Jealousy and polyamory

No! just no....

One of the most cited reasons that people are not polyamorous, even if they are not against the idea in principle, is that they simply could not do it.  They are too jealous.

But jealousy is not a sufficient reason to not be polyamorous.  Not being polyamorous for this reason is simply a way to avoid dealing with the problem of jealousy.

Ever listen to love songs on the radio? Ever watch a sappy romantic comedy where the blunt end of the joke is the presence of competition or possessiveness? The lamenting lyrics of wanting someone’s girl, seeing someone beautiful on the train but she was with another man, or sappy words about how someone belongs to someone else is so ubiquitous that not even us polyamorous people always notice it.  But it is pretty ubiquitous.

Jealousy, whether in the form of competition, possessiveness, or destruction of property is a part of our culture.  It is, indeed, part of the mythology of love in our culture. I use the term myth here because if possessiveness or jealousy are anywhere near the core of love, something is wrong.

But it often is near the core of love in our culture.  Our culture’s use of love, expectations of relationships, and folk wisdom about how to respond to jealousy are pretty unattractive.  It is not surprising that this is the case, especially given that the Bible (which is a part of the foundation of our Western culture) seems to condone this behavior in the book of Exodus.

20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

and it gets better two verses later!

20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

[emphasis mine]

See, god loves us, but if we were to cast a casual glance to some other god, he would smite us.  And we’d deserve it, of course! How could we be so slutty….

Jealousy as a bad thing

The problem is that people don’t see jealousy as a bad thing.  As the picture at the top of this post shows, there is an idea in our culture that jealousy is somehow an indication that the love is real, rather than imitation love or whatever.  I have been told before that if I don’t mind my girlfriend sleeping with other men, I don’t really love her.  Such people say that when I meet someone who I really love, I would not want to share her.

I suppose I don’t love either of you, Ginny and Gina.  Sorry….

Bullshit! That idea is patently absurd.  I love both of them and I don’t see how bowing to any jealous or possessive feelings I may have is someone more real than recognizing that they are both intelligent, talented, and beautiful people who anyone could love.  How is it rational to love someone (or some thing) and not expect other people to love them too?  And what right do I have to claim possession to a person just because I love them? That is the implication, right; I love them, and anyone else who does is competition.

Of course, for many of us anyway, jealousy still occurs.  Sometimes it’s mere envy, but sometimes it’s not. But what do we do about it?  Do we address the object of our jealousy or do we address the fact that jealousy is damaging to relationships and love in general? Most resources I have seen seem to emphasize that the feeling is probably unwarranted; that what we fear is not happening and we need to stop being so suspicious.  But when you share your lovers, the thing you feel jealous about is happening!  The question is whether you should feel bad about that.

Obviously, if you are agreeing to non-monogamy with your partner(s), you have no justification to be angry about it happening, even if you do feel jealous from time to time.  In such circumstances, your project should be to find ways to rid yourself of those types of reactions so that your good feelings for those people are not tainted by unpleasant experiences of feeling possessive or insecure as a result.  Eventually, you may grow to like the idea of sharing (some call this compersion.  I hate that term.  It’s still better than frubble), and jealousy may be nothing but an unpleasant memory or a curiosity for reflaction on human nature.

Monogamous people may have reasons to be angry if their partners have romantic or sexual relationships with other people (since this was not agreed upon, by definition), but the jeaousy is still something they should try and transcend.  Jealousy does not stop it from happening, and if it is not happening it causes unnecessary anxiety.  It is a sign of lack of trust, security, and can only act to drive people apart, rather than help in any way.

Therefore, there is no excuse for tolerating jealousy, even if one is monogamous.

Monogamy is not a cure for jealousy

Even if you choose a lifestyle of sexual exclusivity, your partner will probably love someone else.  They will probably find other people sexually and/or romantically attractive, they will have fantasies about those people, and ultimately they will probably want more than you are able to give.  If you decide to structure your relationship such that neither of you will pursue anything beyond friendship with others, so be it, but this will not eliminate the existence and problem of jealousy.

It will just avoid the problem by treating the symptom rather than the underlying cause.

The love you have for someone is because of who they are, and should not be dependent upon who else loves them or who else they love.  So, for someone to say that they could not be polyamorous because they are too jealous, what they seem to be saying is that they do not want to deal with the reality of human needs, desires, or the possibility that they may not be able to satisfy every need a person has.

Jealousy is not a reason not to be polyamorous; it is a reason to consider not being in a relationship with anyone.  Jealousy does not go away just because you are not sharing, it just isn’t challenged when we are not sharing.  It’s sort of like teaching children how to share toys; if you just keep them all separate and let them play with their toys separately, the problem never arises.  But when you put children together, they fight over toys.  Separating them does not alleviate the problem, it only avoids it.

