“I’ve always wanted to explore a non-monogamous lifestyle. I have a very high sex drive. And while I don’t think it’s reasonable for me to sexually commit to just one person forever, I do want a life partner. The opportunity to try it out kind of fell in my lap when I met my boyfriend whose desire to pursue a non-monogamous arrangement was non-negotiable from the start. For me, it was more something I wanted to explore but I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was right for me.
Anyway, he is the most wonderful human I’ve ever met. We are so in love and extremely compatible. It is by far the most loving, communicative, and healthy relationship I’ve been in. Over the last year, we’ve both had many, many outside FWBs and casual hook ups. Anytime there is something that makes me uncomfortable, we talk about it and he has always made compromises to make me feel secure. My comfort is his number one priority but like I said monogamy isn’t an option for him.
Here’s my issue though. No matter how much I enjoy my outside experiences and how much I tell myself everything is good and okay, I can’t help but feel almost physically sick whenever he sleeps with someone else. He is into it and turned on when I am with someone else whereas I just grin and bear it and anxiously wait for their date to be over. I’ve read so much, talked to my therapist regularly, listened to podcasts the whole deal and this icky and anxious feeling still hasn’t gone away. I’m disappointed in myself for not feeling secure in this yet. It definitely affects him but he’s been very patient with me as we continue to have discussions about it. It just comes really natural for him. He almost never feels off when I’ve been out with someone whereas I have consistently had a difficult time adjusting.
Is there anyone who has experienced these feelings and has it gone away or got easier over time? Sometimes I just want to give up and go separate ways but honestly I can’t imagine my life without him. Sometimes I believe our relationship is so amazing because we have this freedom and I also wouldn’t want to lose that. I just don’t know though. Any words of advice or shared experiences are greatly appreciated.”
Dear Snacks 4 Days,
I hear you. I personally believe that almost every human experiences jealousy and relationship anxiety to some extent – some more than others. But those who are committed to ethically pursuing non-monogamy do our best to develop healthy coping mechanism to deal with these bouts of insecurity. It is not an easy process to develop new coping mechanisms especially in headspaces that are clouded and informed by pain. But it sounds like you’ve been having some very productive dialogue through your therapist to establish some more effective tools to manage your pain.
I’ll tell you about my own anxiety and insecurities in poly context.
When my nesting partner and I started dating others, there were many moments in which I feel like I really struggle with managing my jealousy and insecurity – intense but brief moments that make me doubt whether or not polyamory was worth it. It was really ugly at first. There were a lot of tearful discussions and sensitive talks that felt like the next worst thing to happen to my relationship. I realized at some point I just didn’t have all the tools necessary to handle poly-related jealousy issues on my own, so I contacted a local poly-friendly therapist to develop some new tools to help manage my jealousy.
I dove deep into dissecting those feelings with my therapist.
She helped me understand what events were triggering those bouts of insecurity and jealousy, accept why they were feeling so bad, and develop a set of counterspells and contingency strategy for when I would next encounter those feelings.
I first started telling myself that jealousy is natural. And while I can acknowledge jealousy as a feeling, I don’t always need to do anything about this particular feeling. So I learned to endure through the worst of it. And when I opened my eyes, my partners were right there to validate my feelings, to acknowledge the difficulties in enduring difficult feelings, and to reassure me that my place in their life was secure and stable for all the right reasons. Eventually, I was able to develop a more fundamental level of trust with each of my partners through discussing my personal processing of jealousy. And because I became more secure with my partners, I had less bouts of jealousy.
I know what worked for me personally. But each person’s development process in regards to managing insecurity and jealousy will look very different. It sounds like you recognize that ethical non-monogamy is something you really want to commit to in your life. And if it is really important for you, then you will need to learn how to better manage your emotional landscape so that the negative intrusive emotions like jealousy do not take root.
Like a broken pot will never hold water no matter how much you water it, deep personal insecurities will never hold his reassurances inside of you… unless you mend it.
I think the first place for you to start is to not use your boyfriend as a measure for how you should be handling your own issues with jealousy and insecurity. His personal coping mechanism (if he needs one at all) is very different from the one you’ll need for yourself. And for someone who doesn’t feel that same intensity of jealousy and insecurity, he might even feel partly responsible for what seems to be an unwarranted emotional distress on your part. I think you recognize that this is your own emotional labor to own, which is evidenced by all the efforts you’ve been putting into manage your jealousy and insecurity.
You are honestly doing more than a lot of nonmono-minded newbies might even dare to attempt. Emotional labor is difficult to own and even more challenging to manage. But it is definitely doable. So keep trying new tactics. I’ve heard of others who jump into a very engaging activity to take their minds off when their partner goes on new dates or sleeps with new partners. I’ve also heard of others who turn completely inward and meditate/self-care through the anxiety. Many schedule dates on concurrent timeslots so that they aren’t just paralyzed about their insecurities. Whatever it is, keep trying new things and be patient. If one fails, try again. And if it fails again, try your next strategy.
This really is the price of admission to be ethically non-monogamous, if it really is that important for you. I’m really sorry to hear that you’ve been having such a difficult time with it, but I do believe that the relief is on the horizons.
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