If you meet me at a poly meetup, for the sake of Lord Xenu and all the minions of Cthulhu don’t ask me how we deal with jealousy or other such banal questions. Instead, ask yourself how you would do so.
I know. Life is scary. You saw your boyfriend check out that cute girl at the bar. Your boyfriend is currently making out with that saucy minx in the hot tub. You think that maybe your partner is having a good time, without you, on their date right now. Maybe in a bedroom somewhere. Hell, you might just be worried that the person you are in the current process of sexually pleasuring might prefer the way another person does it. They might be thinking about the flirtatious sex bot at the party you just came from. You know, the one that triggered your insecurities about your own imperfections.
All of that shit is in your head.
And it’s in my head too. I worry whether I do enough to keep my partners happy. I worry about all sorts of things related to insecurity and fear. But I realize, even while suffering emotional throws of uncertainty, that it’s all an illusion. It’s all stupid, terrible, lies told by a madman who pulls the levers of fear in my head. I hate that madman sometimes. But that madman is me. And I don’t want to hate myself. So, instead it tell that madman to cut that shit out, because it isn’t helping.
He doesn’t usually listen to me, though.
I understand why people create boundaries, rules, and restrictions in relationships. I understand the impulse to want to stake a claim of ownership, or at least of permission, around your lovers so that this madman inside your head does not go crazy and start making you feel terrible and afraid. Monogamy, and polyamory with restrictive rules around things like sleeping over with another partner, not getting too emotionally attached, or something as simple as no sexual intercourse, makes sense from the point of view of accommodating this madman.
But those restrictions don’t solve the problem because that madman is, well, unreasonable.
Your partner really wanting to have sex with someone, but only being “allowed” to make out, touch, and get worked up with them while not doing what they want does not make you feel better. That’s an illusion. If your partner come back home from a date, does it matter exactly how much sexual contact they had with some other person (or people?) Isn’t the exact point of pain there either at the desire itself or your own fear? What does it really matter if they did what you were afraid of? Is the act itself the problem?
No. That’s all bullshit. When I’m feeling uncertain or jealous about what my wife or other partner is doing with someone else, the problem is not what “base” they got to (oh man, how stupid is that shit?), but my own fear of inadequacy. And my concern with what parts of their date was touching what part of them is not the location of the problem. And no matter how much it hurts, how many emotions flare up and demand to be attended to, the problem is illusory and stupid.
Whether a matter of social training about the possessiveness of relationships, an evolutionary/genetic set of dispositions, or something else, it’s all an illusion. The emotions are real, but the emotions are lying to you about the source of the pain. It’s a cognitive sleight of hand (and a good one, I’ll admit!), and even us poly people are susceptible to it. It’s very similar to “religious experience;” the experience really happened, but the experience is lying about its sources. It’s all in your head.
Fear is the mind killer. Emotions are powerful, and sometimes exist for legitimate reasons, but it is what we choose to do with those feelings that matters. Jealousy might make you want to punch the guy hitting on your partner, but that guy is not the source of the pain and fear. A sense of injustice might make you want to rant and rave against a clueless person (whether racist or not), but that person is not the source of the injustice. In those (and many other) cases, emotion can take us off the path of being the best people we can be. Fear, like depression, lies.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating any sort of Vulcan-esque repression of emotion or even a complete distrust of our feelings. Emotions are wonderful, powerful, and useful parts of out human experience (when used well). I just want us to realize that there is a thing called rationalization, illusion, and a set of cognitive red herrings which compel belief in untruths. Emotions can convince us we are being reasonable when we are not. So whether it is possessiveness, righteous indignation, or many other forms of emotion which may compel action, we need to keep in mind that we might be being lied to, by our own brain.
Anger, fear, jealousy, and all the other emotions that are often called “bad” sometimes exist for good reasons. I will not tell anyone they cannot be angry, annoyed, etc. I will say that they should be careful with how they use those weapons. if you are not well trained in the use of a weapon, you are likely to hurt yourself or a loved ones with it.