/u/ENMandPquestions on /r/polyamory asks…
“I’ve been in a committed, fully open ENM relationship for about 7 months and I identify as poly. I left my last relationship for many reasons but not least of all that he isn’t comfortable with ENM and couldn’t get fully on board. I’m bi and my ex always maintained the OPP. I hated that and I often felt that I was being told what to do or limited in my behavior. In the beginning of my new relationship I had another guy that I was seeing once a week/two weeks aside from my primary but it didn’t work out and for a while I had no interest in pursuing any other men. I still went out with girls and never fully stopped dating other people but my partner did admit that it was easier for him to see me go out with girls than with guys so I was partially not being fully open to dating other men because I wanted to be sensitive to his feelings. It’s a fine line between being sensitive and putting myself in a box so I’ve been mindful of that too.
Lately when my partner goes out with other girls I am really happy for him but I’ve been getting some invasive thoughts and some jealousy that I can’t shake. I decided that I was going to open myself up to dating men again to gain some perspective and I have a date tonight with a new guy I met on Tinder. My partner and I have talked through it and after a little reassurance he seems to be leaning into it and everything is fine. Even though he has a bit of ego and insecurity around it, he’s very fair and practical and would never ask me not to date other men so this is exactly what I expected.
The problem is that now I’m feeling like I WANT him to be jealous, possessive, etc. Even just writing those words out feels absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know what kind of nonsense my brain is creating right now but can someone please talk me the f*ck down? This is what I wanted. I ended a relationship over not being able to fully express myself and my sexuality and my identity and now I have an amazing partner who is open and honest and caring and is supporting me being all of these things and I want him to be jealous? Ugh!! Why am I like this?”
Dear ENM and P Questions,
So I think there are two different issues to unpack here.
First is his side of polyamorous relationships and the jealousy/insecurity that you feel. I think a lot of people in and out of polyamory misunderstand jealousy as a feeling that needs to be squashed. Jealousy is painful to experience, so it is easy to antagonize bad feelings and crush them into rocks, to pebbles, to fine sand. It is also really easy to envelop all those negative feelings in a kraft paper packaging and toss them away in your mental basement, only to be addressed in the future.
I suggest something else. Something so wild that you would think it is actually a bad advice.
I encourage you to embrace that jealousy. Talk to it. Engage with your jealousy in a way that makes it feel heard. The feelings that you have – negative or positive – is rooted in something else within. Pull and mindfully tug at that thread to feel out what you have been experiencing. That process could look a thousand different ways. You could get it out while writing in a personal journal. You could get it out during a meditation. You could get it out with a close friend in your poly community or with a help of a poly friendly therapist. Whatever it is, recognize and give that feeling of insecurity a bit of room to breathe, then just keep digging. Ask yourself why you feel that way, where the source of that insecurity comes from. The first attempts of digging into your feelings are going to be difficult and feel outrageous. But like working out, you will develop a habit and gain proper tools to make the whole process easier. And once you feel like you’ve gotten to the bottom of the “whys,” slowly climb back up and celebrate the deep dive that you’ve just completed.
The second is your side of polyamorous relationships and the jealousy/insecurity you want your partner to feel. You are right. When you lay it out like that, it does sound a little outrageous and quite funny. I think you did some incredible job of laying out the groundwork here and you’ve already started in your journey to recovery here.
Some of this might be threads from your past haunting your present. Because of your past experience, not feeling the same kind of resistance might feel a little weird. After all, you’ve been conditioned to feel at least a little resistance. Do consider that different people love in all different kind of ways. It sounds like your partner has done a lot of legwork regarding his side of insecurity and jealousy and could possibly be much further along in this particular phase of emotional processing than you are. It is wonderful to be with a partner who you can trust to do their own emotional labor and be able to create space for your other relationships to survive. Your partner sounds lovely.
But I think the deeper issue here is in your wish for him to feel jealous. I do think a part of this is informed by your own feeling of jealousy (as in, “I am having such a hard time with this. Why is he having such an easy time?”). But I also think that a major source of your feeling is better explained by your own insecurity. I see this happen from time to time with other folks who have had a bad first experience with relationships that they don’t always feel like they deserve the love they receive. You deserve all the dear love you receive and more. I am so happy that you found such an emotionally intelligent partner who is continuously working on his own feelings of insecurity.
Instead of covering up your feelings in a shroud of shame, let’s choose to laugh at how silly all this feels. And then recognize that celebrate the journey you have in front of you. Be sure to stay hydrated. I am already so excited for you.
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