I promised I’d be back with part two notes (see here for part one) on jealousy.
I wanted to start with what was an interesting and simple realization. In response to: “how do you deal with jealousy?” as the most asked question in open relationships I realized an excellent retort is how do you? It’s easy to forget that while jealousy is particularly present in non-monogamous relationships, it’s also ever-present in monogamous relationships as well. The difference is that in an open-relationship each partner is required to tackle the jealous feelings. In your typical monogamous relationship, no such rules for jealousy exist. (And if they do they typically play off of unhealthy ideas, like not trusting your partner, being angry that they treated you poorly when perhaps they did nothing wrong, or a miscommunication of appropriate boundaries.)
Now to some legit notes:
She introduced Freud’s 4 components of jealousy, which I hadn’t heard before or had forgotten. The four components are:
- Grief- The pain we get when we feel we’ll lose someone we love. (Grief-stricken feeling)
- The distressing realization that we cannot have everything we want even if we feel we deserve it.
- Enmity towards the person or thing that we feel will steal the person we love.
- A turning of our anger inward, we believe that we must be inadequate.
These were interesting to hear from Freud because they’re hard to argue. How many of us have felt as though we were losing the grasp on something by a real or imagined force? These four steps also compare quite well to the stages of grief.
Then of course there is the Darwinian perspective, which I’ve written about before re: evolutionary psychology. Men are more influenced by the physical or threat of, women more influenced by the emotional or threat of. For instance: a woman may be jealous if her partner has been talking to another girl off and on even if in his mind “nothing has happened so there was nothing to tell” – because, for her, the talking in itself is an emotional connection worth sharing. For him, her attraction to or desire for another man is more threatening. From the evolutionary standpoint it is based in the idea that men want paternal assuredness (know their child is theirs) and women want a mate who they know will stick around (help tend to kids.) It’s all about furthering the species, and you can take it or leave it as a plausible theory.
Two types of jealousy (Ayala Pines) — Acute (situational) and Chronic (all the time.)
There is an idea that whatever made you fall in love with the person you’re with is what is threatened when you feel jealous. I’m not sure I connected to that or agreed with that, but it’s definitely a great point for thinking about where the feelings come from.
What felt better for me, though, was jealousy as a fire alarm. It doesn’t mean your house (relationship) is on fire, but you should pay attention and see where the smoke is coming from.
Har har, clever, right?
Rather than the idea of what made you fall in love with someone, I liked the idea of picturing an encounter with your partner + someone else. It’s likely not the idea of your partner with someone else that hits the jealousy button, but one or two things in particular about it. Whether it be them sharing something special that is just for you (a favorite restaurant dinner date, kissing, oral sex, taking vacations together, wearing each others clothes, whatever!) those one or two things might be trigger points.
You can then decide if you want to follow the engineering model (avoid the triggers that set off the jealousy by making new boundaries) or the phobia model (expose yourself to the jealousy to remove the emotional trigger.) The second one is much like flooding therapy.
What is important is breaking down what jealousy really means: anger, fear, hurt, betrayal, anxiety, agitation, sadness, paranoia, depression, loneliness, envy, coveting, self-loathing, feeling powerless, feeling inadequate, feeling excluded, etc. If you cannot break down your emotion to explain where the feeling comes from, you’re leaving your partner (and yourself) with a surface feeling, and a surface explanation, which will not aid to finding a fix to the problem.
What do you do if your partner is the jealous one? – Equally (or more) important to knowing how to communicate your feelings/experience clearly is being able to handle your partner coming to you with emotions. I really like how she laid out how to deal with a jealous partner.
1. Listen to your partners words, non-verbal, and actions.
2. Do not interrupt, but help them articulate what they’ve said when it’s your turn. (I would add “mirroring” to this – say what they said back to them, and ask them if it’s correct.)
3. Ask if their jealousy comes from fear, anger, sadness…
4. Break down those emotions more.
5. Tell them that you’ve heard and understood them, acknowledge their emotions. Even if you don’t agree with them, or find that they are over-exaggerating. Let them have their experience. Let them know that you can see they are in pain and that you know how they got there.
6. Validate their emotions. Don’t try to fix them, make them go away, challenge the rational, or minimize.
7. Take responsibility for any part you might have played, apologize where necessary. Find where you could modify your behavior.
8. Do not be defensive or argue. Do not justify your behavior.
9. Ask them if they will listen to your feelings and your perspective.
10. Let it blow over – talk more afterwards.
She refers to it as a jealousy attack, comparable to an “anxiety attack” – just like you can’t tell someone to “just breathe” you can’t tell someone to “just calm down” – it is a better idea to let them experience the attack while you are there, listening, and then speak more after the attack is over.
To prevent jealousy and find satisfaction it’s important to know how much personal privacy, autonomy, control over life, intimacy, togetherness, and merging of lives you and your partner want. On a scale of 0 (24/7 freedom) and 10 (joined at hip) where do you want to be, and where does your partner? She says anything 2 and below is not a relationship, really, and anything 8 and above is going to be suffocating. If you are a 3 and your partner is a 7, there is going to be a struggle.
You are also going to likely misinterpret each other if you’re looking for different types of relationships in terms of freedom/togetherness. If you are a 7 and your partner is a 2, you might feel that they don’t care to see you. On the other hand, your partner might deem you to be possessive or controlling.
These misinterpretations can lead to unstableness in the relationship, and can lead to breakups if each partner can’t find a balance between their needs and their partners needs.
Marriage Maintenance Affair: — This is actually something Dan Savage has talked about and seemingly supports. An example would be if you are married, want to stay married, but you really really like BDSM and your partner doesn’t. Your partner also does not approve of you going outside of the relationship. You have a MMA and occasionally (not minimizing nor taking from your marriage) have these needs met elsewhere, and in turn you are a better husband (father/partner/etc) and your marriage is able to thrive. This is a controversial one because it encourages infidelity as a means to an end.
Lastly, NRE: New Relationship Energy. In open relationships when your partner finds someone new that they want to spend a lot of time with, this can be difficult on the other partner. What is important to remember is that the “shiny new toy” only appears to be so because you have not yet learned their faults. They are put on a pedestal. A partner might feel demoted (I am no longer the one and only) – displaced (the outside relationship is crowding the primary one) – or intruded (my time should be my time, don’t tend to outside relationships when you’re with me.) Remember that it might take time for your relationship to adjust to these new factors, and your partner is likely not trying to upset you. Give them get out of jail free cards while they learn to balance your primary relationship and the new interests they have.
If you are “the other” in an open relationship, it is important to create your own full life, and to find satisfaction. Possible seek other relationships if being a part-time partner with someone in an open relationship is not enough for you.