Polyamory is Better Than Monogamy (if you’re into that sort of thing)


Editorial Note: This post was written by Wes Fenza, long before the falling out of our previous quint household and the subsequent illumination of his abusive behavior, sexual assault of several women, and removal from the Polyamory Leadership Network and banning from at least one conference. I have left Wes’ posts  here because I don’t believe it’s meaningful to simply remove them. You cannot remove the truth by hiding it; Wes and I used to collaborate, and his thoughts will remain here, with this notice attached.




I think that polyamory is better than monogamy.* This assertion is qualified only by the fact that by “better” I mean “more closely aligned with my value system.” However, I don’t think my value system, when it comes to relationships, is all that different from the norm. My line of thinking can be summed up in a syllogism:

Premise #1: All other things being equal, the greater the mutual love in a relationship, the better the relationship;
Premise #2: Polyamory is inherently more compatible with mutual love than monogamy
Conclusion: Polyamory is better than monogamy.

Premise #1 is relatively uncontroversial, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it, except to say that if you disagree, polyamory is probably not for you. I don’t intend this as a moral judgment. I think that transactional relationships can be very happy and fulfilling for some people. They are just not what I prefer.

Likewise, it seems clear to me that the conclusion necessarily follows from the two premises. This leads me to believe that most popular disagreement is with Premise #2.

Polyamory is Inherently More Loving than Monogamy

Like any good lawyer, I’ll start by defining my terms:

Polyamory: a style of relationship involving two or more people which has no rule or agreement (implicit or explicit) against pursuing other loving and/or sexual relationships.

Monogamy: a style of relationship involving only two people which has a rule or agreement against outside sexual and/or romantic relationships.*

Love: a very strong concern for another conscious creature’s well-being such that one’s own well-being is dependent upon the well-being of the other.

Respect: an attitude of deference, admiration, or esteem.

Polyamory, as defined above, is more compatible with love and respect for one’s partner than monogamy. To say it another way, the relationship that is maximally loving and respectful will necessarily be polyamorous.

I’ve dealt with this before somewhat. The only point of a rule or agreement against outside sexual relationships (i.e. a monogamous relationship) is that you anticipate having outside sexual interests. It’s a contingency plan. The only time such an agreement would have any effect whatsoever is a situation in which one or both parties has the opportunity and desire to pursue an outside sexual relationship. Therefore, when crafting such an agreement, both parties consider this at least likely enough to necessitate an agreement.

The effect of the monogamy agreement is to put the brakes on such a thing. It’s saying “if I want to fuck someone else, I won’t.” Making that sort of sacrifice for a partner (assuming that’s what your partner wants) is definitely consistent with loving and respecting your partner. The disrespect comes in the next step: saying “in return, if you want to fuck someone else, please don’t.”

Imagine saying that about any other topic. “Honey, let’s agree that even though both of us really like cheddar cheese, neither of us will eat it ever again.” “Honey, in the event you’d ever like to go snorkeling, please don’t.” Etc. It sounds ridiculous, because it is.

This is not to say that monogamy serves no purpose. Firstly, monogamy is the best way to ensure sexual safety and lack of unwanted pregnancy. However, monogamy done for that reason would still allow a lot of safe sexual play, so couples that have rules against all sexual contact (i.e. the majority of monogamous couples) can’t be doing it for this reason.

Other justifications are emotional. Monogamy arguably** enhances the stability of relationships by preventing parties from exploring other options. However, demanding monogamy from you partner for this reason is basically saying “if you meet someone who makes you happier than me, stay with me anyway.” It’s a selfish justification, and in opposition to love and respect as defined above.

Another popular justification for monogamy is jealousy.*** One party feels that if hir partner hooked up outside of the relationship, it would be upsetting. But that begs the question: why would it be upsetting? Sex is fun! A loving partner should be happy that hir partner is having fun. Instead, jealousy encourages a person to feel bad when good things happen to other people. To be jealous of someone is to wish ill fortune on that person. Jealousy is, in effect, the opposite of love. If love is a symbiotic relationship, where one party’s happiness creates happiness for everyone, jealousy is a parasitic relationship, where one party’s happiness drains happiness from all other parties. In that sense, the more love in a relationship, the less jealousy. Therefore, if you buy into Premise #1 above, the less jealousy in a relationship, the better the relationship.

This is not to say that polyamorous people are any less jealous, more loving, or otherwise better than monogamous people. As in any group, there is great diversity within the polyamorous community, and not all people becomes polyamorous because they love their partners. Many people become polyamorous for reasons just as selfish (or more selfish) as the reasons that people choose monogamy. Many polyamorous relationships are unmitigated disasters.

