Polyamorous jealousy

Nowhereman

Member
I thought I didn't feel jealousy at all for a long time. But after some poly experience, I'd formulated for myself what I call now "polyamorous jealousy". To explain it, I need to start with "polyamorous cheating".

Poly cheating is breaking an agreement. In most poly rels, we have agreements. And when a partner brokes one of them, we have this terrible feeling - the one I call "poly jealousy".

I'll give you an example. We lived together as a triad. And we had an agreement to never change our common plans for the sake of our secondaries. Our third partner was out of the city, and my GF and I planned to spend the next day together. But in the evening, her secondary called her to say he'll be in the city for one day tomorrow. How could I tell her, "Don't go! We have an agreement"? I just couldn't. I couldn't deprive her of this pleasure - all the more, we both don't know when he'll be here next time. But I also didn't want her to leave me for the whole day we had already planned. So I was stuck. And then she tells me before I even say a word:
- I know what you think. I will go - but only if we together devise now what YOU will do during the day.
And I felt better: my love will spend the day with her passion, but she took care of me - so I also will spend the day well.

The feeling started developing in me during a few seconds _before_ she said she'd take care of me - this feeling I call "poly jealousy". When my partner breaks our agreements (or "rules") - even if I agree that she should do it.

What do you think?
 

Eponine

Active member
I think your feeling was completely understandable. Both my husband and I have only had other long-distance partners, so we always have an unspoken understanding that in-person time with a long-distance partner takes priority during that short time when it's possible (it has always been planned ahead for us though - they all live so far away that a spontaneous visit isn't possible). So I can understand that your GF wanted to meet her other partner, and you wanted her to go, but also felt jealous for the breaking of agreement. It was nice that you two resolved the problem with consideration for each other.

If it were me, I might add an exception to that agreement for the sake of long-distance partners who might visit unexpectedly. Still, canceling plans last minute wouldn't be pleasant.
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Staff member
Hello Nowhereman,

There is a widespread misconception that one can't be jealous and polyamorous at the same time. The truth is, almost everyone experiences jealousy at one time or another, and that includes polyamorists. The difference is, that monogamists don't have to manage/process jealousy, whereas polyamorists do.

Likewise, cheating can happen in polyamory too, just like it can happen in monogamy. I define cheating as any time one partner engages in an additional romantic/sexual relationship without the knowledge and/or consent of their other partner. But honestly, even if I have my partner's consent (in poly), my (poly) partner can still feel jealous.

Jealousy can certainly happen when there's a change of plans (in who will spend the day with whom). It's up to each person in the relationship to figure out how to deal with the jealousy, and making the jealous partner feel cared for is certainly one way of doing that. It is also up to the jealous partner to identify his or her needs, and advocate for them.

Just some thoughts,
Kevin T.
 

Magdlyn

Moderator
Staff member
I think it's important to recognize the difference between envy and jealousy. We tend to barely use the word envy, and conflate it with jealousy, but they are very distinct feelings. Envy means wanting something someone else has. Jealousy means fiercely protective or vigilant of one's possessions.

When my gf goes out for a wonderful day with her bf, and maybe she and I haven't had a great exciting day lately, I might feel envious.

If I think of my bf as "mine," (and I do, to an extent-- it's a D/s thing), if and when he has a great date with a new lover, I might feel complicated feelings that I could call jealousy. It's based on fear of loss. It's based on that visceral feeling of mistrust. Might he fall head over heels for this new person? Will that threaten our times together? Might she be a cowgirl and not understand polyamory and think she can rope him off for herself?

In both cases, we can ask for reassurance. In the envy case, I can tell gf I'm envious and then she'll probably immediately suggest a fun date for us. In the other case, it might take more talking... there are more complicated deeper layers to that insecure feeling. I have only been with my bf for one year, and he's still more mysterious to me. I've been with my gf 13 years, and we know each other super well.

I try to use the word envy whenever it is applicable, since it is usually more easily solved, as it was in your case. Jealousy can be a cover for much deeper problems. Generally they can be worked out too if you face them head on, lean in, and take responsibility for your own feelings and actions.
 

Nowhereman

Member
I think your feeling was completely understandable. Both my husband and I have only had other long-distance partners, so we always have an unspoken understanding that in-person time with a long-distance partner takes priority during that short time when it's possible (it has always been planned ahead for us though - they all live so far away that a spontaneous visit isn't possible). So I can understand that your GF wanted to meet her other partner, and you wanted her to go, but also felt jealous for the breaking of agreement. It was nice that you two resolved the problem with consideration for each other.
It felt like "she makes what better for herself - but she also takes care of me!" And it felt perfect. I felt I was cared (I spent the day with my two secondaries) - but my primary GF took what she wanted too.
 

Nowhereman

Member
That sounds like a win-win outcome.
Yes. It was the moment when we invented "the last rule" or "the rule number infinity":
"You can break any of the previous rules only if you do something instead to make your partners happy or at least ok with it.
 
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