There’s a popular myth that people in polyamorous relationships don’t get jealous. Or if they do, they’re ‘bad at poly’. I often hear people berate themselves (and occasionally others) for feelings of jealousy. It’s a feeling people want to be rid of, to stop feeling, to get past, quickly.
But the thing about feelings, especially the difficult and painful ones, is that the only way out is through. If you deny your feelings, rush past them, or push them away instead of working through them, I’ve found they usually get bigger – and can even morph into something more challenging, like anxiety or depression.
A more constructive approach can be to sit with the feelings and learn what they have to teach you about your deepest wants and needs. It’s a process that takes as much time as it needs – and the path of progress to growth and learning is often not a straightforward one.
Jealousy isn’t a pleasant feeling, particularly if you’re committed to openness and autonomy. Jealousy, by definition, is feeling that something that belongs to you is being taken from you – which seems at odds if you value freedom in your relationships: if you don’t believe that someone can be owned or belong to you, then what is this feeling that someone is taking them from you? So jealous feelings can hurt more because they don’t make sense. But they don’t have to make sense – they’re feelings.
Sitting with jealous feelings can help you recognise an underlying fear or an unmet need.
Sitting with my jealousy meant exploring and discovering my deepest wants and needs and boundaries. It helped me recognise that a core need in all my relationships is authenticity, or radical honesty. Change can be frightening, but it’s the only thing that’s inevitable – and we can only respond appropriately to those changes if we are experiencing the truth of what is going on in the now. I have learned that I can cope with relationships changing, wants and desires shifting. I can experience my partner/s feeling passion, love, joy, connection, distraction, lust, sadness, anxiety, confusion, or any other kind of feeling about their other loves – as long as they’re honest and open with me, and our connection is authentic for us. Then I can move from feeling jealousy to feeling compersion (feeling joy at my partner/s’ happiness in their other relationships), because of the deep trust and intimacy that I can feel when someone shares their whole self with me. I want to witness all of their feelings, not just the pretty, happy, easy-to-hear ones.
But that was my journey. It might not be yours. Your jealous feelings may arise from a different place (at the end I’ll signpost some resources that might help you explore) – these things I learned are not the main lesson I wanted to write about here.
The hardest lesson of all was recognising that fighting and denying my feelings was destructive. I had to learn to listen to my feelings instead of fighting them – by doing that I found acceptance, resilience and self love.
How to sit with feelings is a very personal thing.
My process involved:
– reading blogs (mostly found via google search or online forums)
– talking with friends and loved ones to check my thinking and hear their reflections on it
– talking with my partner about my feelings in our relationship, expressing my wants and needs, and listening to theirs
– mindful time alone – Meg-John Barker writes a great guide that shows the value of tuning in to the physical sensations of feelings – often for me that alone time was in a bath, or listening to music
– checking my history for the truth ie what I’ve learned I’ve learned about myself and what I’ve experienced in past relationships (including family, friends, work and loving relationships)
When I’m feeling anxious, my brain has a bad habit of noticing how I’m feeling and throwing up examples from my past where things went badly – like ‘ah that’s a bit like this, so it’ll turn out badly like this did’ (thank you brain, for so many examples of catastrophe…!)
I consciously practiced noticing the positives in my reality, here and now – whether how my partner was ACTUALLY behaving was a problem for me or not.
Most importantly I reminded myself to be kind to myself and not berate myself for feeling jealous, or upset, or angry – focussing on my self as I would a friend or loved one, asking myself how I could help.
And I took my time.
And I didn’t give up when I thought I’d got through and things were resolved but then found they weren’t.
And I accepted that maybe things still aren’t completely resolved, but it’s getting better.
Feelings aren’t wrong – they are a route to a deeper truth, if you let them in.
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Jealousy blogs that might be useful: