I’m often asked, by people who know of my polyamorous nature, how it is that my partners and I deal with jealousy. The simple answer is: we don’t. A longer and perhaps snarkier answer is: jealousy is for amateurs who let their insecurities and fears control their emotions. Loving absolutely, no matter who you’re with, isn’t always easy, but neither is it impossible. It just takes a certain kind of mindset that doesn’t include jealousy as an option.
I may have mentioned before that my woggies were thrilled when they found out that I was finally going to marry again, just as I was thrilled for them ten years ago when they did the same. We didn’t see it as a diminishment of what we have, but more an enrichment of the whole. We actively welcome that kind of unity, because we understand that desires and needs come in different forms. We were and continue to be happy for one another’s happiness. That is the opposite of jealousy.
I’ve never been a jealous person. Maybe I’m just wired differently than most, but I put a lot of stock in trust and honesty. I also don’t have hang ups about the time my partners spend with others. In fact, I encourage it. I can’t possibly fulfill every desire and/or need and to think I can is pure folly. As human beings, we thrive on variety and the attention of others. My only stipulations have always been: know what you’re getting yourself into and be safe. Anything else is free game.
Lest you think this is a mindset you are either born with or can never embrace, take this into account. My husband was a dedicated monogamist when we first met. He couldn’t conceive of a possibility in which he could be devoted to one person, while having relations with others, much less sharing devotional duties with more than one. It was a foreign concept, not because he didn’t like the idea, but because nobody had ever presented it to him in a matter-of-fact way. As an option.
We had many long talks on the subject over the several months in which we were getting to know one another. We talked of past relationships and personal philosophies. He asked a lot of questions and challenged my viewpoints, but slowly, over time, he came to realize that what I was describing to him wasn’t a loophole that allowed for free-for-all philandering, but rather a respect for self and honesty in the relationship. It isn’t easy to digest the possibility that you will never be the “one and only” in a single person’s life, but once you begin to understand that it in no way diminishes the love you will experience from that person, it becomes more palatable.
It also negates feelings of guilt and insecurity, first by allowing for the acknowledgement that there are always going to be people who we find interesting in more than a platonic way and second, by allowing us to think like rational adults who won’t be punished for having thoughts and desires for another. To sweep such feelings under the rug, so to speak, is a recipe for deceit and betrayal. It’s a denial of humanity’s basic nature and is akin, in my book, to asking everybody to believe one is on a strict diet, while secretly scarfing down on pizza rolls and milkshakes in the middle of the night.
Which is certainly not to say I think of my woggies as pizza rolls and milkshakes, but rather to point out that by giving in to my basic needs, I am allowing myself to have a healthier approach to achieving them. Rather than, say, prowling public restrooms and parks for sexual gratification, or picking up strangers in bars for unsatisfactory flings. In my situation, everybody knows everybody else and bonds are strengthened by virtue of absolute honesty and acceptance of the situation. Variety becomes the spice of life and jealousy is not allowed to take root.
I don’t expect everybody to agree with me. I never have. Just to consider what it means to be human and acknowledge basic human desires, not as something to be ashamed of, but as keys to healthy understanding of what makes us tick. If sex were just about propagation of the species, it wouldn’t occupy so much of our waking hours, nor would it be so thoroughly pleasurable. It would be a utilitarian instinct, devoid of anything more than clockwork impulse, like the spawning behaviors of salmon or sparrows. As human beings, we are blessed with the power to choose who our partners will be, regardless of gender, race, religion or social mores. We’ve come far enough to understand that.
Is it so hard, then, to embrace the possibilities inherent in sharing who we are and what we have with more than one person? The key to understanding is accepting that insecurities, fears and jealousies are detrimental to any healthy relationship. And that honesty, trust and acceptance will enrich us, not just personally, but collectively. Once you’ve come to terms with that concept, the possibilities are endless.