However, the most loving and least jealous (i.e. “best”) relationships will necessarily be polyamorous. Loving partners want each other to have the things that make the other happy. A loving partner will encourage hir partner to pursue a relationship if ze wants one. People who love one another want each other to have the things that they want.

What do you think? Agree/disagree? Let’s hear it in the comments!

*yes, I know that technically, “monogamy” refers to marriage. I’m using it in the way that most people do.

** this is not necessarily true. Nonmonogamy may do more to enhance stability by allowing parties more freedom within the relationship, and taking away a main reason for leaving a relationship.

*** the discussion of jealousy applies equally to possessiveness. Wanting to own a person is incompatible with loving and respecting that person.

17 thoughts on “Polyamory is Better Than Monogamy (if you’re into that sort of thing)

  1. I wouldn’t say that being poly or mono is “better” than one or the other — personally I would compare it more to orientation, perhaps. A person may be straight, gay, bi, or so on, and thus will feel happiest with someone of a certain gender. A true monogamous person will feel happiest in a monogamous relationship, as will a true polyamorous person will feel happiest in a polyamorous relationship.

    For me, a monogamous person, I don’t desire to have another relationship with someone while already in a relationship and I wish to be with someone who feels the same. If I were to encounter a poly person, I would say we weren’t compatible (as a straight person would feel about someone of the same gender, for example) and leave it at that. Just as it isn’t “better” to be gay, straight, bi, or so on, it isn’t “better” to be poly or mono.

  2. Er… no, not so much.

    Having more partners does not lead to having more mutual love; it can lead to more, or less, or the same amount of love. Or, apples and oranges.

    Lack of mutual respect doesn’t enter into the situation if two monogamous people really are inclined toward monogamy; you’re assuming people in a mono relationship are attracted enough to other people to want to have sex and/or a relationship with them, too. Some are, some aren’t.

    Incidentally, I’m not monogamous… I’m a poly-mono switch.

    In a monogamous relationship I don’t feel attracted to anyone else, it’s as if someone throws a switch, shutting down my ability to be attracted to other people, allowing me to focus entirely on the other person. I found the same to be true for most of my monogamous partners, one extremely long-term who had made a conscious choice not to be poly. No feelings of deprivation or having to exert self control, or whatever other awful things you might be imagining.

    In a polyamorous relationship that switch in my head doesn’t flip, though I am still strongly oriented toward few, very connected, dyadic relationships. The groups of people with whom I would have each kind of relationship overlap, but are not identical.

    I value my partners a great deal, but if the two of them suddenly disappeared and I met a person inclined toward either one (like myself and various other people I know, we’re more common than you think) I’d be slightly more likely to pick monogamy.

    Why? Fewer moving parts. More opportunity to focus more intensely on a single person, which I happen to dig. Less scheduling, more freedom to act without as many people’s needs have a first-order influence. A more intimate bond in some ways. All of this *in my own experience*, which applies to ME, not anyone else… and includes a decade of polyamory and 15 years of monogamy, most of that time filled with amazing companionship and long-term comfort, and some kickass sex. In *both* sorts of relationships.

    (If I fell in love with a person not already open to monogamy, then we’d either be poly, or I’d move on, depending on whether we related to each other in a poly way that felt right for me. Common sense and all.)

    Someone else’s preferences may be different. Not better, not worse… *different*. Just because you’re unhappy in a mono relationship and may have tried having several, it doesn’t mean *you* understand what a good mono relationship is like… because there is probably no such thing as a good mono relationship… FOR YOU.

    Anyway, I’d recommend discarding the elitist attitude, which makes you look immature, judgmental, and just as bad as a monogamist who claims that poly people just haven’t met “the one.”

    Be better than that.

  3. @anonymous – there’s nothing wrong with not wanting another relationship, but polyamory isn’t all about you. The question is: if your partner wanted another relationship, what would you say? If you would forbid it (or threaten to break up), I think that shows that at least on some level, you’re prioritizing your wants over your partner’s.

    @Synchronicity – I think it’s important to note that, for purposes of discussion, I’m using the term “polyamory” to mean a relationship without a rule or agreement against outside relationships. Nothing about being poly in this sense necessitates having an outside relationship if you don’t want one. As I said to anonymous, the relevant question there comes down to whether you’d allow your partner to pursue an outside relationship if ze wanted one.

    Some people define poly differently, and there’s no real generally accepted definition, so feel free to substitute some other word for “polyamorous” above if you’re uncomfortable with that term.

    I’m also amused with the charge of elitism, considering that I can to this conclusion while I was monogamous, and it was the principle reason that my girlfriend (wife now) and I chose to open our relationship. Does it count as elitism if you’re not part of the elite?

  4. I’ve found that it’s fairly common in pair-bonded poly relationships for the core couple to set aside certain activities or behaviors, either sexual or non-, as “special” to the pair-bond: e.g., I’ll spend the night only with you, I’ll spend major holidays only with you, I’ll do anal penetration only with you, whatever. For a self-aware couple, monogamy is just a subtype of this agreement. Because they’re self-aware, they would define the types of sex play that are to be held unique to the pair-bond and which wouldn’t – it’s not too rare, for example, for a BDSM couple to do genital sex with one another only but non-genital BDSM with others, and still to consider themselves monogamous.

    A key difference between “radical monogamy” and traditional monogamy is that the former acknowledges that there is no hard line between sex and not-sex, and that each couple must define their own boundaries. I don’t see any reason that the decision to pledge the majority of sexual behaviors to one partner must necessarily diminish the love in the relationship, nor that such a pledge must necessarily be imposed by one’s partner (rather than freely given by each partner out of a desire to affirm the primary bond).

    My best guess is that in a world where people could choose freely and without prejudice between all the relationship styles available to them – mono, poly, closed circles, single-with-a-circle-of-lovers, celibate et al – monogamy would still be the most popular choice, being the easiest and least stressful fit for most people’s desires and lifestyles. I also suspect that the choices would track to age – that single-with-a-circle-of-lovers would be the best fit for people in their teens and early 20s, leading to a period of monogamy (or, possibly, closed-circle) during the years of career-building and child-rearing, then to polyamory during midlife and beyond – although there would of course be considerable variation in individual choices. But I don’t think it’s in any way possible or desirable to designate poly as inherently “better” than mono.

  5. @Ethicalslut:

    I agree that reserving certain behaviors for the primary couple is fairly common in poly, and that monogamy is a subtype of this agreement. I think that you could substitute any reserved behavior into the above post in place of “monogamy” and it would hold just as true.

    I don’t see any reason that the decision to pledge the majority of sexual behaviors to one partner must necessarily diminish the love in the relationship, nor that such a pledge must necessarily be imposed by one’s partner (rather than freely given by each partner out of a desire to affirm the primary bond).

    I don’t think such a pledge diminishes the love in the relationship. Rather, I think the desire for such a pledge results from feelings of jealousy and possessiveness toward one’s partner, which are the result of less-than-ideal love.

    As I tried to say above, I don’t mean to suggest that polyamorous people are more loving than monogamous people. Only that, as a structure, polyamory is more compatible with mutual love and respect than is monogamy.

    I also feel that I’ve given undue consideration to BDSM relationships. In hindsight, I wish I’d added a paragraph or two laying out that relationships based on power exchange or ownership don’t really fit in with this argument, as they’re based on a different value system (when it comes to relationships) and that anyone that doesn’t think that part of loving your partner includes valuing and promoting that partner’s autonomy will not be served by the style of polyamory that I advocate (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

    The whole reason I added the (if you’re into that sort of thing) to the title was to let people know that polyamory is only “better” if you want the same things out of a relationship that I do. I just feel as though most people that I know (and most messages that I get from society) espouse many of the same values when it comes to relationships, and that a thorough examination of those values, in most cases, ought to lead to polyamory. That was the reason that my wife & I opened our relationship in the first place, so I feel like it’s an important message.

  6. The problem I have with this post is that the word “love” keeps getting tangled up with the act of sex. You keep saying that polyamory allows for more love, but then you keep circling back to fucking. And THAT, I think, is the root of the *real* problem behind the Polyamorous vs Monogamous debate.

    Allow me to offer another perspective on the Poly lifestyle:

    I am marrying my best friend of 20 years. We love each other deeply. All of our hopes and dreams are tied up in one another. Our life plans are together. Everything we want to do for the rest of our time on this planet involves the other one. If ever I were incapable of making my own medical decisions, or I couldn’t wipe my own ass, SHE’S the person who will do it for me – and vice versa. My life is better for her presence, and would be forever lacking without her, and vice versa.

    We do not have sex with each other. We have also agreed not to share sexual partners. BECAUSE SEX COMPLICATES THINGS and our work together, our dreams together, all that we’re trying to accomplish together is far more important than sex. We have both destroyed good friendships by having sex with people, and we both have a history of letting sex mess up our lives and cloud our judgement. So we’ve decided not to have sex with each other until we’re ready, and if that never happens, then it never happens and we’ll be stronger for having been honest about our limitations.
    By your definition we would be considered “poly” because we are open to sex outside of our relationship, and the possibility of other loving relationships outside of our own. It’s not the same as what you’re describing though. Not at all. And in all honesty, it’s posts like this very one here that keep us from using the label of “polyamory” to describe what we’re doing. Because we don’t want people thinking that getting in bed with one of us means the potential for sleeping with the other, or both of us at the same time. For us, Love has nothing to do with sex. For us, Love is being able to say “no, you are too important to me to allow brain chemicals and confusing emotions to complicate this situation.” I think some people feel that way about monogamy – that the potential for confusing emotions and complications is just not worth the risk of destroying a really, really good thing.

    I think my point is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to conduct any relationship except for doing it the way that makes all parties happy, and I think it makes people bristle when you elect to use such absolute language as “my way is BETTER”. It’s better *for you*. Not necessarily everybody.

  7. @Anti – I’m curious as to where you feel I’ve equated love with sex. If I did, it was unintentional, as I agree with your proposition that love is unrelated to sex. See this comment for my defense of the idea that asexuals can be polyamorous:

    most people have a class of relationships that they consider romantic, and a class that they consider platonic. If their romantic relationship(s) do not involve sex, I still have no problem with the classification

    I’ve gotten into semantic debates before about the meaning of the term “polyamory,” and I was hoping to avoid that here. The reason that I defined the term at the beginning was so it would be clear what I was talking about. If you have a different definition for the term “polyamorous” or are uncomfortable identifying as such. My definition was meant only for the purposes of this discussion, and not as a label to apply to anything outside of it. It just seemed like the best word to use there.

    As I tried to explain in my response to ethicalslut above, my way is only “better” if you agree with my value system when it comes to relationships. If you have a different value system (although it doesn’t sound like you do), that’s fine with me. I just feel as though my value system is common enough that it was worth dealing with on its own terms.

    I also don’t think there’s any conflict between loving your partner and choosing not to pursue outside (or in your case, inside) sexual relationships, so long as you’re doing so because it’s what you want. The problem with monogamy agreements is that they presuppose that, at some point, one or both will want an outside sexual and/or romantic relationship, and declare such off limits.

    The reason that Gina & I chose polyamory in the first place was because we loved each other enough to say “if you want to pursue something with someone else, that’s what I want too.” We found it unloving and disrespectful to express the opposite, which was not what we wanted out of our relationship. We, of course, still felt things like jealousy and possessiveness toward one another, but we felt that we shouldn’t adhere to a relationship structure that accommodated those things.

    I think most of the pushback I’ve gotten on this issue is just my use of the term “better.” As I attempted to explain at the outset (though maybe I should have given it a longer treatment as I’ve done in the past), the word “better” to me just means “conforms more with my personal value system.” I tried very hard to explain why I think it’s better. But it’s been frustrating to me that most of the negative commentary I’ve received is based on tone, rather than substance.

  8. It should be noted that not all BDSM relationships include a power differential – I’ve been doing BDSM for three decades and have never once engaged in a relationship that includes one partner having the right to dictate the other’s sexual behavior outside any given scene. The reason I mentioned BDSM is that it’s such a clear example of the way in which many people engage in eros outside the pair-bonded relationship, without necessarily engaging in genital sex or relinquishing their own definition of “monogamy.”

    When Dossie and I were first drafting “Slut,” we taught a workshop which I opened, as I often do, by asking how many people in the audience were monogamous. One of the few hands that went up belonged to a woman in whom I had had my fist less than 48 hours before, in the presence of her primary partner. I did not, of course, out her to the other attendees, but later in private I inquired. Turned out that she and her partner reserved p/v intercourse for their relationship, and to them, that constituted monogamy. Like that.)

    I’ll also point out that you’re consistently failing to distinguish between “voluntary monogamy” – a situation in which both partners *choose* to keep their sexuality, however they define that, for each other – and “imposed monogamy,” in which negative consequences are assigned, by one’s partner and/or by the relationship agreements, to being sexual outside the relationship. I agree that the latter can be limiting and a cause of relationship stress, but the former can be a loving and growthful choice under any number of circumstances. If you don’t allow for “voluntary monogamy,” I think you’re shooting at a straw man.

  9. If you don’t allow for “voluntary monogamy,” I think you’re shooting at a straw man.

    I completely agree, and tried to cover that by defining “polyamory” broadly (and monogamy narrowly) before going in to any specifics. Anywhere I’ve referred to “monogamy,” it was with my original definition in mind, which was a relationship with a rule or agreement against outside sexual/romantic relationships.

    There is a very special place in my heart for what I call de facto monogamous couples. That is, couples who don’t have a rule against outside relationships, but just don’t want any. I included such people in my definition of “polyamory” (again, just for purposes of this discussion) because I don’t think that anything I had to say about monogamy applies to that type of relationship.

  10. I feel like your post is focusing on sex because of lines like:

    “The effect of the monogamy agreement is to put the brakes on such a thing. It’s saying “if I want to fuck someone else, I won’t.””

    You can betray someone or incite jealousy in a monogamous relationship without having sex with other people, AND just because you open the relationship up doesn’t mean it’ll get any easier. It might get worse. There are ALL sorts of different forms of betrayal beyond just having sex, and neither monogamy NOR polyamory adequately avoids all of them. I feel like this post is only focusing on the ability to pursue other sexual partners, and doesn’t at all address the benefits of having more than one person to go to when you’re sad, or having a bad day. You also kind of make it sound like sex is the only reason you’re with these people in the first place. Is sex the definition of what makes a romantic relationship to you? (For some people it is, which is why I ask.)

    Also the whole bit about not having cheddar cheese makes me feel like your only focus here is on sex. Yes, your example is absurd, but it’s also completely skewed. Monogamous couples don’t agree NOT to have sex, they agree to ONLY have it with each other. Had your example been “baby, I enjoy eating this cheese with you so much…please don’t share it with anybody else, ok?” it would have been more accurate. But then, I think it might have hurt your argument, because that sounds a lot more reasonable than “don’t eat cheese!” Of course, I don’t see anything wrong with a couple mutually agreeing to keep something special and just for them. I have friends with whom I share special things – particular places we go, or shows we watch, and so on. Maybe it’s not as intimate as sex, but I like that it’s just ours and it defines our relationship as being special and unique because of our shared agreement to keep something as Just Ours. I don’t feel it limits or cheapens our relationship.

    I think the real issue here is with assumptions, yes? You don’t like the assumption that all relationships must start as monogamous unless otherwise specified, right? Which is fair – I don’t like it either. That’s why I explain to people up front about Meggie and our situation. It helps to weed out the nincompoops.

    Perhaps a more fitting title for this post would have been “Why I like Polyamory better than Monogamy”….?

  11. (also, I love having friends with whom I can have these sorts of discussions and not fear that they’re going to hate me for it later. You are super-duper awesome for that. 🙂 )

  12. @wfenza: Looking out for yourself and your needs is always important, whether you’re in a relationship or not. Why would you sacrifice your comfort and happiness for another person? Is their happiness worth you being miserable? Being a bit more dramatic, if you didn’t feel like having sex one night and your partner told you that you were being selfish and thinking only about yourself and not about their needs, is that okay? Letting someone control you to such an extent is very dangerous. Don’t let yourself get into an abusive relationship. If you are unhappy in your relationship, then you should not be in that relationship.

    Sometimes people just are not compatible. If someone wants to be poly and their partner forces monogamy on them, then the poly person would be better off in another relationship. Same thing goes for the other way around. A heterosexual and a homosexual would not have a good relationship, a Christian and an atheist would (likely) not have a good relationship, a poly and a mono would (likely) not have a good relationship. They want different things in life.

  13. @anti –

    I’m really glad you added that postscript. Having a disagreement with a friend for the first time always makes me nervous. The people that have the greatest value to me these days are the ones with whom I can have a passionate disagreement (some might even call it an argument) and come out of it feeling better (or at least not worse) about one another, regardless of the outcome. Until you said something, I was afraid this might cause problems for our developing friendship, and I’m very relieved to see that my fears were unfounded.

    I see what you’re saying about focusing on sex. I was focusing on sex in that sense because it’s the clearest dividing line between being monogamous and being nonmonogamous (or monogamish) to most people. Anything I said about sex in that sense could apply equally to romantic love, or any other forbidden activity. I only focused on sex because it’s generally a bright-line rule in monogamous relationships, whereas many couples have differing tolerances for emotional relationships with people outside of the relationship. Sex is certainly not the defining quality of a romantic relationship to me, as I’ve had sexual relationships that are not romantic in the slightest, and very intimate (though I probably wouldn’t call them “romantic”) relationships that were not sexual.

