For many people, the biggest obstacle to free love be it in a polyamorous (many) relationship or monogamous (one) relationship is the emotion jealousy. Seeing it unfold many times over, one partner looks at me and says, “I swear they are doing it on purpose”. Jealousy feels awful, the sinking feeling in your stomach when you are not with your partner, the cold sweating anxiety when they are about to go out (for coffee with their grandma). Your mind races and all over your partner’s need for what could be autonomy. Our minds wonder to places of self-esteem, shame and guilt. I believe that most people take the disparaging power of jealousy way too much for granted, that we give our jealousy far more power than it deserves.
Relationship dynamics can complicate even simple jealousy, especially if the parties are insensitive to each other’s different personality traits and temperamental qualities. For instance, one partner is likely to disagree with the other partner’s interpretation of “appropriate” interactions. What is honest “friendliness” for one can seem “flirtatious” to the other. We have all seen it…the mono or poly couple that has the over zealous touchy feely partner. What sincerely feels like “consideration” to one: “You should show me respect,” honestly feels like “control” or even “oppression” to the other – “You don’t want me to be myself!”
This is still simple jealousy, without the paranoid or obsessional nuances of its darker cousin control, power, mastery, or frankly a bit much dominance (of course outside the BDSM arena). At this level of talking about jealousy partners maybe accusing the other of infidelity or just obsessing about the friendliness of the more sociable partner. It is really a classic temperamental error that occurs in most relationships: judging your partner by how you would react, even though your partner has a distinctive temperament, dissimilar experiences, and different developmental and emotional history. We’re all tempted to express this form of narcissism – the way I would react is the standard for all decent people; so you have to conform to what I think is appropriate.
Reconciliation over disputes born of temperamental differences is the subject of another post. In short, it requires binocular vision – the ability to see your partner’s perspective alongside your own, indeed, to see the world through their eyes at the same time you see it through your own. Binocular vision or Empathy, perhaps the most important of relationship skills, makes the world seem richer and more dynamic. Disappointment of binocular vision produces a reactive narcissism (you’re incapable of seeing your loved one apart from how you feel about them) and, of course, it stimulates more jealousy.
Eventually we need to bring the reflection of this jealousy back to our selves. So how can we navigate that?
Disarming Complex Jealousy
Don’t trust obsessions. They deeply distort reality. If you can’t stop thinking about your partner flirting with someone else, you must distrust the thought process. The longer obsessive thinking goes on, the more certain you become and the more likely you are wrong. This is a great opportunity to simply share your feelings through and “I” statement, “I feel this sense that when situations arise my jealousy flares up in my mind and my stomach.” By sharing how you feel with your partner without accusing or shaming them for doing anything.
Regulate Core Mistaken Beliefs
The primary component of complex jealousy is self-diminishment – you feel unlovable and inadequate as an intimate partner. These “Core Mistaken Beliefs” give rise to the obsessions. If, in your heart, you don’t believe that you are worthy of love, how can you believe someone who says they love you? You will assume that they do not know the real me, or they want something else (my money, house, car, or socks), or they want someone else. Because we cannot possibly be enough for them, they will look for “clues” that they are seeking fulfillment somewhere else. Many studies show that whatever the brain looks for, it will find.
When attacked by the painful feeling of unworthiness, before it stimulates a cycle of obsessions and revenge motives, ask yourself out loud: