Surviving Jealousy - when you are in the path of the green eyed monster
Jealousy sucks, period. While the process of acknowledging and overcoming the root of one's jealousy can aid in personal growth, the in the moment experiences can be painful for all involved. We tend to focus on the pain that the jealous person is feeling, and forget that there are (at least) two others that are coping with the situation:
- The partner of the jealous person
- The focus of the jealousy - who could either be a (close) friend or non-monogamous partner/lover.
A person that is feeling jealousy has a lot of resources available. In addition to being able to rely on social support, there are books and websites that provide advice ranging from strictly monogamous to open-relationship points of view. There are significantly less resources available to help the partner of the person feeling jealousy cope with the situation. Most of the professional advice and literature is monogamy-centric and focuses on removing the "trigger" rather than helping the partner overcome their inner demons. This translates to cutting ties with the "outside" friend or partner for the sake of the relationship. The social pressure to break off social ties increases if there's a suspicion of infidelity.
Where does that leave the close friends and companions? For those that are in nonmonogamous relationships, there's an underwhelming amount of information about coping as a secondary (the label itself makes me cringe). I'm not aware of any resources for someone who has a friend in a monogamous relationship where that friend's partner is experiencing jealousy.
I doubt that I'm the only one that has experienced this, so I'm writing my own guide. :p
If you are currently experiencing jealousy
I've been on your side of the "triangle". From what I have experienced personally, it sucks. It's my genuine hope that you find whatever help you are seeking. If you are interested in finding out more about understanding jealousy and working through your emotions and thought processes, there are a LOT of awesome resources out that can help you:
- Battling the 8-Armed Octopus of Jealousy Podcast Series by Reid Mihalko (also check out his Day of Jealousy podcasts)
- Videos on jealousy at Passionate U (on-demand erotic education site)
- Opening Up by Tristan Taormino
- The Theory of Jealousy Management by Franklin Veaux
- The Nature of Jealousy: The Whys and Hows and Whos by Anita Wagner at Practical Polyamory
With that said, my upcoming series may not be the best thing for you to read. I’m coming at this from the point of view of the “other person”, which may make you feel more uncomfortable. Some of the topics I bring up may even make you feel threatened (How dare she give the other man/woman/person advice other than "go away"?!?!). Also, my style is a mix of down to earth with a mix of tongue-in-cheek humor. Depending on how aware you are of your emotional triggers, this may aggravate you further.
If you know that your partner or your partner’s friend/other-significant-other is reading this series, they may want to talk to you. They care about you and want to help you through this. Be upfront on how ready you are to talk. If you want to communicate with them but are not ready for a face-to-face conversation, ask if the conversation can be done in a written medium instead. Don’t use phone-texts. It’s hard enough to express your emotional state in a medium that lacks vocal or non-verbal cues. If you abbreviate your thoughts in blips of 140 characters or less, that WILL leave a LOT of room for misinterpretation on both sides.
If you are the partner of someone who is experiencing jealousy
I've been on your side of the "triangle". From my own experiences, it’s painful and awkward. Your partner may be blaming you for what they are feeling, and you might not understand why their actions or emotions. You may also feel guilt for placing your friend/companion/lover in an awkward position. This is one of those cases where being “in the middle” sucks.
Depending on your situation, you may have some difficult choices ahead. I can’t offer you any specific advice on what to do – it’s your life and you know your circumstances way better than I could. For your own sake, I ask that you practice personal integrity. Be honest with the others that are involved, but more importantly be honest with yourself on who you are and what you need or want.
If you are the focus of jealousy
I've been on your side of the "triangle" a LOT more than I've experienced the other two. I'm a polyamorous, sex-positive, assertive woman... and a notorious Scorpio. I’ve hung out with men more often than women ever since middle school. I also enjoy the emotional intimacy that comes with a close friendship and easily connect with people that share common interests.
It sucks to be labeled as the "other" and have your own feelings left unacknowledged (if that’s as far as the name-calling goes, you’re lucky). It hurts to watch love and friendship create hatred, fear, and anger in another, and to see someone that you care about now stuck in the middle of a potential drama-bomb. Maybe you're trying to cope with (misplaced) feelings of guilt for "causing" others to hurt.
As I mentioned earlier, there's also a severe lack of resources and advice for those that are in our position. Go forward and read. Whether you are the friend of someone in a monogamous relationship, or a poly/open person that's dating someone that is in another committed relationship, I hope that you find this material useful.
Here’s a quick overview of my upcoming posts:
- Assessing the current situation – Are you just facing a jealousy attack or were (implied?) boundaries crossed?
- The 411 on Jealousy – Trying to understand what someone may be feeling (if you’re not in a position to talk to them directly)
- The decision(s) that you need to make
- The decision(s) that the partner of the jealous person may need to make… and the ones that you should avoid touching with a 10-foot pole
- Communication with someone who is jealous (and how to prevent drama)
Please keep in mind that the advice given is based on my point of view and experiences, and may not completely fit your personal situation.