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11 September 2010 @ 08:49 pm
Hot Tramp's Jealousy Megapost  
I find that I end up repeating myself a lot in online discussions about jealousy, so I'm going to collect my main points here for easy linking.

Stuff I believe about jealousy:
  • Jealousy is normal. Just about everyone will experience jealousy at some point -- yes, even ethically nonmonogamous people. People who feel jealous are not inherently bad or unenlightened or controlling or bad partners. Our emotions don't define us. Our actions do. If you hurl baseless accusations, throw things, cause dramatic scenes in public, or lock your partner in the basement -- yes, you are a huge fucking jerk. But feeling jealous doesn't automatically make you that guy.

  • Jealousy is not inevitable. A lot of folks describe themselves as "a jealous person," as though jealousy is a constant characteristic. It's not. It's a feeling that arises because of our experiences and thoughts, and it's possible to feel it less often and less intensely by changing our experiences and thoughts. On the other hand, some people will always experience intense, painful jealousy when they think of their beloved being with someone else. The sooner you know that, the better. It allows you to make better choices about which relationships will work for you and which ones won't.

  • Jealousy is a composite emotion. I think that understanding our emotions is a great first step to changing them, and jealousy is a slippery one to pin down. That's because it's actually a label for many other emotions. Is it envy? Is it insecurity? Is it possessiveness? Is it fear? Fear of what? Sometimes, we label our emotion as "jealousy" and then stop. It's important to go further.

  • Jealousy may or may not have much to do with reality. Particularly when fear is involved. How likely is it, really, that my partner is going to leave me for this other person? If my partner is a flake, or a serial-monogamist-in-denial, pretty fucking likely! But if my partner has demonstrated commitment and steadfastness throughout life, and genuinely believes it is possible and desirable to love more than one person simultaneously, why would I get dumped? I encourage people to look for evidence related to their fears. If they can't find any in their current relationships, then evidence from the past may be coming into play, evidence about "men" or "women" or "human nature."

  • It's okay to feel jealous, even if you have multiple partners yourself. I see poly people fretting a lot over this, in both directions. "My husband loves sleeping with other women, but when I sleep with other men, he gets so jealous! He's not allowed to feel that way!" Actually, yeah, he's allowed to feel that way. "I have a boyfriend, and things have been great, but now my fuckbuddy is seeing someone else and I'm jealous! I'm such a hypocrite!" Actually, no, you're not. Again, there's a difference between feelings and actions. You'd be a hypocrite if you actually implemented a double-standard -- and even then, sometimes people are happy with unequal arrangements. Fundamentally, emotions do not respect "fairness."

  • Dismissing jealousy as "irrational," "ridiculous," or "unfounded" does not help. First of all, of course jealousy is irrational -- it's an emotion. All emotions are irrational. Love is irrational, but when your partner says "I love you," do you roll your eyes and say "Stop being irrational"? We discount people's emotions when those emotions are inconvenient for us. When we do it to someone else, we are potentially doing serious harm to them. When we do it to ourselves, we are absolutely doing serious harm to ourselves. The more energy we put into denying and repressing our emotions, the less energy we have to actually work through those emotions.

  • Jealousy can be expressed compassionately or abusively. I think a good indicator for this is, how vulnerable do you feel when you express yourself? Are you opening up and talking quietly about how sad and hurt you are, or are you shouting at your partner that he's a lying whore who always betrays you? It is possible to seem compassionate but still subtly manipulate -- watch out for guilt trips like "If you really loved me, you'd ...."

  • Jealousy is strongest when we aren't getting our needs met. The more secure and treasured we feel, the less likely it is we'll flip out when our partner gets involved with someone else. One of the biggest unmet needs that triggers jealousy is self-esteem. We need to feel fairly good about ourselves. We can accomplish lots of things with that need unmet or undermet, but we probably cannot tolerate our partner fucking someone who seems "better" than us. And most people will probably seem "better" to someone with low self-esteem.

