This is my monthly column about our life, life in a triad in general, or whatever rants & raves I feel like talking about at the time.

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

The Big Green Monster

It's an ugly, mold-covered piece of unidentifiable foodstuff tucked away in the back of the refrigerator. It's the fang-toothed, wretched, product of our imagination boogie man tucked away in the back of the closet, waiting patiently to lash out at us as soon as we open the door. It's the rabid, wild, and totally unpredictable caged beast waiting calculatingly for us to make a mistake and inadvertently release it from it's bonds. It lashes out at you when you're the least prepared. Sometimes it causes nothing more than "love taps", while at other times it can cause deep, bloody wounds that will fester and become infected if left to their own devices. At times no amount of preventive medecine can cure it, while at other times it does nothing but cause you minor irritation. It is Jealousy.

When I first designed this community back in May, 2005, I did a piece about jealousy under the Emotional Issues section. I never second guessed what I had written until just recently. While in the process of conducting the interview with Cunning Minx of Polyamory Weekly, my own definition of jealousy suddenly became questionable to me. When asked her opinion of jealousy, she responded in part with:

"I don't believe that there is this one emotion called "jealousy", either. Jealousy tends to be an insecurity or fear within us that is ignited by a certain situation. And it's important to recognize that the insecurity is within us; while the situation might shine a light on the insecurity, it is something internal that needs to be dealt with as such."

This is the part that got me to thinking. Is it possible that jealousy is not an emotion all its own, but more a reaction caused by some other catalyst? I decided to talk to the family about it, and as one could expect received mixed responses.

The wife feels that jealousy is as much an emotion as fear, anger, hatred, etc. In her opinion, jealousy is an emotion because one feels it. If it can be felt, inside us, like the others mentioned above, then it's an emotion....right? Her base definition is that jealousy is caused by our inability (or desire?) to get something we want. If you see someone driving a brand new, flashy red convertible, you want one. This makes you feel jealous, but what causes that feeling? Is it because you want that car, but for whatever reason (financial, practical) you aren't in a position to get it? Or is what you're feeling actually envy over what that other person has?

When I talked to Kriek about it, he had a completely different take on jealousy. He feels that it is caused by a sense of selfishness, almost a side effect of self-preservation that causes us to instinctively seek to get something we feel we're being deprived of. While these two opinions are different, are they necessarily wrong in their definitions? I wasn't sure, so I did a little digging (with Kriek's help) into other perceived definitions of Jealousy.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, has this to say about jealousy vs. envy:

"Some authorities distinguish between jealousy and envy on the ground that jealousy involves the wish to keep what one has, and envy the wish to get what one does not have."

This, for me, was a very good distinction between the two. One of the reasons I like these definitions so much is that Wikipedia is a collaboration of many voices. A consensus that tends to become more solidified as time goes on. The other reason I like this distinction is that it makes sense. I've always considered jealousy an emotion all it's own. Until now. The more I think about it, the more I tend to lean towards jealousy being a chemical reaction in our brains, caused by some other catalyst causing synapses to fire off at random. Jealousy, all on its own, doesn't have much power over us. Throw in some fear, insecurity, greed, what have you, and suddenly it grows claws that start burrowing into your brain. Once it takes hold, it can take a miraculous act of will to shake it loose. Trying to ignore feelings of jealousy would be like trying to run a marathon wearing cement shoes. You might do okay in the beginning, but it won't get you very far and you certainly won't overcome this obstacle and win the race. Neither will you win by slowly chipping away the pieces of jealousy, trying to free yourself from it over time. You need to simply pick up the sledgehammer and smash it away once and for all.

This isn't to say that it's entirely unhealthy to feel jealousy, as only you can decide what your body, mind, and soul need for nourishment in order to survive. At the same time, only you can determine what is unhealthy and therefore detrimental to your own health and well-being. While I know that it is true that some folks thrive under conditions that others find unbearable, that isn't my focus here. I'm merely hoping to establish the fact that one person's definition or perception of a particular word / emotion is not always the same as anothers. I've seen a lot of references to "this issue" or "that issue" as it pertains to a polyamorous lifestyle, but the fact of the matter is that we don't feel emotions any different than anyone else does. We have no "secret formula" for processing emotions, nor do we have access to any ancient oracle that makes us any less vulnerable to the emotional or physical hurdles that life tosses in front of us. If anything, our hurdles are magnified by the fact that we are living with not just one partner, but many.

If you think that life in a purely monogamous relationship has a tendency to send you into an emotional roller coaster, multiply that by two, three, four, or sometimes many more to fully understand the potential toll that a polyamorous lifestyle could inflict on a person.

To further try and explain my logic, I'll use the concept of lust. To me, lust is a purely chemical concept, driven entiirely by one's libido. Lust is not emotion, since it isn't usually influenced by anything other than sexual desire. Now, if lust progresses beyond the sexual desire, it can mature into love, or at the very least a crush of some sort. At this point it transforms itself into an emotion. Jealousy is somewhat similar, but almost in reverse. As I said, something generally happens to trigger feelings of jealousy. If you get angry, sad, or depressed because your significant other went out for the night without giving much of an explanation; a seed of jealousy can be planted. When your SO doesn't come home until the wee hours of the morning, the seed suddenly gets watered with even more jealousy.

How many times have you woke up in the morning feeling tired, cranky, sad, happy, excited, or what have you? I'm pretty sure that you wake up with at least one of these feelings every so often. Now, try to think back to a time when you woke up feeling jealous. Generally this doesn't happen without the catalyst mentioned earlier. Something has to exist to have triggered these feelings, a seed must have been planted in your subconscious somewhere along the lines in order for this to happen.

You may very well have your own thoughts on whether jealousy is or isn't an emotion all its own. I'm not here to try and redefine your emotional make-ups and definitions for you, I'm just here to give you something to think about. Now where did I leave that sledgehammer?

~ Chias, October 27, 2005


folks have read this article.