Posts Tagged ‘communication’

One of the first things that comes up whenever I come out to someone as poly is the J word.

“How do you handle the jealousy?”

“Don’t you ever get jealous?”

“I could never handle the jealousy.”

And a video I watched recently put it rather well. Jealousy is not exclusive to romantic love or sexual partners. We get jealous of colleagues, friends, siblings and even strangers. How do you deal with that jealousy? I think the common answer to that is, all kinds of ways!

The worst thing you could do is assume that being poly means never being jealous, so if you feel jealousy, you must not be truly poly. Don’t let your guilt get the better of you! Learn to listen to your jealousy, as it has some important things to teach you. You can manage this without throwing everything away.

My personal method for dealing with jealousy involves several steps. The first, I identify and name whatever is making me jealous.

Example: I’m super into my new lover. We have only been on two dates but I am already totally smitten. I’m still chatting with other people on OkC, but this is really exciting and new.  Then he tells me that he has been chatting with one of the girls I’ve been chatting with. I tell her, “Haha, a guy I’m seeing says he’s chatting with you too!” She replies that they’ve been on a couple of dates.


Ooh, that hurt.

STEP ONE: Why am I hurt?

  1. I feel slightly scared because I don’t remember him saying he went out with her. I am worried that he might have lied, and if he lied, then I might not be able to trust him.
  2.  I feel slightly let down because if he went out with someone else, maybe that diminishes my specialness.
  3. I am a little jealous that she met him first, which could mean she knows him better, and I am envious of that.

STEP TWO: I have a little chat with myself, and try to think of some other stories I could be thinking of:

  • It’s possible that he said they went out and I don’t remember. It’s possible that he isn’t sure what my boundaries are and what I want to know about. It’s possible that even if he didn’t mention it, he was using discretion for her sake rather than his own.
  • My specialness is not diminished because he found someone else to go out with. I am interested in meeting other people too. Hell, I am even thinking of asking her out too, and that doesn’t diminish his specialness to me, so this is clearly a double standard. I am amazing, whether he thinks so or not. And he has made it clear that he thinks so, so I have nothing to worry about.
  • It’s not who got there first, it’s who is there now. He also has a girlfriend, who I am not envious of. There is no reason to assume that because he went on a date with her first that she has any sort of advantage. Besides, it is not a competition. I am happy that he is meeting lots of cool people and that I am one of them. Having more people interested in him increases his value. If someone as cool as her found him attractive, then I am in good company!

STEP THREE: I create an action plan.

  • I make sure to let him know I felt like this, (using “I” statements, of course) and let him know about my boundaries about honesty so we can find some common ground and build trust (even casual relationships require some trust).
  • I remind myself how amazing I am and go catch up on my other OkC match messages.
  • I feel the feelings and recognise that they are valuable reminders to take care of my needs and make sure I am not placing too much pressure on the relationship to fill them.

This is loosely based on the ABCDE method of self-management which I learned in teacher education. It’s a valuable tool to work through strong emotional reactions and negative experiences.

A funny thing happened while I was writing this, my metamour called me to help her deal with some jealousy she was experiencing and I walked her through my process. I think it really helped her to hear how I deal with this and she said she would give my method a try. It probably didn’t hurt to know that even us old veterans of poly still experience those pangs from time to time!

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“So, do you want to hear my safer sex speech?”


“Great! Here’s my speech. The last time I was tested was [_____], and I was tested for [_____] and [____]. I tested negative/positive/was treated for [_____]. I have [____] and I can’t guarantee I won’t give it to you, so if that is a problem, then I’m sorry but that means we can’t [_____]. I’ve had [____] sexual partners and right now I have [____] partners (our relationship agreement is that we are poly/mono/open/swingers/etc. which means [___]). I am currently on/not on hormonal birth control, but I still insist on using barrier methods for [______] sex. I am open to using barrier methods for [____] but not for [_____]. I really like [______] but I’m not into [_____]. What about you?”

I got this awesome idea from this YouTube video called Reid’s Saver Sex Elevator Speech. It’s by Reid Mihalko and honestly it was a huge turn on.

I thought I might try it if I ever date again.

What’s surprising is that there are people, mostly guys (that I know of), mostly younger than me, who don’t seem to be all that concerned about safer sex. It’s like they don’t think it matters, or think it’s too hard to have that conversation so they just pin the responsibility on their partner and let her call the shots. Well, as the Actual Advice Mallard up at the top reminds us, relying on your partner to set the safer sex standards for a sexual encounter means you’re leaving major decisions about your health – and if you are poly, the health of a whole community of people – to someone else. It’s up to YOU to take responsibility for your safer sex decisions. The only person whose safer sex decisions you can trust are your OWN. The only actions you know about for sure are YOUR OWN.

“But it’s too hard. It’s embarrassing. It’s not how I do things.”

You know what’s a more awkward conversation to have? Telling someone you tested positive for an STI. That is a shitty conversation to have. And if you are non-monogamous, you have to have that conversation with a lot of people. And some of them will never trust you again.

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

If you front-load this conversation, and have it as early as possible, you can have ALL THE SEX! Think how awesome that would be!

And the best part, if it scares someone off, well, then maybe you’re not on the same page and you deserve better.

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I like to think of myself as a good writer. At the very least, I try to be a careful writer. I steer away from ambiguous words, and try to illustrate my point in several ways (when I have a point, that is). This prevents others from taking what I write the wrong way, or inferring something that isn’t there.

These skills are also important in relationships. Since communication is so important, it’s also important to be clear in your use of language. Euphemism, innuendo, and vague word choices can set you up for some disastrous results. I wrote about this before when talking about how “sex” can even be defined differently depending on our boundaries or by the circumstances. Ambiguity is the enemy of art, to paraphrase Stanislavski, and it’s also the enemy of healthy communication.

For example, when setting boundaries, it’s important to be clear what you mean. Saying, “I’m not interested in a serious relationship” leaves way too much room for creative interpretations. “Relationship” could mean several things, and “serious” – what the hell is that?  The person saying it could mean ” I don’t have a lot of time to devote to a partner right now, but I’d be interested in an ongoing friendship with benefits,” but to the person hearing it, it could mean “I’m just interested in having fun for tonight, be gone before breakfast,” or vice versa.  Besides, you can’t regulate something like emotional attachment. Things you can regulate are concrete things like actions, time and space constraints and priorities. Rules that work are “No dates during the week,” “Never hook up while drunk,” “No sleeping over when I’m home,” or “My primary relationship comes first over any others.” There is no wiggle room on those. They are clear, concrete and well defined.

Another example is in reporting activities to a partner. “We fooled around” could mean just kissing to one partner, but to the other could mean oral sex. But in some cases, that phrase is acceptible if there is further information included. “We fooled around, but didn’t go very far. Just some touching.” That’s still vague, but it established some clearer parameters without getting into potentially uncomforable details: at least the partner knows that there was no oral or penetrative sex. Fair enough.

Clear communication means eliminating guesswork. Unless a person has all of the pertinent information, they can’t make an informed decision. And everyone has the right to make an informed decision.

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