  • Jealousy is part and parcel of compulsory monogamy. Remember, feelings are related to thoughts. If you've lived in a culture where monogamy is expected and even demanded (i.e., nearly everywhere), you have been told many "truths" about love. You can only love one person at a time. If you desire more than one person at a time, you don't really love either of them. Everyone should try to get the prettiest, richest, funniest partner possible, so if someone prettier, richer, and funnier than your current partner comes along, you should move on. A real man can satisfy his woman, so if she wants another guy, you must not be a real man. Identifying these thoughts lets you openly evaluate them, and then dismantle them and the power they have over your emotions.

Some awesome stuff other people have written about jealousy:

If you hate reading shit on your computer monitor:
  • Opening Up, by Tristan Taormino, has a great chapter about jealousy.

  • The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, talks more about sexual jealousy than romantic jealousy.

  • I've seen Deborah Anapol's Love Without Limits recommended for people curious about jealousy, though I haven't read it myself.

  • Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg is a wonderful resource for people trying to navigate emotionally complex waters.

I am absolutely interested in updating this as more stuff comes to my attention, so gimme what you got.
silver splits the blue: KissyFaceashbet on September 12th, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
These are fab!

May I suggest putting line breaks between the bullet points, for an easier-to-read format? (Sorry, my eye sees "wall of text" on a screen and I sometimes have trouble keeping the lines straight.)

Thank you for sharing these!

-- A :)
she's a tramp, she's a tramp, she's a vamptacky_tramp on September 12th, 2010 06:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestion!
silver splits the blue: AngelAndiashbet on September 12th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
You are awesome! ^_^


-- A :D

P.S. I do like dicedork's comment about jealousy being the "check engine" light of the soul -- for me, it's a sign that some of my needs aren't being met, or that I'm feeling insecure and need to (a) work on propping myself up, and/or (b) communicate with my partner about the issue and see if there's something we can do about it together.

I'm a lot more prone to envy and wistfulness than jealousy (it's a little rough that all my partners are so far away, and they have other people in their lives who get to see them more often and do fun activities -- and this could be seeing an awesome movie, not necessarily going to bed!), but I think those emotions are okay as long as I'm clear that it's a case of "I wish I was there" or "I miss you" or "I wish I could have that", rather than "OMG YOU ARE DOING THIS TO ME AND YOU NEED TO STOP."

The nice thing is that those feelings tend to be fleeting with good communication . . . and consideration on my partners' parts (like planning a phone/Skype date when we're missing each other, setting aside some alone time if we're missing each other and want to have long-distance naughty times, or planning a visit so that we can see each other in person) makes a huge difference when I'm feeling low about being so far away.

And, hey, that may not be a permanent situation -- while I can't emigrate to the UK and will always be long-distance to my Dearly Beloveds there, it's looking like I may be moving closer to mr_rubix within the next year or so . . . *glee!*
she's a tramp, she's a tramp, she's a vamptacky_tramp on September 12th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Wonderful news!
Dicedorkdicedork on September 12th, 2010 07:05 am (UTC)
One of the best explanations I've heard that I really latched onto is that jealousy is NOT it's own emotion per se. It is the "you're making me feel..." catch all in a monogamous world that generally has no problems with the responsibility for one person's feelings being blamed on another's behavior. But in poly contexts, it can point to so many different things that are wrong and each of those so many different fixes, that it's better to think of jealousy as the "check engine" light of the soul.

Given my contextual situation, you can imagine I've thought about a lot of this. It's nice to see some of my cerebral juice given form.
she's a tramp, she's a tramp, she's a vamptacky_tramp on September 12th, 2010 07:23 am (UTC)
Yeah, inki's piece about jealousy and power was really interesting. Jealousy is a discursive I-win button. Which is not to discount people's actual feelings of insecurity and fear of abandonment and so on, but it's interesting to look at a fairly rigorous study of how jealousy functions in society.
Lydiateawiththecheat on September 12th, 2010 07:25 am (UTC)
Thanks for making this post public. Just added you on LJ...thought I'd done that ages ago.
Annoying Pant-leg Pulling Chihuahua of Justice!: Yoda Wise Isstardragonca on September 12th, 2010 07:54 am (UTC)
Feelings aren't for being fair. Feelings are to feel! Reason is for being fair.
harimad on September 12th, 2010 11:42 am (UTC)
I find it helpful to distinguish between jealous and envy. These are my rough definitions: Envy is when you wish you had what the other person has. Jealousy is when you wish the other person not to have it.
she's a tramp, she's a tramp, she's a vamptacky_tramp on September 12th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
I think it's very easy to slide from envy to jealousy, though, particularly if you're operating under the scarcity model of love -- if my partner gives x to her, then he can't give x to me, and I want x!
ratontheroadratontheroad on September 12th, 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
Because I always ask... mind if I link?
she's a tramp, she's a tramp, she's a vamptacky_tramp on September 12th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
Stop asking! *whack*
Coscos on September 12th, 2010 03:00 pm (UTC)
Wow, great list! If I spent the time to pick apart all the things I say about jealousy in conversations about such matters, and identify the repeated points, I would've come up with a list very close to this one.

