Jealousy is an odd bird. It nests in the unlikeliest of places. It sings at the most inopportune times—and it doesn’t let anyone sleep.
Whether you’re in a D/s dynamic that’s open to new play partners, or you’re in a polyamorous relationship, jealousy can be a challenge. If it’s causing snags in your relationships (and even before it does), coping with jealousy can be a useful skill to learn. These five tips will have you well on your way.
Want to play nice with others? Play nice with yourself, first. Don’t beat yourself up with your jealousy, and don’t beat yourself up about your jealousy.
Not beating yourself up with your jealousy means not indulging in thoughts that make matters worse. You don’t have to stalk every ill-meandering thought to its conclusion, and with jealousy, it’s best if you don’t. If your thoughts are leading to bad places, you’re under no obligation to follow them.
Distract yourself. Journal. Whatever you do, don’t obsess. Thoughts of what your partner is doing with their partner are conjecture at best — stewing on such thoughts does you no good.
If curiosity gets the better of you, you can ask your partner if they are comfortable with telling you what happened after. But we all know what they say about curiosity. Reflect on what you’re really looking for (and what’s compassionate to you) before asking.
Not beating yourself up about your jealousy means not guilting yourself. Feeling jealous doesn’t make you a bad submissive or partner. It’s acting on jealousy that gets you into trouble. If you’re not hurting anyone, there’s no reason to allow yourself to feel guilt over your jealousy. That’s just adding insult to injury.
If you feel guilty about feeling jealous, remind yourself that you love your partner, and you’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, these feelings are probably arising because you love your partner and honor what you have together as being unique, beautiful, and special. It’s okay to feel the way you feel. Sharing can be hard.
Keep in mind, though, that sharing a person’s love (or attention) is not like sharing a cookie. If you break off half of your cookie to share with someone, you now have only half of your original cookie. But love and attention are not material, quantifiable entities.
If you share your partner with another person, that doesn’t mean you only get half of your partner’s love, now. All other variables remaining constant, your partner loves you just as much as they did before. Maybe they’ve even grown fonder of you for supporting them to explore this side of themselves that longs to experience multiple partners.
Their love for you doesn’t automatically diminish because of their involvement with another. Love doesn’t get portioned out like money. You don’t spend some here, some there, and then it’s depleted. Love isn’t a finite resource and shouldn’t be treated as such. That’s why you can afford to spend more of it on yourself!
Take time to get in touch with yourself. Instead of rejecting or resenting your feelings, try to understand why you feel what you feel. What’s causing this jealousy? Is it fear of how things played out in a past relationship? Is it insecurity in your current relationship? Is there an identifiable catalyst to your jealousy? Take time to compassionately and honestly answer these questions. It will give you the insight to understand your jealousy.
Realize It’s Not About You
Your partner’s decision to not be exclusive reflects their needs, not a defect within you. Different people have different needs, and that’s okay. Some people are monogamous, some are polyamorous, some pair bond for life, and some love who they are with at the moment. As long as all parties consent, there is nothing wrong with any of these ways of life.
But there’s also nothing wrong with you. Your partner’s preference of lifestyle says more about them than it says about you. Your partner choosing to engage with multiple people doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with or lacking from your relationship—and it certainly doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with or lacking from you.
When it comes to desires within consenting relationships, sometimes people just need to be who they are—and that has nothing to do with you! When people express themselves through consensual behaviors, we can support them, or we can get out of their way. If they can be brave enough to make an admission of their needs, we can be brave enough to let them strive to attain them—and if you really can’t be, if it’s just not for you, that’s okay, too.
Your partner’s decisions reflect their needs; your decisions reflect yours. It’s okay for you to be who you are, too. This means you don’t have to stay in a relationship you don’t feel comfortable or safe in, but it also means you shouldn’t feel you have to be everything to one person.
Being everything to one person is a lot of pressure. Being in any relationship already means wearing lots of hats: the best friend hat, the play partner hat, the submissive hat, the sexual partner hat, and more. There may even be subdivisions to some hats. Take the play partner hat, for example. There may be a need for a bondage partner, a service partner, and an S/M partner. Each title is a different job requiring different skills. Even with overlap, it’s a ton of responsibility for one person.
That’s why nothing gets over jealousy, like realizing it’s okay to delegate. Delegating—that is, allowing or supporting your partner to see other people to meet the needs you aren’t enthusiastic about meeting—can take a considerable amount of stress off of you and remove unnecessary tension from your relationship. Appreciating that you don’t have to overextend yourself to be everything for your partner at all times can be liberating. It can be a positive turning point in the relationship. Opening the relationship may turn out to be a better decision than you expect.
Feel the Love
Establish and nurture stability and open communication in your relationship. When people have consistency and stability in their partnerships, they know they can rely on those relationships. It takes the guesswork out, eliminates anxiety. It makes the relationship a go-to, home-base, type of environment.
When people can communicate honestly and openly in their relationships, they feel free, accepted, cared for, and heard. A relationship like that is one where the partners feel no fear of judgment or rejection for expressing themselves. There is implicit trust, a sense of ease, and comfort.
Relationships like that are not a dime a dozen. They are special, important. They are not something to walk away from.
If you cultivate strong relationships, you can bask in the reassurance of that same strength. If you put time into evolving your partnerships, you can grow and develop together, even as you explore aspects of life separately. The home-base you make together will always be a home-base, so long as you choose to maintain it.
