Letting Jealousy Have Power

I have been listening to Polyamory Weekly, a podcast by Cunning Minx. She has a great speaking voice and plans her podcasts (too many podcasters just ramble), so I find them enjoyable listening. Also, she discusses matters important to polyamory, which, as she and other poly folk often note, are matters important to any form of relationship.

In particular, jealousy has been a common topic within the episodes to which I have been listening so far (numbers 40-60, for anyone curious). She mentions some excellent points about jealousy, such as:

– Jealousy is considered a negative emotion that few feel comfortable admitting. “I’m not jealous; I just don’t like seeing you two together.”

– When it is admitted, jealousy gets a free pass for being the source of perhaps otherwise unaccepted behavior or irrational relationship rules.

– One standard response to learning about polyamory (or swinging or open relationships) is, “I could never do that; I am too jealous,” yet jealousy is a problem within monogamous partnerships, too.

Cunning Minx discussed how some consider jealousy something one must overcome, and that she disagrees. She said that the feeling should be acknowledged and permitted to be felt, but that it should be handled responsibly. There is a difference between overcoming an emotion (which is generally not realistic) and learning how to handle it. Learning how to handle it includes feeling it, acknowledging it, discussing it, determining what triggers it (if possible, and what the real fear is), and finding ways to cope with the feeling.

She emphasizes that finding ways to cope does not mean putting restrictions upon one’s partner(s). That is not addressing the jealousy; that is obeying the jealousy. Coping is about making oneself feel better when experiencing the jealousy. This can include finding something fun to do when without one’s partner and asking for reassurance from one’s partner when together.

Cunning Minx notes that jealousy is just an emotion like happiness or sadness, yet our culture gives it a lot of power. Jealousy is a common defense for the practice of monogamy over polyamory. Jealousy is the justification for possessive — and sometimes even dangerous — behaviors; how many times has the cheated girlfriend been given accolades for damaging the “rotten louse’s” property in movies or TV? (Note: Polyamory does not condone cheating; polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.)

I want to note further that jealousy has its use, as physical pain does. Generally, physical pain alerts us to problems. Sometimes the problem is obvious; when I cut my hand and feel pain, I can see the actual cut. Sometimes the problem is less obvious; when I get a severe headache, the source of the problem could be hunger, dehydration, stress, back tension, or something yet unknown. Jealousy is more often going to reflect the deeper and less obvious problems than something clear and superficial, but it may still be helpful in indicating issues that need to be addressed, whether those issues are the situation or something personal within oneself.

However, though it can be useful in identifying issues and should be acknowledged, jealousy should not be given great power over a person’s life.