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?
- 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.
- I feel slightly let down because if he went out with someone else, maybe that diminishes my specialness.
- 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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