So, feel the love in your relationship. Know it’s not going anywhere. The certainty and stability you allow yourself to feel will annihilate insecurity. Without insecurity, jealousy hardly has a petri dish to grow in.
Talk About It
Communication is the heart of all great relationships. If you’re feeling jealous about something your partner is doing, the best person to talk to is your partner. Notice the key phrase here is, “your partner”—not your partner’s partner, your metamour, or your prospective metamour—your partner.
When deciding to speak to your partner, first, assess and organize your feelings. Otherwise, you may end up saying tons without communicating anything. After you’ve processed your feelings independently, if those feelings remain unresolved, discussing them with your partner can help.
Making your partner aware of your feelings may help them see things from your perspective. Sometimes, that alone can impact them enough to change or reduce behaviors that may be triggering your jealousy. Still, it’s important to remember that your jealousy is your jealousy, and in no way obligates them to walk on eggshells around you. Regardless of what they choose to do, it’s still your responsibility to manage your jealousy—for your sake, if nothing else.
If you speak with your partner and they can’t relate or understand, you can still take the next step. Start a conversation about boundaries. Boundaries are baseline requirements to keep you and your relationship safe. If your partner plans on seeing other people, what are the baseline requirements you need met to feel safe and want to continue your (now open) relationship? It’s important to let your partner know what your boundaries are and what you might expect from them beforehand.
When opening the relationship to additional sex or play partners, talking about boundaries can be quite literal. It may include discussing expectations for safer sex. What constitutes safer sex? What specific practices will you each abide by? These are questions to ask yourself and your partner. The conversation may also involve dividing your toys based on those which can be used on others and those which cannot.
Emotional boundaries are also important. Consider discussing any emotional hang-ups, any things that just wouldn’t feel right to you, before they manifest. Do you feel okay about your partner saying, “I love you” to someone else? Are you comfortable with them kissing others on the mouth? Are there toys that are safe to be used on others physically, but not emotionally? Is there any particular activity you engage in with your partner that, if they did with someone else, would cause emotional harm? This is the time to talk about it.
It’s vital to remember, though, that this discussion is not about making demands. It lets your partner know what you are not comfortable with, what would constitute a breach of trust for you, but it is primarily about discussing how you can both keep your relationship healthy. Therefore, the focus is on letting your partner know what you are comfortable with and how you can work together to meet each other’s needs.
It can be a heavy conversation to hold. But, it’s not without its benefits. It can make you both feel safer and healthier about opening the relationship.
Talking with your partner about your jealousy, in general, may also rid you of some of your anxieties concerning what to expect. If you tell your partner exactly what you are afraid of, they may confide in you the precise likelihood of that fear materializing. It gives them a chance to say whether the activity you’re concerned about was ever on the table, to begin with. If it was, at least you are prepared for (and have an opening to talk about) the possibility. If it wasn’t, you know you can stop worrying about now.
Open communication with your partner facilitates the transition into you, both finding a degree of comfort in your open relationship. It sets the stage for what you both can expect. It helps set boundaries for mutual safety and support. It also allows you to open up about feelings, which (if done respectfully) can enable bonding in the relationship, making it even stronger.
Love Thy Neighbor
“Love thy neighbor” is a short, sweet way to say, “don’t villainize the other person.” The partner of your partner (“metamour,” in polyamory) isn’t a bad person for wanting to be with your partner. Chances are if you want to be with your partner, your partner is pretty awesome, so, naturally, others would want to spend time with them, too.
Realizing this can eliminate your search for ulterior motives. The “other person,” in all likelihood, isn’t trying to take something away from you by being with your partner. They are just another interested person, like you, trying to spend time with another interesting person, like your partner. There’s usually no malintent, which means there’s no reason to villainize this person in your head.
Furthermore, in striving to overcome jealousy, it helps to find an appreciation for this person. You don’t have to become their best friend—you may not even know them. However, it benefits you to develop conceptual gratitude towards them.
You may not immediately see it, but this person—your metamour, or the partner of your partner—in most cases, is helpful to you in a roundabout kind of way. They actually have the potential to add a fair amount of positivity to your relationship. It is possible to develop an awareness of all the good they have to offer.
Firstly, what they do has value. They may add satisfaction, contentment, or happiness to your partner’s day. Whether you recognize it or not, that rubs off on you. When your partner is happy, they have better interactions with everyone, including you.
Secondly, in some instances, this other person can address the needs of your partner that you don’t or don’t want to address. That’s an enormous personal favor. It’s like your bored coworker noticing how busy you are with other projects and taking a data entry assignment you were dreading off your desk to complete it themselves. It unloads expectations off of you, it gets the job done, and it makes everyone’s day a little better.
You don’t have to be at odds with your partner’s partner, or the idea of them, and in most cases, you shouldn’t be. Embrace the importance of their role in your and your partner’s life. If you develop a sense of gratitude for their contribution, it can improve your relationship with them (if you have one). It will definitely enhance your relationship with your partner. But, most importantly, best of all, it will improve your relationship with yourself.
Relationships can be hard. The more people added to the mix; the more complicated matters can become. But just because your relationship with your partner is feeling more challenging doesn’t mean your relationship with yourself has to be.
Jealousy can muddle your emotional understanding and muddy the already murky grey areas in your relationships, but you don’t have to suffer through it. You can use your jealousy to get a better understanding of yourself, your needs, your partner, and their needs. A shock of jealousy can be an opportunity for growth and even enriched happiness in any relationship. By utilizing these five tips for managing jealousy, you can cope with your emotions and get all of you on your side, for whatever changes life throws your way.