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Polyamory for the Practical

Jealousy and the Poly Family

In trying to avoid actually writing another confounded article on jealousy when the Internet Poly community is already inundated with such material, I find I cannot avoid it after all.

Jealousy, as anyone who has had a problem with it will tell you, stems from a fear of loss.   Sexual jealousy is really only possible when one fears the loss of one's love interest.   If you've been living awhile in a poly family, you've either gotten over it, learned to deal with it on your own, or your relationship is about to break up.

However, sexual jealousy is hardly the only kind of jealousy any human experiences.   One notorious form of jealousy is that a fond parent might feel when that child displays affection to another.   One child might be jealous if another child is getting more attention, an artist might feel jealous if another seems to be having a better creative day (whistling innocently)...   In fact, the deepest and most burning feeling of jealousy I ever experienced was when I was three years old when my brother was born.   I've experienced it since, and I can tell you that nothing has ever come close.

All of these things are not necessarily poly specific, but someone in a poly relationship is in a better position to learn from this -- or doesn't stay poly long.

With this in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind when you find yourself feeling jealous:

  • Jealousy is not something to be feared.

    Any negative emotion is supposed to serve the same function that pain does -- a signal that something needs attention.   If you're feeling jealous, celebrate! You have a chance to learn something.   And with that attitude, you probably won't feel jealous for long, which is kind of the point.  

    When you do feel jealous, ask yourself why.   What do you fear? What do you hope for? What do you want and why do you want it?

  • Are the other people in question aware of my feelings?

    Okay, in this instance, hinting doesn't count.   Have you stated your feelings clearly and blatantly.  i.e.   "I am feeling jealous of the time you are spending with The Prince because I have had no time to write with him in three weeks."

  • If you do not feel comfortable stating this blatantly, then why not?

    Are you afraid of being brushed aside? Do you feel like your feelings are unreasonable? If so, why? You do kind of have to analyzed this before you can go any further.   As someone who dislikes confrontations and has a real fear of being brushed aside, I sympathize greatly with not wanting to speak up.   However, bitter experience had taught me that it is important to think about your feelings carefully for a short time, then speak your mind.

  • As Someone from the PolyFamilies List has often commented, "Own your own shit."

    It's important to know what's your problem, and what belongs in someone else's camp.   It can be hard to be objective about this, but you do need to try.   Your feelings, by the way, are your problem.   No, you cannot say that how you feel is someone else's fault.   Your thoughts and feelings are your very own.   How you react is entirely up to you.

    This does not mean I am advising being a doormat.   I don't advise it at all.   But, you are free to choose reactions that best suit you.

  • Stating your feelings blatantly does not obligate the other person to act according to your wishes.

    Yes, I would rather, when I summon the courage to speak up, have everyone be so impressed that they rush to act upon my wishes.

    Not only is the Real World not this way, it does not need to be this way.   Communication does not and has never meant, "I've stated a preference.   If you love me, you'll immediately and eagerly act on this preference." It does mean that you do have to explain exactly how important X issue is to you.  

    You could rate each desire on a scale of one to ten.   One for me would be complete indifference on the subject.   Ten would be "If I don't get this in a relationship, I cannot continue the relationship." If you have more than a few tens, you're probably assigning too high a want level to many things and are either getting ulcers or spend a lot of time in tears.  

  • Be careful when using words like "need".

    When your mind hears the word "need", it translates to the body, "If we don't get this, we're going to die." You don't need to have sex, get every Thursday with a lover, a career in computers, or that pair of Doc Marten's.   You need air.   You need enough food to keep you alive.   You need enough warmth to keep you from freezing to death.

    You might want something pretty badly.   I really, really, really, really want happiness, health and growth for and from my family.   I don't need to have it.   So why am I lecturing about this in an article on coping with sexual jealousy? Simple.   Remember when I said jealousy is fear of loss or not having enough? Being very careful how you talk to yourself about needs is a good way to reduce that fear.

Jealousy, I think, gets far more attention that it deserves in dealing with poly.   Yeah, it happens.   Yeah, it's something that requires attention.   But, it's not something that requires the fear and trembling treatment.   It happens, you deal in the best way you know how and you move on.  



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