from facing jealousy and working through their fears.

Sometimes people link jealousy with anger, not necessarily fear of loss but a more territorial response to perceived competition. You could easily argue that this anger is actually rooted in fear of loss, but the people who feel it tell me it is distinct from fear. Anger at being invaded, anger at the challenger, and anger at the beloved for even looking at someone else are all fairly common responses. The main thing for poly folks is how they respond to those feelings. A considered and communicative response is likely to foster smoother relationships than the "pee on my territory" response and so poly communities talk about how to learn to do that. Non-violent communication is essentially about facing fear instead of wielding it against others.

Thanks for reading, I appreciate your comments!

Cheers, Elisabeth

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Elisabeth Sheff, Ph.D., is an expert on polyamory and sexual-minority families with children.


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