It's my right to be hellish. I still get jealous.
-Nick Jonas, Jealous
Jealousy is common in all human relationships, and if you're transitioning into the poly world, you may wonder: how do I deal with jealousy? In this post, I'll explain that polyamory is not about avoiding jealousy, but processing it in a healthy way.
Monogamous relationships are all about status. First kiss, social media pictures, dinner with the parents--many significant events in a relationship center around when a couple is official. Online forums obsess about when you should have the DTR (Define the Relationship) talk. Modern society believes in an invisible line you cross when you go from single to partnered. Marriage, of course, is the ultimate expression of status. Once that line is crossed, partners are not even supposed to look at other potentials.
Society conditions us to feel jealous when our relationship is in potential danger. If we suspect that our partner may cheat or leave, jealousy kicks in and tells us to fight for the status quo. The bad news is that our fighting is not likely to change our partner's behavior. It will only cause drama and distrust, and it may drive the relationship to its end.
So how do you overcome jealousy when you choose the polyamorous lovestyle? First, recognize that you will feel jealous. When a female partner starts getting more dates than her male partner, he is likely to feel jealous. Insecurity may also be a factor. Many people worry that they're not good enough for their current partner. Once that partner starts dating, their imagination runs wild as they imagine the partner having more fun and better sex.
When you run into jealous feelings, the key is to let yourself experience them. Don't try to ignore or explain them away. Sit alone on your couch and feel them. Rant with a friend (not someone you or your partner is dating). Cry into a pillow. Process your emotions. Once you do this, you'll realize the jealousy is covering other emotions. Perhaps you do feel insecure about your body or sexual performance. Perhaps you've always had low self-esteem and have tied most of your identity into your current relationship. Perhaps your needs for attention, sex, or touch are not being met. Analyze why you feel the way you do and come up with a solution.
Most of the time, your jealousy is not about your partner, but more about yourself. That means that any fixes you put in place should focus more on you and less on them. Consider therapy or couples counseling with a poly-positive therapist. Start looking for activities or meetups to keep you occupied and grow your self-esteem. Don't create restrictive rules about who or where your partner goes. Instead of demanding your partner text about their every move, ask that they check in before they head out with someone or give you extra cuddles when they get home. Its essential that your partner can say no to any of those requests. It's never their job to make you feel secure in the relationship.
If you find yourself still experiencing a lot of jealousy and are not getting your needs met, consider ending the relationship. Polyamory is a journey of self-knowledge, and even when long-term partners open up, they may realize they are better off without each other. Jealousy is not a relationship ending emotion, but it can be used to transform you into a healthier, happier poly person.