• Sarah M. Neal

Nasty, Little, Green-Eyed Monster: Wrestling with Jealousy in Polyamory

"Everyone wants to know how you deal with the jealousy. Whether you are polyamorous or monogamous, you have more likely than not dealt with jealousy. If not with a lover, then with a peer, sibling, or even with a friend."

Originally published on 09.06.2016

The other day, Tyler and I went to Taco Mac to watch my Georgia Bulldogs’ opening football game. We have been to this particular location several times before. This night, we got the same waitress we had a couple of weeks ago when we met some of Tyler’s friends there. She remembered us and was quite friendly. After she brought us our drinks, I noticed that she ceased talking to me and spoke solely to Tyler, barely looking at me. I might have gotten a little “bristly” as Tyler put it when he pointed it out my behavior. The confident, sexy, progressive, polyamorous Goddess-witch in me wanted to vehemently deny those bristles. When I couldn’t deny them, that same Goddess-witch wanted to deny that it had anything to do with Tyler and everything to do with the blatant, rude sexism. I mean, she was flirting with him because she assumed that he was paying the bill so I didn’t matter (the fact that he is not lacking in sexy department did nothing to help curb the flirting either). She’s a cute girl.

I’m sure that strategy has worked well for her with others. That had to be the source of my bristliness, right? Surely I wasn’t jealous. Was I?

I have known for the last week or so that my next blog entry would be on jealousy. That is a hot topic when it comes to poly relationships. Everyone wants to know how you deal with the jealousy. Whether you are polyamorous or monogamous, you have more likely than not dealt with jealousy. If not with a lover, then with a peer, sibling, or even with a friend. I have certainly dealt with jealousy in each of those realms, both with my own jealousy and with someone else’s.

Webster defines “jealous” as:

1a :  intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness

b :  disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness

    2:  hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage

3:  vigilant in guarding a possession

However, it has been through my polyamory journey and studies that I been able to grasp a better understanding of jealousy. The revelation began while reading “More Than Two” by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux. Jealousies come from deep rooted fears and insecurities; the fear of not being good enough or of losing something we desperately want/need to someone else.

A few years ago, I got very jealous of a coworker when our boss starting showing more favor towards her while we were in competition for the same job. I was brutal to myself. I started comparing my inside to her outside. I started comparing my insecurities to her outward confidence. Unfortuantely, when she did win the job, she took out her own insecurities on me.  Jealousy is a nasty thing.

When it comes to our friends, the jealousy can be almost as brutal, if not more so, than that of a lover. Your best friend for years suddenly starts spending more time with a new friend, or a new lover, and those venomous whispers start going through your head and you start thinking that friend no longer wants to be with you, no longer loves you as much as she did prior to this new person, maybe she loves this person more than she loves you. Those whispers can incite you to say and do things that can become toxic to your relationship. So, instead of talking things out and expressing your fears and concerns, you end up destroying your relationship. The same behavior can take place in both monogamous and polyamorous sexualove relationship.

Monogamous relationships are not immune to jealousy. Jealousy can happen over a member of the opposite sex, but also over a friend, family member, work, coworkers, community, and even a new baby. When our partner’s attention is pulled away from us and is

focused on another human being, those nasty, jealous whispers can start entering our heads. If our lover’s attention is turned towards someone else who could possibly become another lover and replace us, massive shit can and usually does hit the fan.

In a monogamous relationship, we may feel that we have the right to block that person out of our lover’s life and that will make us safe. Our lover is blocked from that person, and we don’t have to worry about losing our lover to that person. The relationship is saved and we are safe. Aren’t we?

If our lover really wants to be with that other person, is the invisible cage of monogamy going to keep our lover within the confines of our relationship? If our lover really wants to be with that person and no longer wants to be with us, is the invisible cage of monogamy going to keep our lover with us? Maybe. My father cheated on my mother a couple of times yet he stayed with my mother. He was fucking miserable, but he stayed. He made vows, he didn’t want to disappoint his parents, he didn’t want to put his children through a divorce, so he stayed. He finally broke free of the marriage 36 years later. More than half of his life was gone, but he finally broke free. For my mother, the social conformity and structure of marriage kept my father with her. They were both miserable, but they were together.