    I think you may be right about the cheese example. I was just coming up with an example of something forbidden, but I think you’re right that the analogy works better if it’s “don’t eat cheese with anyone else.” That still sounds rather absurd to me, though.

    As for reserving special activities only for certain people, my feelings about it depend on why you’re doing it. For example, I really can’t watch Futurama with anyone but Gina. It’s not that she’ll get upset or anything. It’s just that watching Futurama is so enjoyable with her that it would be disappointing to watch it without her by comparison (though I’ll happily watch it with her and other people). I don’t watch Futurama without her because I don’t want to.

    I think that’s markedly different from a situation where I’ve pledged to her that I will only watch Futurama with her. That situation would presuppose that, at some point, I’d like to watch it with someone else, but that I won’t, because I’ve made a promise. A loving partner wouldn’t want that kind of pledge. She would want me to watch Futurama with whoever I want, if that’s what makes me happy. I might make that kind of deal with some friends, but I don’t have the deep level of love for all of my friends that I have for my partners, and I don’t always put my less intimate friends’ interests first.

    Granted, It might make her feel happy and special that I only want to watch it with her, but that’s because the reason I only want to watch it with her is that she’s special. If the reason was that I made a promise, it might make her feel special, but it would be an illusion. And again, the only reason to make the promise in the first place is in anticipation that the promise will motivate me to stick to my commitment.

  14. @anonymous – you’re very right about the need to protect yourself, which is why I often describe love as dangerous if it’s not returned. I imagine we’ve all seen someone hopelessly devoted to a person that’s taking advantage. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s critically important to establish trust with someone before letting yourself get carried away by emotional attachment.

    The ideal relationship, I think, involves that level of love and devotion, but in both directions. If either of my partners decided to take advantage of my feelings, it would be easy. However, when both partners have that level of devotion, then both partners are invested in each other’s happiness on a level equal to their own. It creates this awesome synergistic circle where your own happiness becomes important because it’s important to your partner’s happiness, which is important to you. It creates this sort of equilibrium where both parties weigh each other’s well-being equally when making decisions.

    People that want different things in life can be happy together, so long as they love one another. There are plenty of successful relationships of every type you mentioned (with the possible exception of heterosexual and homosexual, but polyamory is not a sexual orientation). If one partner wants outside relationships, and the other doesn’t, then what’s the problem with one partner having outside relationships, and the other not?

  15. … jealousy encourages a person to feel bad when good things happen to other people. To be jealous of someone is to wish ill fortune on that person. Jealousy is, in effect, the opposite of love. If love is a symbiotic relationship, where one party’s happiness creates happiness for everyone, jealousy is a parasitic relationship, where one party’s happiness drains happiness from all other parties. In that sense, the more love in a relationship, the less jealousy. wfenza

    I would suggest considering a different way to look at jealously. I see jealously as a constellation of various emotional responses (such as fear of loss, anger at betrayal (real or imagined), fear of rejection, etc) rather than an intent. If jealousy were an intentional choice, or a personal value, I would agree will all that you have written. I’d prefer not to have jealously in my life.

    I am in a relatively new relationship (one year) as well as two long term relationships (10 and 12 years). I don’t recall any feelings of jealousy related to either of my long term relationships. But my new relationship has elicited quite strong emotions in me that I would have to characterize as jealously.

    I choose to apply the same strategies that I use when working with any shadow emotions *. I try not to judge jealously. I don’t allow jealously to control my behavior. I do not expect others to modify their behavior to appease my jealousy. I do not make any attempt to internally suppress my emotions (though I also do not act out on these emotions). Instead, I allow myself to feel the emotions, listen to what they have to say, learn from them, and allow them to pass on their own. Often, on the other side of this process, I open the door to intense compersion**. From my own direct experience, I believe that compersion is impossible in the presence of suppressed jealousy.

    If I don’t allow my emotions to be felt and expressed (at least to myself in private), I can expect them to leak out sideways. If jealousy is suppressed, it will still be there, creating a barrier to love.

    * Shadow emotions: The definition varies quite a bit depending on the source. My definition: emotions (whether positive or negative) that are inconsistent with my intentional values. For example, joy at another’s failure, anger triggered by another’s actions that I would willingly do myself, fear of anything that my rational mind does not perceive as an actual threat.

    ** Compersion: The joyful feeling you get in response to witnessing your lover enjoying a sexual or romantic connection with somebody else.

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