"Jealousy can be expressed compassionately or abusively" - I think the description there could use some work. The into sentence (the one I quoted) is intriguing but it took me somewhere a bit different than your expansion of it.

"Jealousy is strongest when we aren't getting our needs met." - Here I feel the opposite. I don't actually see it that way, but I think your expansion hits on how I *do* see it: We're more prone to jealousy the less secure we feel, or, a feeling of security undermines jealousy. I don't see it as being about needs being met, I see it as being about how much of a feeling of security you have (which is related to needs being met, but that's an indirect relationship between jealousy and needs).

"Jealousy is part and parcel of compulsory monogamy" - Maybe part of this point, or maybe a separate point: There's this common fallacy that monogamy is something you do to avoid jealousy, or that the existence of jealousy is a reason to be monogamous rather than poly.
she's a tramp, she's a tramp, she's a vamptacky_tramp on September 12th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
I think of it in terms of needs being met because of how many times I've seen people say they're jealous because their partner is being super affectionate with the New Hottie, and dammit, they want super-affection! Then they get super-affection, and they feel less jealous.

A feeling of security is a pretty universal need, as well. I need to know that my partners value me and enjoy the time that we spend together, and aren't going to throw me over at the drop of a hat.
bountiful-i-licious rexgatopreto on September 12th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you, great stuff, well thought out and presented.
merlynn_valenmerlynn_valen on September 12th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
I really appreciate your post. For years, I've told partners that I don't feel jealousy. They always thought I had lost my mind. Soem of it was a choice not to 'possess' my partners, but to give the freedom to come and go as they pleased. If they left, I dealt with emotional fallout from the loss privately.

But the primary reason I don't experience jealousy is that I got into the habit of devling deeper into my emotions about a decade ago. Instead of jealoisy, I recognize that I'm feeling anger at people ignoring boundaries, fear of abandonment, fear of loss or grief, etc. The funny thing is that I've always talked through these feelings. I've also realized that sometimes you have let a beloved partner leave you if the choose to become monogamous or more exclusive with another partner. If we love our partners, sometimes the choice are hard ones to make, taking a terrible emotional toll.

Our actions are defined by our choices, not our emotions.
Paulprophyt on September 14th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
Followed the link over from a friend.
So glad I did. Bravo.
(Anonymous) on September 23rd, 2010 10:27 am (UTC)
Great article
My partner and I recently opened up our relationship and I've been struggling big time with jealousy. It really reared its head unexpectedly, so much so that we're considering calling the whole thing off. I am uncertain if this article will help, but it's a start.
kaykinky on September 27th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
Jealousy 101 and more
Wow! I was very impressed with your post and all the great information. I think everyone struggling with Jealousy should read this information. Kudoes!
(Anonymous) on September 28th, 2010 08:40 am (UTC)
poly mess
Thank you for this, many years ago my ex girlfriend explained the difference between jealousy and envious. Simply put, Your neighbour buys a new sports car and wants to show you, You are pleased for him, you wish it was yours. ie envious.

Same scenario, except you take your car key and scratch all up the side of it. ie jealousy.

Alex S
Matmachineist on December 10th, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
Thank you for all of these helpful insights and links; mem'ing for later use!
(Deleted comment)
she's a tramp, she's a tramp, she's a vamptacky_tramp on April 25th, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)
Re: End of an Era
It's just all friends-locked. I'm surprised you can't see it with that OpenID. Let me see if I can fiddle with that ...