Mama Java, help me.
I’ve identified as poly since I knew what the word meant. I used to have no concept of romantic jealousy and assumed, foolishly, that this made me an enlightened being. In reality it’s left me totally unprepared for jealousy when it does hit.
I have two partners. My partners each have their own partners. One does not make me jealous at all, but the other makes me so jealous I could scream. Whenever I see them kiss or flirt or touch each other, I feel frustrated, insecure, afraid, the whole gamut of jealousy.
I don’t know how to make it stop. I’ve spoken, at length, with my partner about what my jealousy could mean. We’ve addressed aspects that I’ve found helpful. We’ve defined what the relationship is, and part of what I find threatening about it. Envying their NRE, not wanting to be intimate with my partner’s partner, etc. She’s reassured me and made me feel loved.
But I still feel jealous. Whenever I see them kiss, in particular, the negative emotions come rushing in again.
Am I expecting it to be too easy? Do I need to communicate more, set better boundaries, or any of the other magic relationship words? Or can I just not be around my partner and her partner when they’re flirtacious?
Any advice would be most welcome. Thank you.
If it makes you feel any better at all, being blindsided by unexpected jealousy is a not to uncommon experience in polyamory. I’ve had it happen, and I’ve seen it reported from some remarkably sensible and together poly people, so I’m not sure that never feeling jealousy has a damned thing to do with being enlightened. In fact, it’s possible that until you’ve been tested, it’s impossible to call oneself enlightened – if one ever should.
I don’t know how to make it stop. I understand why you’d want to. It hurts. You say you’ve analyzed it a great deal, and it’s good that you’ve done some self-exploration. One thing I would like to point out (and I’m shamelessly stealing from Franklin Veaux’s “Jealousy Management for Love and Profit or, how to fix a broken refrigerator“) is that you say that your partner’s partner makes you feel jealous. Nope. Not quite. She’s a trigger to the cause of your jealousy. It’s a subtle difference, but one you might want to explore.
There is no magic cure, I am sorry to say. I’m even sorrier to see you talking about communication, boundaries, etc. as somehow magic fixes. They’re not. They’re tools, and tools that require consistent, moderate effort on a long-term basis. I think that’s a serious problem in our perceptions of mental issues. We’ve read too damned many stories about Freud or Jung where they claim that they’ve gotten to the root of a problem and just the right combination of words or ideas will mean the problem is all fixed. We’re looking for the epiphany, that sudden flash of light that will suddenly make everything all better. Mental issues don’t work that way, dammit.
What does work, and this works for a lot of uncomfortable emotions, including jealousy, is a combination of analysis and (occasionally tedious) daily practice. So, what can you practice?
Being in the moment
I’ve mentioned this in columns before, but I don’t expect people to have all eight years of this blog memorized. It bears repeating. I was once hospitalized for suicidal ideation. In common parlance, I went crazy. The tools I learned to keep from going crazy again have been incredibly beneficial when it comes to Life, Love, and Relationships. The biggest thing I learned was to be in the moment. As a simple example, let’s say that I’m driving to a meeting that scares the hell out of me. It could be a career make or break pitch, a foreclosure meeting at a bank – anything that’s really scary. So, I’m dwelling on it as I’m driving down the road, thinking about what I’m going to say or do. Now, in point of fact, I’m driving, not directly experiencing that meeting. Any experience of that the meeting is coming up is because I’m putting my mind on it. What if I put my whole mind on the act of driving? Driving doesn’t suck and isn’t frightening to me. It doesn’t make me upset or anxious. But it is what I am doing at that very second. Certainly paying close attention when one is driving is a responsible thing to do, yes? Focusing totally on that isn’t going to change the outcome of the meeting. But by damn, getting there not a bundle of nerves is going to help.
How does this apply to jealousy? IN THAT MOMENT, when you see your partners kiss, you feel a deep reaction. So, that individual moment sucks. Not trying to blow that off. But when you’ve excused yourself to go to the bathroom because you’ve had too much coffee, you’re not experiencing seeing your partner kiss someone. You’re peeing. Never whistle while you’re pissing. <EG> Bring your mind to what you’re actually doing in the moment. This helps remove the possibility of a snowball effect when you start thinking about situations you really aren’t in charge of.
Is this easy? Not really. It takes a lot of practice. I still find it an amazing tool to help me when I’m trying to be logical about anything going on in my life and keeping stress from getting to me.
Finding out the things that make you feel loved and asking for that
You mention that you’re getting verbal assurances you are loved. That’s cool. A lot of people find that they feel loved and cared for whent they get verbal assurances. Is that what really works best for you? Maybe you need something else and aren’t aware of it enough to articulate it. Find out.
Try a little exercise and spend about fifteen minutes completing this in as many ways as possible:
I feel most loved when________________.
One of the things you’ll find is a pattern. For me, it’s little acts of service. Bringing me a cup of coffee makes me feel all warm inside, easy and dumb as that is. We all have our quirks. Make sure you really know what yours are so you can ask for that thing.
Sometimes, you just don’t like how you feel
I’m the last person in the world to say that you should suck up an unhappy relationship. But sometimes you get feelings out of nowhere that don’t make sense to you. Being able to tolerate them is not a horrible thing. Again, not advocating any sort of Patient Griselda here. That’s nonsense. But sometimes we Just Don’t Make Sense. People sometimes don’t, dammit. Life would be a lot easier for me if we did!
However you slice it, jealousy sucks to experience and I hope that something here will work out to help you get more centered and deal.