I received several positive comments on my post from yesterday that all kind of touched on jealousy. I’m intimately familiar with the feeling of jealousy. In fact, I used to be an incredibly jealous person. Just the thought of my partner being flirted with would become near rage inducing, my stomach would tie up in knots and I would start to run scenarios through my head that I just knew were true. My mind and body worked together to make me as miserable as possible. It was a terrible feeling and a destructive force in my relationship. I needed to overcome it.
I think jealousy is a natural feeling and, like the other negative emotions (anger, hatred, fear, disgust, etc), it was naturally selected for because it provided an evolutionary advantage to us. A person who felt jealousy may be able to spread their genetic code more efficiently than a person who didn’t really feel jealousy. Now, those methods would likely be morally deplorable to us in today’s society, but they were likely effective in a more hunter-gatherer tribe situation that we evolved from. It is always worth repeating, nature is a shitty measure for morality and just because something is “natural” that does not mean it is good or healthy.
Jealousy, in modern society, seems to be accepted more than it should. We kind of brush off jealousy in a way that we don’t with other emotions. If our friend is dating someone who “is just a jealous person” we would probably see that as less than ideal, but not necessarily a deal breaker. But, if our friend was dating someone who “just happens to be a hateful person” or “an angry person” we would be much more likely to try and get our friend out of that situation. I think some people even glorify jealousy and see it as a sign that someone truly loves them. The more jealous a person gets the more they truly care, but that isn’t the case. And, on the other side, people feel like their partner must not realy love them if they don’t get jealous, that if someone isn’t threatened by others it is because they don’t care about you. The more jealous a person gets the more they want to own or control. That isn’t love, that’s possession.
(I don’t mean this in a judgy way, I am just as guilty of this as anyone. I still feel jealousy from time to time and it is because I want to possess my partner or friend’s time or resources. Sometimes I feel I have a right to their time, mind, body, attention, or whatever. I struggle with this all the time.)
Luckily, jealousy (like all destructive emotions), can be overcome. Yes, it requires fighting against our nature, but that is something we do every day. In our post-hunter-gatherer society, many of the instincts we evolved with are destructive and we must fight against them in order to be healthy and prosperous. Our ability to act in a way contrary to our “nature” is one of the things that seems to separate us from animals.
For me, there are three things that really help me overcome jealousy. The first is meditation. I know I sound like some sort of religious zealot when I talk about mindfulness meditation, but it really has helped me immensely. I still struggle with the practice daily, but I have found myself to gain a lot from it, and there is science to back it up.
Second is communication with my partner. When I feel jealous I can come to my partner and talk about it. We go deeper than “I feel jealous” and try to get to the heart of the issue. Maybe it is something silly like “In that moment I was worried you cared more for that person than me” or maybe it is something more legitimate like “I’m having a really rough time but you prioritized someone else over caring for me and that hurt”. By verbally expressing what my concerns are we can find solutions, and expressing them often brings to light how irrational they are. Honest communication can also force us to admit some things about ourselves that we may be a little ashamed of. Maybe our jealousy stems from us feeling like we have some ownership over the other person, that we view them as our possession in some sense. Admitting that may be shameful but it is the only way to actually overcome jealousy.
Third, by taking small steps into situations that worry me I’ve been able to overcome jealousy. Most of the time I felt feelings of jealousy it was while thinking about hypothetical situations, it was all in my head. It wasn’t seeing my partner having sex with someone, it was imagining my partner having sex with another person (and thinking about how that person is satisfying her more, more her type, more attractive, etc etc etc). But, when we actually stepped into situations where I might be jealousy the reality was very different. There is no perfect Adonis waiting to steal my partner, there are only other humans with imperfections, insecurities, and fantasies they want to explore. By taking slow steps I was able to build up comfort with new situations and the old situations are no longer jealousy-inducing. Nobody should just jump into an orgy, you need to start small to build up emotional strength and realistic expectations.
As a practical example of how baby-steps worked for me and can be applied to all types of situations from BDSM to swinging to whatever your fantasy is (this took place over about two years so far):
- I express an interest in swapping with another couple and we discuss what that would look like and any emotional concerns we have.
- We watch an educational video about how to do something like that safely and making sure we take care of each other’s emotional needs. We talk about the video.
- We go into an environment where sex may be happening but there is no expectation that we will play with other couples (or even each other). Everyone here is strangers and there is no concern for awkwardness from seeing friends or whatever. We talk before we arrive about our expectations and concerns, and we talk after the experience to see how we felt with everything.
- We return to the previous place several times to continue to get comfortable with the idea of having sex near people who are having sex.
- We talk about what we think the next step should be and agree that same-room sex with just one other couple would be a good experience and that some soft touch (making out, handjobs, etc) are okay.
- We have sex in the same room as another couple and communicate with them before and after.
- That happens a few more times with different friends that we trust.
- We agree that the next step is a threesome with a male and that a stranger would probably be better than a friend.
- When an opportunity arises for that threesome we communicate before, during, and after.
- We talk some more to discuss the next steps and decide that a foursome may be okay at this point but it would still require discussion before and depend a lot on the couple involved.
When we love someone we want them to be the best they can be. We want them to get the most out of life and experience their desires. We don’t want our relationship with them to hold them back or cause resentment. Jealousy can get in the way of our relationship and our ability to truly express our love, but it can be overcome (not completely, but it gets easier and easier). And, with some work and luck, you can start to feel joy when you see your partner in the throws of ecstasy. You can feel joy and excitement when someone you love is having a good time. You can feel pride knowing that you, as a partnership, have such a strong relationship and such effective communication that you have defeated the green-eyed monster. Instead of jealousy, you have compersion, and that has allowed you to have a partnership that is filled with new adventures, variety, and love.