Hee hee. Awesome poly moment:
Fiance’s other partner: “Should we inform your fiance that he’s cooking for us then safetying for us while we spin fire in his backyard?”
Me: Teehee, probably.
Fiance: That’s just the kind of thing I like to be told.
If you treat your lovers as though they are interchangeable, they’ll be jealous. If you don’t take care to make your lovers feel wanted or needed, they’ll be jealous. If you aren’t careful to make it clear to all of your partners that you value them, you won’t keep any of them for long.
Sometimes, it’s easy, especially when you take a new partner, to forget your existing partner in the rush and excitement of exploring a new lover. In fact, some people even have a name for that giddy, infatuated stage of a new relationship; they call it “New Relationship Energy,” or “NRE.”
That’s when everyone involved is particularly prone to jealousy. There aren’t any cure-alls to ensure that your partners never feel jealous, of course, but it helps to make a point to pay attention to everyone, to include everyone in the majority of your activities—you know, to be considerate.
If you were raised with the idea that if your partner is looking at someone else, it’s because you aren’t enough, then you probably won’t be happy in a polyamorous relationship until and unless you can unlearn that idea and understand why it isn’t true.
People do have the capacity to love more than one other person; there isn’t a magical switch inside our brains that says once you love one person, the switch has been flipped and you can’t love somebody else. Any parent who has more than one child knows that it is possible to love more than one person.
But that doesn’t mean that those people are expendable or interchangeable. People with more than one child also know that their love for each child is unique and irreplaceable. Similarly, people in a healthy polyamorous relationship know that their love for each person in that relationship is unique and irreplaceable—and knowing that drives away jealousy.
I’ve been trying to put words to this for quite some time, and then of course C, with his intelligence and eloquence, sums it up quite nicely and makes it all sound possible and empowering and wonderful.
Back when were dating, we were having a conversation about his insecurities surrounding me beginning to date someone else, and after a lot of really great dialogue, he said some things that really stuck out to me:
“Actually, it really does the opposite of make me insecure. It’s an ego boost, really. What it says to me is that even though you’re dating him, it hasn’t changed your desire to be with me. The fact that you want to be with me despite seeing other people says that there are things about our relationship you can’t get anywhere else. It means you find things about me irreplaceable, things that you don’t have in another relationship, and that preserves the value of our relationship. If your interest in Person A doesn’t diminish once you start dating Person B, it means that Person A is special enough and irreplaceable enough to keep around, no matter who else is a part of your life.”
There you have it.
Jealousy isn’t unique to polyamory. Not in the slightest. Some of the most jealous behaviors I’ve seen have been in monogamous relationships.
So why do we still allow the concept of jealousy to be the biggest topic in the principle of polyamory? How to deal with it, how to get rid of it, how it prevents people from being polyamorous, how some people are just naturally more inclined towards jealousy which means they’re incapable of being polyamorous, etc.
Jealousy, if it’s a thing you experience, will be a thing you experience no matter how many people you date and no matter how many people date those people you’re dating. Jealousy is not the war cry of the polyamorous, it’s not the thing we rally around together to create our bonded sense of community.
It’s this thing we try and explain away and constantly revisit either when defending polyamory, or trying to show someone that it’s a viable option for them, or when they say “I think I’d enjoy being poly but I’d just get too jealous.” Sure, it’s important to confront insecurities and aid in people’s understanding if that’s the conversation you’re having.
But jealousy is not this enormous monster that attacks the poly community emotionally and philosophically. It’s not a principle we need to keep coming back to. It’s a human behavior that will happen when insecurities are exposed, and no style of relationship is more or less at risk of exposing insecurities.
Jealousy isn’t a plague of polyamory that we need to overcome as a people. It’s not an epidemic that we need to prove we’ve got control over. It’s just a thing to deal with sometimes, and usually it’s a thing in yourself you have to deal with, not a thing in your partner(s).
The culture of polyamory surrounding jealousy seems to give off this impression that we’re polyamorous despite jealousy, that we know how enormous of a problem it is and that we live with this beast. It’s not any bigger of a beast simply because of how we date. It’s an enormous beast because we keep allowing it to be, and we keep feeding it by letting it dictate our conversations around polyamory.
That’s not to say we can’t talk about it or we should pretend it’s not there if it becomes an issue — but it is not anywhere near the conversation of how I define polyamory or what it means to me.
I’ve heard the poly maxim, “Love is limitless. Time, however, is not” many times when I’ve been perusing various poly resources.
