Confronting Jealousy

Everyone faces jealousy at some point, and some manage it better than others.

Posted Feb 22, 2016

"Jealousy" by Antoine K (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Source: "Jealousy" by Antoine K (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jealousy is a fact of life, and since we were small children watching some other child open a birthday gift, most people have had to face it at some point. Monogamy is no guarantee against jealousy, and fear of partner cheating or leaving has been the motivating factor behind countless fights between monogamous couples and soap opera plot lines. Even though most relationships deal with issues around jealousy at some point, monogamists don’t generally wallow around in jealousy-provoking situations the way that polyamorists do. Because they court situations that would make any reasonable person jealous, polyamorists do a lot of thinking and talking about jealousy. Their thoughts about jealousy can prove enlightening for many others, and everyone – polyamorous, monogamous, or whatever -- could use their strategies to deal with jealousy.

Jealousy in Monogamous Relationships

In monogamous society, jealousy is often cast as evidence of true love. If you didn’t love that person, you wouldn’t be so jealous of other people around them, right? Jealousy, especially male jealousy against some other man having sex with “his” woman, has been at least taken for granted as normal and at most a legitimate reason for homicide.

Jealousy in Polyamorous Relationships

Kathy Labriola, an expert on jealousy, has worked with people in polyamorous relationships for decades. In her outstanding book The Jealousy Workbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationships, Labriola states that: “Many people express surprise when they experience intense jealousy and I frequently hear things like 'I'm so shocked that I'm jealous!' To which I always reply, 'I'm shocked that you're shocked!' Jealousy is perfectly natural and a completely normal reaction to your precious beloved being intimate with someone else. My best advice about jealousy to anyone in an open relationship is: expect it, accept it, and learn to manage it without murder or mayhem.”

In their new ebook Polyamory and Jealousy: A More Than Two Essentials Guide, authors Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert excerpt - and update - a section of their wildly popular book More Than Two that examines jealousy. Rickert and Veaux caution people not to identify too closely with their jealousy: "Jealousy is not an identity. You may feel jealous, but that doesn’t make you a jealous person. It’s an important distinction. If you say “I am a jealous person,” you may find it hard to think about letting go of jealousy; it feels like letting go of something that makes you who you are. On the other hand, if you say “I am a person who sometimes feels jealous,” that gives space to your other emotions. “I am a person who sometimes feels jealous, and sometimes feels happy, and sometimes feels sad, excited, afraid, angry or confused.” Such a statement reinforces to yourself that jealousy is not who you are."

Resilient Responses to Jealousy

In my own ill-fated attempt at polyamory, my (now ex) partner responded to his jealousy by becoming controlling and demanding, a strategy that allowed him to express his fear but pushed me away. Although the strategy of becoming grasping and controlling in quite popular among those in the throes of jealousy, it is not particularly effective way to face the issues and thrive through their resolution. Others use different responses that have greater potentials for success, and in my next blog I explain these resilient responses to jealousy, and how they can be useful for anyone experiencing jealousy even if they are not polyamorous.

Photo credit: "Jealousy" by Antoine K (CC BY-SA 2.0)