Like many, Angel stumbled into polyamory quite by accident. She and her husband have been happily married for four years, and recently opened their marriage and their hearts to the possibility of poly relationships. She shares the ups and downs of being new to the lifestyle and navigating the emotional and practical issues that come along with it.

Previous editions of this column can be found in the Monthly Columns Archives.

Processing jealousy

It's not by accident that I haven't written an article about The Polyamory Experiment in about 4 months. Things have been too hectic to give it a lot of thought, I pushed it off, to the back of my mind and ignored it for a while.

Despite my best efforts, there continues to be constant movement under the surface. Although the process of moving across the country has pushed poly somewhat to the back burner, it lingers there, always scratching gently and waiting for my attention.

I have continued to fight and claw and struggle against my insecurities. I've talked until I have no words left. I've read and studied everything I can find on dealing with jealousy. I have spent a LOT of personal quiet time, just mulling everything over, churning it 'round in my brain until I develop a headache.

Progress has been made, although Jack has not yet had sex with another woman. Part of that is due to circumstance (he's been working like crazy for months) and part of it is due to his worry over potentially causing a tremendous fracture to our relationship.

Currently though we are right on the cusp of leaping off of that cliff and seeing what happens at the bottom.

As I was gathering my thoughts to write this, the most amazing thing happened. A new Polyamory Weekly podcast popped up on my RSS reader. Wouldn't you know, it was a special about jealousy! So I hit play and settled back to listen, and then began taking notes. I think that the Cunning Minx just changed my life, and the way that I process my jealous feelings. Please allow me to share with you what I wrote down from the show:

* * *

Dealing With Jealousy

Step One - Acknowledge The Feelings

"I feel jealous and insecure".

Say it out loud. Own those feelings verbally.

Step Two - What Does It Mean?

If Jack kisses another woman then:

I feel threatened. I feel that Jack is doing something with her that I wish he would do more of with me. Jack and I 'peck' all the time, but we generally don't spend a lot of time making out. When he does this with someone else, I feel less special and less desirable. I fear he would rather make out with someone else than me.

If Jack is sexually intimate with another woman then:

I become uncomfortable, because I am afraid that he will find her more physically attractive than me, and that he will prefer being with her over me. I wonder if she will be more sexually satisfying than I am, or have better technique. I fear not being good enough.

If Jack has sex with another woman then:

He may not want to have sex with me as often. He may want to spend more quality time with her than he does with me. I am afraid that he will find her prettier/sexier/more attractive. I fear being less desirable. I fear being ignored and neglected.

Step Three - Uncovering The Fear

Do I believe that Jack is with me because of how I look?

No. Jack is not a shallow or superficial. I know that he loves me because of the person I am and the wonderful qualities I bring to our relationship. I would not be with him if I felt he only loved me for my looks.

Do I believe that Jack is with me because of what I offer him in bed?

No. While sex is a vital and important part of our marriage, it is not the be-all/end-all. The frequency/intensity/length ebbs and flows, as is normal in relationships. During times when our sex is less frequent, I do not feel that he loves me any less than when we are having more sex.

Do I think that if Jack finds a partner who is prettier or thinner, that will make our relationship less special?

To be totally honest with myself, no. Jack admires other women, he watches porn, and flirts. There are women out there who are certainly thinner than I. There are also women who are prettier. Him looking at them and finding them attractive does not mean that he then looks at me and finds me ugly. We have been together for almost 7 years, if that was going to happen, it would have occurred LONG ago. When I look at a particularly attractive man, it does not make my love and affection for Jack any less real or special.

Is it possible that Jack is with me for reasons besides how I look?

Absolutely. What are those reasons?

I am a fun, dynamic, and interesting person. Jack is more of an introvert, while I am an extrovert, and he adores how I draw him out of himself. I am very supportive of him, I encourage him, and I rub his back when he wakes up in the morning, which he loves. I take care of our home and our children. I do his laundry. I am strong for him when he needs me to be his rock. I love him with all of my being. He loves and admires my drive to do the things I set my mind to. He appreciates that I am tough, independent, and sexually adventurous. He adores my soft side, and that I tuck love notes into his socks when he travels for work. He loves that I claim to hate getting flowers, yet he can see how pleased I am when he surprises me with them... I could go on for a long time, but I am sure that gives you a good idea.

In light of those things, is it reasonable to assume that someone else could replace me?

No. Even if he loved and cared for someone as MUCH as he loves and cares for me, she would be different things to him than I am. I am special. No one is me, and I cannot be replaced.

What value do I add to his life?

I bring him great joy and happiness. I hold him up when he feels like life is crushing him. I provide companionship. I fulfill his need for physical touch. I make him laugh. I make him think. I have very intellectual conversations with him. I assist him in fulfilling his life purpose. I am his best friend. There are more, but I can add more later, when it's not 1 o'clock in the morning, LOL.

Has Jack ever said/done/implied anything that would lead me to believe that he would leave me if he meets someone more physically attractive than I am?

No. Those words didn't come from him. My source of low self-esteem related to my body image comes from years and years of being teased and called fat as a child. I also come from a family of overweight people who have been obsessing over their weight for my entire life. My mom especially has never held back when she felt I was getting too fat. While I don't feel at all that Jack would leave me, I fear not being good enough or thin enough. I was never thin enough for my mother. I was never thin enough or pretty enough to be popular in school or with the boys. I feel like I am not good enough because of my body. Jack has never once called me fat or implied that I need to lose weight. He is VERY supportive of my weight loss when that is what I want. When it is not what I want, he is supportive of that as well.

What Can The Partner Do?

- Create a safe place for the jealous party to express themselves

- Just listen at first. Let them work though it on their own a little. Give them at least 10 minutes of JUST LISTENING quietly. Hold their hand, nod, acknowledge them, but don't speak

- Give reassurance (reasons why you love them aside from sexual things or whatever is causing the insecurity)

A Closing Note:

Give yourself permission to freak out. Communicate to your partner that freaking out does not mean they have to STOP what they are doing, but that talking needs to happen ASAP. Then go though the above exercise with your partner and by yourself related to whatever is causing the freaking out.

* * *

See? Was that not an awesome exercise?? The best way to go about it is actually have your partner ask you the questions verbally. Answer them out loud, write down your answers if you like. That can actually be helpful for looking back on when your sweetie is out on the town and you are at home freaking out. Re-read your answers (as I intend to) and they may provide some comfort in the situation.

None of the stuff I wrote up there is new to me. I knew all that stuff already, but I think getting it out in that format really clicked with me on a more profound level than just going over it in my head.

It also forces you to rationalize your feelings rather than just running around with that gross feeling in your stomach going "OHNOZ! OHNOZ! I'm Jealous! OHNOZ" like a psychotic animal.

I am at the point where I feel that next step it to tell Jack to go for it, and push through any emotional distress to get to the other side. Who knows how I will feel once it occurs. Perhaps the build up and anxiety will all be for not, and my imagination is so much worse than the reality. Perhaps there will be a tremendous fall out and I will discover that really, poly is not for me. The fact is I don't KNOW for sure. There is only one way to find out, take the plunge.

I am just going to close my eyes, hold on tight, and roll with it.

Nobody's Angel is a contributing writer as well as a member of this online Community. She can be contacted here or through our message board Forums.

Nobody's Angel; June 30, 2007


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