Jealousy: 5 Tips For Managing Yours + Q&A

art by Callie Little

art by Callie Little

Whether it’s “oh, I’m just too jealous for that,” or “but how did you get over all the jealousy,” nearly every openly non-monogamous person has encountered some iteration of this topic more times than they can count— unless they’ve kept track on their Google calendars, AKA the only way any of us remember anything.

It’s true that some people just don’t experience jealousy, but it’s a myth that anyone who chooses non-monogamy is suddenly free of the green-eyed monster. Plenty of us would love nothing more than to never feel another twinge of clingy, possessive insecurity. The reality is, though, that we can’t suddenly be above it all. Jealousy, or what we’ve learned to call jealousy, it is a nearly universal truth. Anyone can be subject to bouts of self-doubt and insecurity from time to time. There is a difference, though, between insecurity and jealousy, and between jealousy and envy. In monogamy, we generally conflate all these concepts. We’re presented with one idea and definition of jealousy: this person is mine, and if I have to watch them care about anyone else I will die, the world will end, my life as I know it will be over.

Perhaps that sounds exaggerated, but the feeling is real and valid.

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There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but the variables and reasons behind why we feel jealousy end up showing us a more complete picture of ourselves. It’s something more beautiful than we give it credit for. And while we believe jealousy is all about others, when we actually examine it for what it is, it comes down to us.

So what do you do with all those juicy, awful-feeling feelings? You sit with them. Hold them. Get comfortable with them. Look them in the eye and realize that monsters are just wild things you haven’t yet gotten to know. Domesticate your jealousy!

When we asked you for your questions on this topic, we received a really unique response. In this letter, we look at a lesser-discussed facet of jealousy:

If I Don’t Feel Jealous, Is It Even Polyamory?

Dear Constellations,

I’m a bi/pan cis woman married to a straight cis man. We just started being non-monogamous, and for me, a big piece of it was getting to explore who I am outside of a hetero relationship. I’ve never felt comfortable enough to explore and define that part of [my] sexuality, it was always just a nebulous I’m in the closet about crushing on girls and I like having sex with guys anyway so whatever I’ll be straight.

In my relationship with my husband, I finally feel safe and confident enough to say this is what I need— and it’s been amazing! I feel like my heart is just opening up more and, dang, I like having sex with women! He’s dating too. Recently, though, we had a conversation that I don’t feel so good about...

He was talking about how he feels like I’m taking a safe route through non-monogamy by not dating men, and that he’s not threatened or jealous because I’m [only] seeing women. I just got this vibe that he needed me to be dating men for it to be “real.” I tried to say that’s just not what I want right now... but I went out with a guy for the hell of it and it felt pretty meh.

Long story short, I wanted to ask you if your male partners have ever expressed something similar and how did or how would you deal with it?

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Starlight,
First of all, congratulations on accepting, exploring and celebrating your queer self! We’re so thrilled for you! Non-monogamy is really useful (when wielded responsibly) for getting those needs met. It sounds like you’re experiencing new relationship dynamics both outside of this partnership and within it… And it sounds like maybe your sweetie’s putting a lot of stress on himself to grow the hard way. On the one hand, it’s great that he wants to challenge himself. On the other… Well, there’s just a whole lot in the other hand.

To begin with, he’ll inevitably have plenty of processing to fill up his days in the future. Boi needs to sit back and relax while he can! More importantly, though, it’s absolutely necessary for your cis dude (and all cis dudes) to understand that a relationship with a woman is equally valid to the ones you might have with men. RELATIONSHIPS ARE VALID. Full stop. It’s common in newly non-monogamous relationships for men to “allow” their female partners to date other women but not men... While he’s allowed to date other women. This is a problem. (And it’s commonly referred to as a “one penis policy”) Aside from the obvious sexism, this line of thinking is pretty destructive to queer identities. It forms a narrative that somehow queer relationships are lesser than heterosexual cis ones. That shit’s damaging!  We may view ourselves as progressive, but we can’t deny that we’ve been conditioned to see some versions of relationships, particularly hetero-centered + monogamous relationships as “right.” Part of non-monogamy is not only about learning about our own insecurity, but also the practice of unlearning what we’ve been taught.

The loving relationship you’ve chosen with your partner relies on a few things, including basic respect. While he might feel like he’s respecting you by simply communicating his desire for you to take “the harder route,” (spoiler: there are no “easy” or “hard” routes through relationships or life— it’s all just one big jumble of experiences no matter which paths you take) he’s got more work to do. First, it sounds like— if you’d like for him to understand you better, and we’re not saying you should or shouldn’t— he could do with hearing more about why your relationships with non-men are so important. Breaking down the barriers between heterosexual and queer experiences is really important for relationships that involve people of both identities. Until he can understand the depth of relationship you’re able to have with people outside of his own gender, he really can’t know you, you know? That being said, this is more labor for you. Make sure you acknowledge (both to him and yourself) that this is work you’re having to do for the both of you— and that one of the things you really desire is an intimate knowledge of the kind of deep emotional processing being queer requires. We do a lot of labor for a lot of people, and finding partners who understand that and just get it? Who are able to lighten the load? They’re absolutely precious. Does that mean we don’t love and value our other partners? Not at all! It just means we get different needs and wants met by different people.

Placing value on a metamour’s gender is a real experience that a lot of people have, but that doesn’t negate the importance of working through it. Just because it’s valid to feel something doesn’t mean the sentiment itself is valid.

For you, and for anyone dealing with any version of jealousy or insecurity, here are our favorite tools that help us when dealing with these challenges:

  1. DO: Sit in the discomfort of jealousy. Sit. Feel. Assess. DON’T: Avoid experiencing your jealousy. Blame your partner or metamours. Judge yourself for being “imperfect.”

  2. After taking some time for yourself, voice the jealousy you’re feeling to your partner(s). Set the precedent that these conversations are welcome and will always be approached with gentleness, respect, and love from all parties.

  3. Remember that dealing with jealousy once doesn’t mean that it’ll necessarily be easier in the future. But learning that jealousy doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, your relationship, or non-monogamy, helps to experience it a bit more easily, and it becomes less scary. The knee-jerk reaction of monogamous conditioning may remain, but the fear of it all crashing down does fade with time and exposure.

  4. Try to be gentle with yourself if you return to the same pain points several times— if you continue to work on these areas, you’ll eventually figure out the lesson you need to learn from the experience. View these moments as opportunities to grow.

  5. As simple as it sounds, journaling is a priceless tool for managing and alleviating jealousy. Getting your feelings out onto paper can put them in perspective, and you can gain insight that otherwise could have slipped past you. The difficulties begin inside your own heart, and that’s usually where the ways through can be found, too.

Some people don’t feel jealousy as strongly, if you are one of those people, it doesn’t mean you’re doing relationships wrong, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing better than anyone else, either. If you do feel jealousy, you aren’t doing relationships wrong. There is no perfect way to be non-monogamous, but there are many ways to do it with love and compassion. Because isn’t that what we’re striving for within non-monogamy? More love and more compassion.

And if we get a whole variety of genitals and genders as a bonus?

We’ll take it.


written by Callie Little & Margaret Jacobsen




Margaret JacobsenComment