I’m starting to think that it’s untrue. For myself, I wouldn’t assume to talk for others in that regard. This might be an aspect of my introversion that I hadn’t really considered before.
For the first time in my life I feel truly ‘poly-saturated’. I think that a lot of people use that term when they don’t have time for another partner in their lives.
And right now that’s very true. I feel like I’m not seeing my partners as often as I’d like to. I’m busy most nights of the week. I have to remind myself to take time out with myself. That I need to be alone and appreciate myself in order to maintain outside relationships.
But I imagine a world in which I’ve freed up some time. In an imaginary world where I could quit my job and use that time for relationships and I still feel exhausted and overwhelmed with the idea of adding another relationship to my life.
I don’t have what I call the “mental space” for it. I spend a lot of time in my head. And the mental models I have of the people I’m in intimate relationships with spend a lot of time in my head too. I have conversations with them in my head. I see articles I want to share and discuss with them. I take photos of things to share with them. I hear of media that I want to watch with them. I think about what they’re doing. What’s making them tick at the moment. I run over stories that they’ve told me. And a lot of these things are true for friendships as well. But I find that friendships are able to ebb and flow in a way that relationships don’t. The degree of intimacy and intensity is very different.
And right now I couldn’t add another intense and intimate relationship to that and still be happy. I don’t have the mental space for it.
And when I reread what I’ve written about mental space, a lot of that crosses over with what I understand love to be. So really, my love is not limitless. This is something I’m learning about myself.
Interesting. I’ve never thought about it like that. I think this might be true, though. There have been times where I feel like I’m maintaining so many relationships (friend and otherwise) that it’s not the time commitment that is exhausting me, but the mental space. I never intend to act on an “infinite love” principle, because even if it were emotionally possible, it’s not physically possible, so I don’t give much thought to it.
But this is an important factor to consider when we start to feel overwhelmed. It may not be just the time constraints that are tough, but the emotional investment in so many different directions that can take a toll on us as well.
I’ve come to value alone time and self-reflective moments so much more since becoming polyamorous, for this very reason. So much of my mental and emotional capacity is devoted to other people (again, platonic relationships and otherwise), that if I forget to add me in there somewhere, I start falling apart at the seams.
It’s more important in a poly context than ever before that I make space for myself in my own life and my own mind.
Here’s what it is like: I’m married to and live with my best friend. We cook for one another, laugh hysterically together, and have tons of sex, the vast majority of which involves just we two. Occasionally, one or both of us might make out with or even go to bed with somebody else. When this happens, communication is clear, standard precautions are taken (you know, like the ones single people use), and a good time is generally had by all.
I have no doubt that we are committed to each other, because we’re building a life together. Could he fall in love with somebody else? Sure, but our non-monogamous status doesn’t have much of an effect on that fact. He could also decide to run away and join the circus. There are no guarantees in life.
I think the most bizarre thing about monogamy to me is how often sexual exclusivity serves as a proxy for a real commitment. “Yeah, we’re together, I guess, because I’m not doing it with anybody else.” And the illusion that a monogamous commitment somehow makes a relationship more secure seems upended by the disruptive, obsessive, guilt-ridden emotions a monogamous person feels when he or she is (inevitably) attracted to somebody other than his or her partner.
My tone tends to be somber and straightforward when I talk about this topic, mostly because I don’t want to sound like I’m sensationalizing it. (Even though it’s the fu-king best. Seriously.)
I’ve spoken to close friends who are sure monogamy is right for them, and I’m convinced they can pull it off, that they know what they’re doing. But most people I talk to fear non-monogamy because they’re afraid of their own insecurity, their own jealousy. And in truth there’s a pretty strong non-attachment practice built into it. In all the ways society tells me I’m supposed to own my husband, the fact is I simply do not. Does it always feel super easy? No. But it always feels true. I believe that being open and honest is the best way to challenge negative stereotypes of unconventional marriages like mine.
I met my husband when I was 22. If I felt at the time that I would have to spend the rest of my life having sex with him and only him, I wouldn’t have married him. I would’ve gone out into the world and gallivanted around until I felt like all the sex was out of my system, and I would’ve missed out on sharing my life with the best human being on planet Earth. But in our relationship, we don’t have to get anything out of our systems. Our sex drives are allowed to stick around, to accompany us throughout life, to remain a part of our individual personalities as well as our relationship as a couple. So in that way, I guess we are on fire. But please, don’t assume that we need to be doused.