Since posting about our “open” relationship, I’ve had so many people ask me how Ty and I avoid jealousy. The answer is simple. We don’t.
Well, I don’t. I’ve seen Tyler jealous a handful of times throughout the course of our relationship. Me on the other hand…I do get jealous sometimes, and it’s not always been pretty. But we’ve pushed through because we both feel it’s worth the work.
So the question is not “How do you avoid getting jealous?” The question is “How do you keep jealousy from taking over?”
One of the most difficult things to do in the middle of an emotionally charged situation is think clearly. But truly, this is the first step to resolving any conflict. So when I feel that creeping sense of anger, pain, betrayal, or fear that presents itself as the green-eyed monster, I take a step back and do a little root-cause analysis.
Once boiled down, most of the time my jealousy is a result of one of two things: insecurity or hurt. If someone else is able to meet a need of Ty’s I’m not able to, it can lead to feelings of insecurity in my own ability to make him happy or to be an amazing partner – as in, what’s wrong with me that can’t I do that for him?! If I feel neglected by Ty for the sake of someone or something else, it hurts – as in why doesn’t he want to do that with me?
Our insecurities say SO much more about ourselves than those around us. As such, insecurity can be quite difficult and painful to manage. For me, dealing with it is a multi-step process.
- I start by observing my feelings without judgement. “Oh, I’m feeling insecure. That’s interesting.”
- Then I validate my feelings. “It makes sense that this situation could make me feel insecure.”
- Next I give myself a pep talk about how freaking awesome I am and how lucky Tyler is to have me. “These are all the things I do right in this relationship, I’m going to be here a while, because that list is LONG!”
- Finally I remind myself of the beliefs that led us to this openness to begin with. “There’s no way I could meet every need of his, and isn’t it amazing that he doesn’t expect me to?”
In general I try to work though this process on my own. Sometimes, though, I can’t seem to wrap my brain around it, so I go to Ty and tell him I’m feeling insecure. He then takes the time to give me the reassurance I need in that moment. And then we move on.
If I’m feeling hurt, working through the jealousy is much more of a two-person job. Once I’ve identified the feeling I go straight to Tyler and use my communication skills honed through years of therapy. “When [whatever it was] went down, it hurt my feelings. What can we do differently in the future so that this doesn’t happen again?” I find that working through hurt is so much easier than working through insecurity because it tends to be a simpler solution. Either I misunderstood his intentions and needed clarification, or he didn’t realize he was hurting me, now he does, and he won’t do it again. Done.
For the record, I think Tyler doesn’t really get jealous because he doesn’t often feel insecure (lucky him!). The few times I’ve seen him express jealousy it’s been because he’s been hurt in some way. It’s taken a lot of work on his part to be able to identify this feeling as hurt instead anger or jealousy. But when he does, we go through the exact same process. What happened hurt, let’s not do that again, this is how we’ll avoid it.
I fear I’m oversimplifying this. I know it’s not that easy. It’s taken years to get here, and there are still improvements to be made. But on the whole, we handle these situations pretty darn well.
Just to be clear, though – jealousy doesn’t occur because we have an open relationship. Jealousy occurs because we have a relationship. And because we love each other. And because we have something to lose.
I feel jealous when Tyler goes on a ski trip without me. I wish I could share his favorite hobby with him. I feel jealous when he chooses to spend time at happy hour after work instead of come straight home. I wish he wanted to spend all that time with me instead of with his co-workers. I get jealous of his college girlfriend who he rarely even speaks to but still holds a piece of his heart I will never access. I know he’ll never think about me the way he thinks about her, and sometimes I fear he wishes I were more like her.
So, yes I get jealous. But it’s not a product of our relationship choices. It’s a product of life. Our openness has helped me learn healthy ways to deal with the feelings of insecurity or hurt that crop up in any relationship. Jealousy is not something to fear. Its something to work though. And working through it together has only made us that much stronger.