Polyamory and Jealousy, Part 2Sep 09, 2021
Jealousy is extremely common; most people experience it from time to time, including those in open relationships. Having the skills to handle jealousy when it arises can make a huge difference for you, your partner(s), and your relationship(s).
In my last post, I offered a guided reflection for getting in touch with your body in order to get grounded and give your mind a break. Any time you are feeling upset and experiencing lots of intrusive thoughts or feelings, that is a good place to start.
If you need a moment to ground yourself, check out that guided reflection; then come back here once you’re feeling more settled. If you’re calm, grounded in the present moment, and ready to forge ahead and start tackling the narrative of jealousy at its roots, read on.
Notice the narrative
When you experience jealousy, you’re probably telling yourself a story about how to interpret the emotions you are experiencing. Often, these narratives lead us to feel worse, not better.
As a representative from your local Department of Happiness, I’d like to encourage you to start to be aware of the stories that you tell yourself that affect your emotional experience. Are you telling yourself a story that helps you feel better, or one that makes you feel worse? This is the key: You get to choose the story that you continue to tell.
Stories involving comparison are also common: “My partner’s romantic and sexual attraction to this other person is a sign that there’s something unattractive about me,” or, “My partner is probably comparing my qualities with their other partner’s qualities right now, and figuring out that I’m really falling short/not that attractive/quite disappointing.”
Check the assumptions
If part of your story revolves around something that you fear your partner might be thinking, you can check that assumption with your partner. You might learn that their perception of the situation is completely different from what you’ve been fearing.
You could try starting out like this: “When you were on a date with so-and-so the other night, I realized that I was having a whole bunch of fears, and I want to check some of those out with you. Would you be willing to talk to me about that?”
I don’t know what your partner will say in response to your fears, but I can tell you what I often hear my polyamorous clients tell their partners: “I don’t compare the two of you. When I’m with you, I’m with you. When I’m with them, I’m with them. These relationships aren’t in competition with one another.”
Usually, checking assumptions results in an understanding that is at least a little bit more positive than the original scary thought. Ideally, you can then use this new information as a tool to debunk similar scary stories you might tell yourself the next time the situation arises.
Checking your assumptions with your partner is an awesome tool for stopping negative narratives in their tracks. That said, at the end of the day, you’re in charge of the narrative you tell yourself. The more empowered you feel, the easier it will be to support a narrative that brings you joy.