Navigating Polyamory FAQ: But Don’t You Get Jealous?

It’s time to talk about non-monogamy, babes.

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It’s time to talk about non-monogamy, babes. It seems that every time I flip through Tinder or log onto Facebook — there are more and more queers identifying in some way as ethically non-monogamous. Which is awesome! However, as a sex educator I often find the ways in which people are navigating non-monogamy to be pretty messy and sometimes even hurtful. Which goes for most dating, but for some reason, people seem to think they can throw the label non-monogamy on it to make their behavior seem not as shitty.

But that’s not how polyamory actually works and the non-monog community gets pretty upset when they see newbies out there making a bad reputation — since non-monogamy is already shamed in society. This new series Navigating Polyamory FAQ is going to be delving into some of the most frequently asked questions about figuring out this dating structure and style for you, personally. I think the most beautiful thing about questioning whether you might be non-monog’s or not — is that you aren’t just assuming monogamy because that’s what society told you to do in your dating life. It might end up that you are monogamous at heart and that is totally amazing, too! You may find yourself somewhere in the middle of it all — or even able to do both polyamory or monogamy depending on who you’re dating.

The journey to figuring this out is a personal one with lots of questions along the way. I hope this series will help you find some of those answers and ease your anxiety in knowing that humans are messy, especially when it comes to dating.

The first topic I want to write about for you is probably one of the first questions people have when they hear about non-monogamous relationship: But don’t you get jealous

Jealousy is defined as a “mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.” However, the reality of this fiery red-hot emotion is so much more complex than can be put into words. In short, the answer is: of course, yes! People in non-monogamous relationships experience jealousy in their romantic entanglements just as much as monogamous people do.

How does one move through these moments of jealousy? Is usually the follow-up question. In monogamous relationships, jealousy usually comes in fleeting moments, like when you see your partner talking to someone you deem attractive. You either talk about it and process that moment with your partner or just let the emotion pass since you feel assured by your monogamy.

In non-monogamous relationships, it can be a little more complex than that because jealousy usually doesn’t happen in fleeting moments. It can be a feeling that sits with you for a while, something that alerts you to how you feel in your relationship, and an emotion to work through with your partner and their partners. Jealousy can be a pretty transformational emotion in poly relationships. As you and your partners move through moments of jealousy, you’ll usually find that you grow a closer bond.

But in order to really find that deep connection through this messy AF emotion — you’ll need some tactical tools. Let me break it down for you.

1. What is the root of this jealous feeling?

The most important thing you can do when you’re feeling jealous (whether monog or poly) is to figure out where this feeling is stemming from. Often, we are quick to think that our jealousy exists simply because our partners went on a date with someone else or are spending more time with their other partners than us. However, more often, there is an underlying explanation for that raging feeling gnawing at the pit of your stomach.

It might be that you’re partner didn’t tell you about their date with this new person until a day beforehand and didn’t really give the two of you time to talk about it. Or maybe it’s not so much that they’re spending more time with their other partners that’s making you feel jealous, but the fact that the three of you don’t have clear expectations about how time is split in your triad. You might even discover that your jealous feels have nothing to do with your partners — and everything to do with you. Their new date might have triggered something from your past that you now get to figure out for yourself, with the help and support of your amazing partners.

2. How do you manage your jealousy?

Jealousy is not an inherently bad or wrong feeling that we need to suppress or learn how to get rid of. I like to manage my jealous by riding the wave. Usually, the ride ends with an ease of my anxiety and I sometimes even find myself in a space of compersion (another topic, for another Navigating Polyamory FAQ). It was not an easy path to navigate, but my number one resource along the way was “The Jealousy Workbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationship” by  Kathy Labriola. It’s a workbook that gives you lessons and worksheets that help you work through your jealous feelings. 

Every person will find different ways to manage their jealousy in their own unique way. Try to make sure it feels healthy to you, first and foremost. But also make sure that it is keeping your partners in mind (i.e. managing your jealousy doesn’t mean finding vindictive ways to sabotage their other relationships).

3. Don’t shame yourself

I, for one, know that I am the first to shame myself about feeling jealous. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I chose to be in this relationship dynamic, I don’t have a right to be jealous. If I tell her I’m jealous, she’s going to think I’m the “crazy girlfriend.” Why can’t I just stop feeling this jealousy? These thoughts were constantly swirling around in my head the first time I entered into a non-monog relationship. I was so terrified of my jealousy and felt so much shame around it — I thought that non-monog people just didn’t get jealous. It was like a magical poly thing that just disappeared.

I was so misinformed and because of that, I internalized all my jealous feelings without talking them through with my partners. For me, the shame was far more damaging than the jealousy. Learn to forgive yourself (and your partners) for their jealousy when it comes up. Because when you’re able to identify and own your feelings, then you can really process them and have a deeper understanding of yourself, your desires, and your relationships.

4. Communicate (and then communicate some more)

Jealousy is a part of non-monog relationships — that’s just a fact. But you shouldn’t have to go through it alone. Talk about it with your partners when it comes up and be honest with your partners about what you’re feeling and why (the root). When you better understand the feeling, it actually starts to calm some of the anxiety that comes along with it.

These intentional conversations should happen regularly to talk about boundaries, expectations, and partner dynamics. When you set aside this time, not only will you be able to better understand and manage yours (and your partners’) jealous feelings — you’ll also be building more solid relationships together.

5. Remind yourself that you’re f*cking amazing, babe!

You! Yes, you! You are the f*cking bomb. You are a badass woman who has so many amazing qualities and deserves to be loved in a way that makes you feel amazing. Don’t let your jealousy get the best of you to the point where you forget how incredible you are and what you bring to the table in your relationships. Your partners are with you because they want to be. Their other relationships don’t ever detract from that. But be sure to find time in the midst of it to continue to love yourself.

Corinne Kai is the Managing Editor and resident sex educator at GO Magazine. You can listen to her podcast Femme, Collectively or just stalk her on Instagram

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