When I talk to people about open relationships the first question they usually ask is “how do you deal with jealousy”?
It’s a great question, because jealousy is often hard to deal with. As open relationships become more popular and couples open themselves up to new experiences, everyone wants to be that partner who’s “not triggered”.
It’s all good honey, do whatever you want!
But this isn’t just about open relationships. None of us want to see ourselves as jealous, because we want our partners to have the freedom to express themselves — whether that’s with friends, lovers or just the clothes they wear. Unfortunately what happens when we aren’t honest with our feelings is we bypass them, which can cause resentment and frustration down the road.
That’s how most of us deal with jealousy — denial. And it doesn’t work.
Fortunately there’s hope. Not only can we learn to not be so ashamed of jealousy, but we can start to work with it to lessen it’s effects and even convert it to something exciting.
Wait — did I say exciting? Oh, it’s real people — so let’s get on board the excitement train and find out what this craziness is all about.
Here are three lessons that will help you begin the journey from shame, collapsing and stress to openness, connection and excitement.
Lesson 1: It’s Okay To Have Feelings
Before we attempt to convert jealousy into something more exciting, we need to make peace with the fact that it’s showing up. If we can’t even admit that to ourselves, how can we expect to move through it? As Nathaniel Branden said, “you can’t leave a place you’ve never been”.
So it is with jealousy. You’ll never move through it if you try and deny it’s existence. So that’s the first step. Raise your hand, say “I’m feeling jealous” and put your hand back down. No big deal.
Because it really isn’t a big deal. Everyone experiences it, and it doesn’t make you any less conscious, any less evolved, or any less of a good person.
One of the reasons we have such a hard time admitting we’re jealous is most of us live under the illusion that jealousy isn’t something we should have to deal with. We believe that monogamy comes with a kind of “desire security” and secretly hope that because we’re so awesome, our partner will only desire us, and only us for the rest of their life.
As they say — denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
Most of the problems that come from jealousy actually don’t come from jealousy at all — they come from the repression of jealousy, which leads to anger, resentment, and all sorts of shitty relationship behavior.
You can’t leave a place you’ve never been, so go there — because as you’ll see in the next couple lessons, it’s not so scary after all.
Lesson 2: Jealousy Is An Unmet Need
As Reid Mihalko says, Jealousy is a dashboard light — we need to look under the hood to see what’s really going on.
There could be any number of reasons we get jealous, and when several of those reasons pile up — we can really get triggered.
For example, maybe you have a need to feel special with your partner, so when they prioritize time with the kids over time with you, you start feeling left out. Or maybe for you a trigger is fairness, so if your partner is going out on a date with someone else you get jealous, simply because they are getting to do something and you’re not.
Again, these don’t have to be in the context of open relating because jealousy can be present in any relationship, even between friends and family.
Once you’ve identified what need(s) it is you’re not getting met, you can find alternate ways to meet those needs. For example, if fairness is a trigger for you, maybe when your partner goes on a date you call up a friend and make your own plans.
Understanding your internal landscape when it comes to jealousy is your responsibility, and knowing what your triggers are in advance can help you avoid sticky situations in the future.
For example, some of the triggers that get me are possessiveness/control and feelings of inferiority, so I know that if I’m faced with those situations where that might come up I can be extra careful and gentle with myself.
I could get into all the triggers but if you want to learn more about this and discover your own triggers I highly recommend reading Reid’s free PDF on Battling the 8-Armed Octopus of Jealousy.
Lesson 3: Convert Jealousy to Excitement
I’ll start by saying that this may feel like a leap for some people, however excitement and jealousy are more closely related than you may realize.
Most people when they feel jealous hope to make it go away so they can feel nothing, but it never works because it leads to numbing your feelings, avoidance and/or repression.
To explain this I’m gonna need to get a little new-agey and talk about energy.
When someone feels jealous there is an energy that gets created. In it’s initial phase, that energy is neither good nor bad, it’s just an energy. We then interpret it and create an aversion to it, making it something we want to avoid.
Jealousy and excitement are often the same energy, but interpreted in different ways. Did you know that some people actually get off on their partners being sexual with other people. How can they do that? They actually feel a lot of the same things as someone who is jealous, but they interpret those feelings differently, and therefore get turned on instead of jealous.
It’s a lot like many people’s relationship to stage fright. Before going on stage, many people experience themselves as jittery, sweaty and having butterflies in their stomach. As someone who has been performing music to audiences for over twenty years, I experience those feelings as well, but I don’t interpret them as nervousness, I interpret them as excitement. I can’t wait to get on stage and perform, and as a result, my body is jittery, sweaty and I have no appetite.
Same energy, different interpretation.
It’s a fools errand to try and feel nothing whether we’re talking about stage fright, jealousy or any emotion for that matter. What’s more effective is trying to shift that energy into something useful.
Jealousy Doesn’t Mean Something Is Wrong
At the end of the day, many people believe that if jealousy is happening something must be wrong, and the truth is it’s just another part of the human experience.
In many ways, jealousy can actually show us what we want — because if we didn’t care at all about something we wouldn’t get jealous.
By accepting the fact that it’s normal to feel jealous not only are we not adding suffering to our pain by resisting it, but we may actually be able to get more of what we want. When we share our internal landscape with others, they now have the opportunity to help us instead of just be confused why we’re so angry.
If anything, working on our feelings of jealousy can show us that while it may be uncomfortable, it’s not that scary, and it’s certainly not something we should ever avoid, hide from or repress.