Similarly, separating everyone out with monogamous pairings does not make jealousy go away, it just tries to create a dynamic where it ideally is never relevant.  It is an unrealistic expectation and is rarely possible.  So why try?

Only because it avoids the problem most of the time.  From a practical point of view, it is easier to not deal with hard problems.  But this is short-term thinking, and does not lead to us growing up to emotional adulthood.  Jealousy is one of the many aspects to human behavior which we need to address as a species, and too often it is shelved in the name of practicality.

We can do better than that.

When it rains it pours

I am just in a great mood! I had such a wonderful weekend, and I want to share it with the world.

Being polyamorous with someone as wonderful as my dear Ginny is amazing in itself.  I feel very lucky to have someone who fits me so well, who is so beautiful inside and out, and who I can expect to spend a fun, nurturing, and challenging (in the good way) life.  But recently we met a couple who just got married, and since they are also polyamorous (and they are not exactly a couple; there is a third in there), we started to spend some time with them over the last couple of months or so.  And just this last few days it blossomed into a great situation where I find myself beginning what I hope will be another intimate and meaningful relationship.  Of course there is no way to know at this point whether it will be successful or not, but my instincts are good.  I am able to be objective enough to know that intense emotions can cloud judgment and foresight, but I have every reason to believe that all the ingredients are quality, the chemistry is right, and our desire to create something awesome is mutual.

In other words, I met someone I really like, and am feeling really positive about it.  (I have not asked her if I can use her name here, so for now she will remain nameless).  In fact, not only has my fortune been good, my fortune hit the jackpot and doubled.  In addition to the one nameless (girlfriend? Hmm, I guess we have not discussed titles yet) woman I just left less than an hour ago, I have also started to see another woman who I clicked with very easily.  Just yesterday (Saturday) I had a fantastic first date with someone I had met a couple of years ago (before my brief stint in Atlanta), but she recently discovered me on OKCupid (where all the awesome poly peeps are, apparently) and we went out and have a fantastic time.  That on top of seeing my new lady friend both Friday and tonight…I’m a little worn out, I have to say….

And on top of that, Ginny is having a great time with her new boy toy…ok, I don’t know what to call him either.  I suppose all that will work itself out in time.  We are just happy and evolving little poly family here, and I am loving every minute of it.

For those of you who think that this polyamory thing cannot work, that it is destructive and can only lead to hurting people, all I have to say is bullshit! I am happy to see Ginny happy and enjoying herself with another person, and she is happy to see me happy and enjoying myself with another person.  (This phenomenon is what is referred to as compersion, or sometimes as frubble.  Google is your friend).  We love each other, are affectionate and open with each other, and we have other people we care about and have sex with.  And, while ultimately I just want people to find what makes them happy, fulfills their desires, etc I think that many monogamous people who say that they could not do this are really missing out on something awesome.  But, again, I’m riding high on emotion and am, perhaps, not seeing it all clearly at the moment; I just know that right now I am feeling the poly high.

So, now that I am on the verge of finding a way to build three relationships (of varying significance and intensity), I find that I’m looking forward to it.  What more could a person want than more love, friendships, and hot, hot sex with sexy people?

Life is good.


New Relationship Energy

I’ve been in a relationship for some time now with a wonderful woman called Ginny.  The circumstances of how our relationship started have to do with a heart-wrenching break up in January of this year and the right person at the right time and place.  Due to the timing of this meeting, it took a while to allow myself to grow closer to her, although closer I grew and I would not want to imagine life without her now. She will never fully understand how her presence in my life was essential for me through an awful time that still occasionally causes sleepless nights.

Because of the slow emotional growth that occurred between us and my emotional fragility in which it grew, there was not that intense emotional high that often punctuates the beginnings of a relationship.  I was emotionally cautious, having been hurt so badly so recently, and didn’t allow my emotions to flower in ways they had with previous lovers.  I had missed the high of the New Relationship Energy (NRE).

This is not to say that I don’t have intense feelings for her, only that they developed slowly, and thus settled deeper.  There is depth that may not have been created under more normal circumstances.  Well, normal is relative, right?

What I mean is the situation I am in now is relatively normal within polyamorous circumstances, but not so normal outside of that worldview.  You see, there is this girl (who I will leave nameless because I am not sure she would want to be identified)  that I have liked for quite a while now.  In fact, she was among the first people I met when I traveled to Atlanta last Summer to look for apartments for my ex and I to move into.  It just happened to be the weekend of Dragon*Con, so of course there was that too.

When we met, I was instantly attracted to her (and her to me), but I was not in a place to pursue a relationship with anyone else because my ex and I had decided to be exclusive for a while before opening up our relationship.  With us moving from Philadelphia to Atlanta and her constantly traveling for work, the amount of relationship tensions were going to be high so the arrangement seemed prudent.  I respected that arrangement in act and intention (not like it mattered in the long run) and kept a respectful distance between us despite the mutual attraction.

But once the ex abandoned me (after inviting me to move down here 3 months previous) I re-connected with her and re-initiated a friendship.  (You see, the ex didn’t approve of her at all, even as a friend, so…).  We have been talking over the last few months, spent some time together, and then this past weekend we spent a lot of time together.  She met my girlfriend, they liked each other, and I asked her is she wanted to be my girlfriend as well.  The answer is forthcoming (and it looks like she may say yes, but we shall see) but in either case the last couple of days have been filled with that high, that NRE, that I had not felt since the ex who I will not name (not out of any hatred or resentment on my part, but out of reverence for her wishes) and I first started spending time together. Ah, for the blissful days of innocence before the fall….

In any case, I’m experiencing NRE big-time, and I look forward to seeing her again (I will tonight).  I’m all giddy, tingly, and excited just thinking about it. I hope that she will say yes to my proposal, but even if she does not I will want to remain close with her because even if she does not want to be my lover, she’s gotta get with my friends…sorry.

So, what does this mean for Ginny? Well, she approves of my proposal and is happy for me being happy.  There are concerns about how it will effect our relationship, but we have talked (and will continue to talk) about any concerns she has. Open and honest communication is paramount in relationships, especially in arrangements like this.  If she accepts, it will change the dynamic of my relationship with Ginny to some degree.  The ideal is to add to the dynamic in ways that benefit everyone.  Whether that means a triad (three people in relationships with each-other), a “V” (me having separate relationships with both of them, ideally with them on friendly terms), or something in-between is yet to be seen.  But for now I will ride the NRE wave as long as it will last and try to allow it to settle into a relationship of genuine love, affection, and mutual growth.

The key is to not allow the NRE to take away from my existing relationship.  It is easy to get caught up in that NRE and to leave the other person feeling under-appreciated.  This is a difficult avenue to navigate, one that I have made mistakes with in the past, but I hope that I have learned sufficiently to not make those mistakes again.

And certainly this phenomenon is not unique to Polyamory.  How often have you noticed that early in an intense relationship you see your friends less, get less sleep, and otherwise get caught up with the intensity of it all?  Now imagine having this while another lover of yours sits aside watching you ride this wave.  While frubble or compersion might come into play (as it has for Ginny in the last couple of days), often some envy or jealousy might as well.  It is really important to be aware of this (even if it is with friends rather than other lovers), because those close to you will miss you while you ride that wave.

So, be aware that your NRE will affect others around you.  And if you can, try and spread some of those good feelings around; share some of that intensity with others so that they can get an idea of how good you feel.

My SO has an OSO

What the hell does that mean?

This is poly lingo. It means that my significant other (SO) has another significant other (OSO). It means that my girlfriend has another boyfriend. As a song does, My girlfriend’s boyfriend isn’t me…or something.

How does this make me feel? Well, at first I felt a little bit threatened and jealous. But then I thought about it. See, I don’t get to spend enough time with…crap, this is the point which I wonder how identifying the specific people might be a problem. OK, I’m calling her Susan. In any case, she tells me that she’s met a guy that she likes, and has been seeing him for a little while. The thing is that I don’t see her enough to satisfy her. She wants more, and I cannot blame her. She deserves to be happy, and I can’t see her enough to keep her happy enough, and so I’m OK with her dating someone else. Bottom line, I love being with her, and I want it to continue. So, what could go wrong?

Well, despite the fact that they are both bisexual, they don’t get along. They did for a short while, but that time has passed. Now, my primary (I’ll call her Natalie) is not sure about this situation, and wishes that things had not turned out this way. She will not be happy knowing that I am having sex with a woman who is having sex with another man, mostly because it can be risky in terms of STI’s. It is a valid concern. But I trust ‘Susan’s’ judgment, and I will make sure that my caution is satisfied before this goes too far. My concern now is the fact that if ‘Natalie’ wants more than I can give, and her reluctance to pursue this.

Details are not necessary. All that matters is that both of them have needs I cannot fulfill myself, just as each of them cannot fulfill my needs themselves. I want them to be happy, but love them both, yet in different ways. I will feel a little jealous at times, but I recognize that I am able to share myself and feel joy and love for both, so can they both as well.

We, as a culture, need to stop worshiping the need to own our loved ones. Think how many love songs talk of the ones we are with belonging to us, or whatever. This is a drug that is based on our own fears and insecurities. We need to love the people we are with, including their desires as they really are, otherwise we are mostly pretending to love them rather than the mutual dependence that our culture calls monogamy.

I’m happy that ‘Susan’ may find another to care about. I feel genuine compersion (look up this term, it may be of interest to you out there).