I have a confession to make… it’s an uncomfortable one, and it’s been a humbling lesson for me to learn.
I get jealous.
Sometimes, I get very jealous.
I had thought, because it wasn’t something I have dealt with in a long time, that I was past that problem, that it was something I had outgrown. Poly folk love to talk about jealousy, who feels it, who doesn’t. Who deals with it well, who deals with it badly. And what happens when things implode because of one person being jealous of another.
Now, here is something neat. Mr Awesome, because of his nifty brain wiring (he has Aspberger’s) actually doesn’t feel jealousy. I don’t think he is actually capable of it. And a neat thing about living with someone on the spectrum is that you start to pick up certain traits of theirs… Actually I guess that is a truth no matter who you are living with. After all, we have all seen those couples who have been together so long that they start to look like each other and pick up all sorts of habits from the other partner.
I’ve always, proudly, told people that I don’t get jealous. Because people always ask, when they find out that you are poly, how do you deal with the jealousy. And I would tell them about Mr Awesome’s awesome brain, and how he doesn’t really feel it, and how I don’t really get jealous either, because there isn’t something that another lover could offer him that would nullify or take away from what he and I have. No one, no matter how pretty, or kinky, or smart, can give him what I have given him – more than a decade and a half of friendship, love, experiences, and the family and home we have built.
And I found myself getting jealous of the time he spent with Velah. I found myself feeling possessive and a little left behind. They share a martial arts hobby, and I found myself jealous of that time. Not that he and I don’t have awesome things that we do together, not even that I am all that interested in learning Bartitsu, but it was something that was theirs, and it was a little hard to watch. And it’s something I’m doing well with, now, even though it was hard at first. Which brings me back to the question of, how does a poly person deal with the jealousy?
People assume that jealousy is automatically an unhealthy emotion, but that isn’t true. Jealousy is simply an emotion. Our reaction to it is what makes it healthy or unhealthy… I suppose any emotion is that way, really.
I could curl up into a ball, be sad and hurt and lonely when they are out. I could resent the time they have together. I could throw fits and make it hard for him to go see her, either through making plans of my own or through emotional manipulation. But these are unhealthy reactions, and I’m a better person than that.
I could – and do – choose an alternative.
I find out why I feel the way I do. Do I feel jealous of the time they are spending because I need more time with Mr Awesome? Or is all good on that front, and I need more time with another lover, or time to myself to do some shopping or other personal maintenance. Am I feeling taken advantage of, like I am the partner who is home with the kids the bulk of the time, and I need a break? Or is there something else, unrelated to the situation, that is presenting itself as a jealous reaction to their happiness and shared time. I try to take the time, either through journaling or quiet thoughtful time, to find out where my emotions are, and find my center. Often, my jealous feelings stem from an unmet need, and when I can figure out what that need is, and how to meet it, I feel better.
The absolute worst feeder for bad feelings, for me, is idleness. I am an active person, I need to remain active and learning and doing or I spiral back toward depression. That bitch won’t get the best of me, so I do what I can to mitigate that. So, I’ve figured out why I’m jealous of the time he is taking away, and I still have those emotions to deal with, so now what? If what I am feeling is a sense of stagnation, that’s a great time for me to get out a crazy complicated project and lose myself in it… learn a new stitch, work at a zentangle piece, or worry through some writing that has been in the back of my brain. If what I am feeling is loneliness, I see if Wash is up for a chat, or if Moredena is available for an evening. If what I am needing is more time with Mr Awesome, I try to articulate that, by telling him that I think his time with another lover is great, but I miss him and we need a date night, or a family weekend, or both.
Another thing that complicates this is the fact that we have kids. I try very hard to communicate with them at their level, and tell them something like, “Mom is having a bad day today. I’m tired, and a little grumpy. So I need a little extra help for all of us to have a good day… let’s work hard to get our chores and homework done, and then maybe we’ll get into jammies early and I’ll make popcorn and we’ll watch a movie.” Usually once we’ve gotten through the evening routines and have moved on to the fun part of our time, I’m feeling better, and so are they. And these nights end up being some of the best memories I have of being a mom, and I know it is time the kids love.
It is my hope, in writing some of this out, that I can maybe help someone else navigate these complicated feelings. And, as always, I would love to hear any thoughts or ideas on dealing with jealousy… please feel free to leave them in the comments below.