Polyamory is a little different because the parties involved are allowed to have sexualove relationships with other people.  There are still feelings of jealousy to be sure. The poly community labels pangs of jealousy as “wobbles”. I have had my share of the wobbles with John to be sure. In some aspects, those wobbles fueled and excited me. However, there have been other times, where those wobbles threw me for a loop and I about lost my damned mind.

Earlier this year, when John and Amora were going hot and heavy, most of John’s extra attention outside of work and children was devoted to Amora. She was mailing him love notes. She doted on him. She was speaking his love language (I would suggest The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman as a MUST READ to anyone who interacts with people. It is beneficial for dealing with sexualove relationships, friendships, family members, and children).  Freyr was constantly working. When he wasn’t working, he was out with Amora.

When I was able to talk him into taking a night off to spend with me, it would end with him passing out about 9:00-before our eldest child went to bed. Around the same time (maybe a little earlier in the timeline), I made the leap to express my feelings for Tyler to him with those 3 dangerous words and those words were not said back. I didn’t expect them to be. I could absolutely understand Tyler’s restraint. Our whole relationship dynamic was new to both of us. Tyler’s position in my life probably didn’t seem very stable to him. For him to open up and make himself that vulnerable was not a leap he was willing to take. I didn’t blame him. I got it. It still hurt a bit, but I understood.  Those two situations put together did nothing to create a good, secure, confident mindset for this woman. In fact, I was a hot-ass mess. 

I did a shitty job of explaining my frustrations with John. The rage of this red-headed lioness-Goddess showed its ass and John and I had it out. I didn’t understand the source of my

frustration. I really didn’t. I didn’t have a problem with Amora. I didn’t want John to stop seeing her. I knew him ending the relationship with her wasn’t the answer. After a paramount flood of tears (the first time I had cried in over two years-not pretty), I was finally able to understand my insecurities and issues enough to explain to John what my problem was. I wasn’t afraid of him leaving me. I was, however, afraid of no longer being valued enough by John for him to take time off for me like he would take time off for Amora. I was afraid that I wasn’t special enough for him to want to make the effort to spend quality time with me like he did with Amora. My ego got bruised by my husband and my boyfriend. Neither of them intended harm or were even aware that they might have hurt me. Quite honestly, looking back, neither of them did cause any actual damage. Yes, that time period hurt. It sucked massive ass. But it didn’t cause harm. I came out on the other side of it better able to express what I needed from my husband; I was able to get to the root of my issues, deal with my issues, remember how to better interpret love languages, and most importantly, I was able to grow. I look back at that time period as a character-building moment.

What I have learned is that I have to trust that John loves and values me and our relationship enough to do whatever he can to take care of my needs. I have to see the value in myself and know that I am worthy of love, happiness and of being valued by John. I have to trust in my relationship with John. He has never given me any reason to doubt his love for me or to fear that he will leave me for someone else. He has valued me when I have not valued myself. If I am confident in myself, particularly as a partner, then my fear should have no power over me.

I am worthy. I am worthy. I am worthy of being loved. I am worthy of having my needs met. I am worthy of healthy relationships. I am worthy of being treated with as much respect as I give to others. I am worthy. I am whole in my own right. I am not interchangeable. I am a special and unique human being who has many wonderful things to offer my loved ones. There is no one like me. I am worthy. I am worthy.

Self-worth is something we all struggle with and our lack of self-worth is where jealousy loves

to take root. Society tells us to be confident, but if we are over-confident, then we are self-absorbed or stuck up. This especially goes for women.

We are nasty to each other. If a woman is confident, we will find a way to tear her down. It’s really quite shameful and disgusting. It is us reflecting our own insecurities onto others. It is not okay. It is not healthy. It is not Goddess-like.

Now, I’m not saying that ALL pangs of jealousy should be written off as insecurities. I have a friend from college who was very jealous of a woman who worked with her fiancé. Those pangs of jealousy got stronger and stronger. It turned out that those feelings of jealousy were very valuable warning signs. She finally confronted him, he had been cheating on her. She got out of the relationship and is now married to an awesome man who values her as the wonderful goddess she is.

The tricky part is trying to distinguish between a situation where your insecurities are being a pain in the ass, or if your jealousy is a genuine signal of something being askew in your relationship. Eve and Franklin offer some external signs to look for when trying to distinguish between insecurities and signals:

  • First and foremost is a lack of empathy and compassion. If you go to your partner say, “This is a fear I have.” Do they brush off that fear? Do they listen to your fear and try to help and reassure you-even when it may seem a little irrational? Can they empathize with you even when you don’t even have all the facts? If they have done something to hurt you, can they genuinely apologize or feel bad about it? Are they willing to own it and try to make amends?

  • Another sign is an “attitude of entitlement”. As Eve and Franklin point out, this can be a hard call to make. We are all independent adults. We do have our own needs and feelings and we ARE all entitled to make our own decisions. However, are they willing to work with you, to listen to you, to make choices to support you in the long run (even if that means you don’t immediately get exactly what you want)

  • What does your partner say or do when you ask for reassurance? If you ask for concrete reminders of how you are loved and valued, do you get them? This may sound like a strange thing to ask a friend or a parent, but sometimes we do need reassurances from our friends and parents that we are loved and valued by them. Needing reassurances that you are loved and valued by someone doesn’t make you needy. It makes you human. Moderation though, folks. If you find yourself in constant need of reassurances, then you may want to reach out to a loved one or a professional so that you can do some work on recognizing and acknowledging your self-worth.

  • Finally, what does the relationship itself have to say? If you have been involved with someone for just a few months and they are already showing signs of restlessness and distraction, there might be a problem. If that person often makes threats to the relationship, they may be trying to keep you off-balance or emotionally blackmail you. They may also be following an abusive pattern. OR they may also be feeling insecure about the relationship and are in need of your attention. However, if you have been with someone for years and that person has consistently treated you with love and respect and given you no reason to fear, yet you are still afraid of them leaving you, you may need take a look at your insecurities.

If you have distinguished that your pangs are genuine signals, then deal with the relationship

as you see fit. If you have decided that your pangs are your insecurities whispering in your head, then you need to deal with those.

I cannot express the importance of reaching out to your “partner/friend/parent/sibling/insert label here” if your whispers start to get out of control. Jealous feelings are not a bad thing in themselves. It is jealous behavior that gets us into trouble.

I could’ve been a bitch to that waitress (more than I might have already been –  ahem). I could’ve complained to the manager. I could’ve cussed her out. I could’ve jumped out of my booth and smacked her around for a brief second before anyone figured out what was going on. Of course, Tyler might not have found my bristliness so cute anymore. Not to mention that behavior would have done nothing to better the situation or deal with my insecurities. Tyler has not given me any reason to think he’s ready to jump on the next girl who shows a liking to him. He has not given me any reason to fear that he will drop me as soon as some single woman who tickles his fancy comes along.

While my bristliness did have something to do with the fact that it was incredibly rude and presumptive of this waitress to flirt with Tyler and ignore me, if I am going to be authentic with myself, him and you, there were definitely a few insecurities in play.  Tyler has done NOTHING to feed these insecurities. He has done nothing to make me feel unloved or unvalued. In fact, particularly over the last few months, he has done just the opposite. He has done a great deal to show his love for me and that he values me.  This is my own shit. This is me wading through my insecurities to remember for myself my value, my uniqueness, and all I can provide to those who I love. This is me wading through my insecurities to place faith in what Tyler has worked to share with and show me. This is me keeping those pangs of bristliness in check for what they really are. This is me being human.

We are all human. We will all experience jealousy at some point in our lives if we have not already done so. IT IS OKAY!!!! It is okay to reach out to your loved one and express those fears of yours. It is okay to talk to someone else about those fears. It is okay to hermit yourself away for a day or three while you sort yourself out. It is okay to go a few rounds with a kicking bag. It is okay to take a deeper look at yourself. It is okay to not be perfect.

It is NOT okay to lose your mind and take on berserker behavior and tear your world and those in it apart. It is NOT okay to rip those you love and their loved ones into shreds because you are feeling jealous. It is NOT okay to reflect your insecurities onto someone else in order to make yourself feel better. It is NOT okay to smash the cute waitress’ head into the table because she is flirting with your boyfriend and will barely acknowledge that you are there, much less sitting across from said boyfriend.  It is NOT okay to not admit to and deal with your shit.

Jealousy can be a great tool for growth-kinda like how shit makes excellent fertilizer for your garden. It stinks and is no fun to deal with, however if you deal with it in a healthy manner with the right tools and mindset, it can help your relationships with your “partner/friend/parent/sibling/insert label here” and YOURSELF blossom.

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