Managing Jealousy in Your Polyamorous Relationships

By: Pamela Peters, MFTC

Four tips for managing jealousy in your polyamorous relationships in 2022. Just because you’ve decided to participate in a consensually nonmonogamous relationship (CNMR) and have embraced loving and/or being intimate with more than one person, doesn’t mean you will be immune to jealousy. It also doesn’t mean that you will always be consumed with feeling jealous when one of your partners is with one of their other partners. People successfully participating in CNMRs accept that jealousy will visit them as part of being in relationships. (This actually may differentiate people in CNMRs from those doing monogamy; monogamous couples may assume they will not experience jealousy.)

The fact that jealousy may come up is not a deterrent for many folks who are polyamorous/consensually nonmonogamous. It simply is one thing they know they’ll need to confront and work through with their partners. This 2018 report explores how the majority of polyamorous people actually are able to conceptualize and work through jealousy. Jealousy can be seen as a normal, yet exaggerated response to relationship change in your life. Following are four tips to help work with the inevitable jealousy that can happen within CNMRs, polyamory and even in traditional monogamous relationships.

  1. Acknowledge That Jealousy Happens in Polyamorous Relationships
    Like most human feelings, jealousy is best acknowledged, communicated, and processed—not denied or ignored. Also similar to other feelings like sadness, anger, and resentment, it is almost impossible to eliminate all feelings of jealousy from relationships. In fact, jealousy is one single word that in actuality has many nuanced feelings within it, such as: anger, pain, fear, possessiveness, sadness, loneliness, inadequacy, insecurity, depression, and many more.
  2. Own Your Own Jealousy and Try to Identify What It’s Covering Up
    All relationships (monogamous and consensually nonmonogamous) work best when people own up to their feelings and try to work through them. What else is the jealousy really covering up? Answering this question often enables partners in polyamorous relationships to decrease the impact of the jealousy as well as find solutions to avoiding some instances of it. For example, Matthew may have feelings of insecurity come up which point to their fear of a lack of commitment from Olivia when she goes out with her other partner, Tanesha. In this situation, perhaps Olivia and Matthew determine that if Olivia calls Matthew on her way to and from the date with Tanesha, that helps him feel secure and that Olivia is committed to their relationship.
  3. Give New Relationships Time
    When someone in your CNMR or polycule starts a new relationship, this is the time you are most likely to have jealousy rear its green-eyed head. It is a time of New Relationship Energy (NRE) when the two who are newly getting acquainted may want to spend lots of time together. They may feel giddy and love struck. This can cause much joy for the new partners and much stress for existing partners. This adjustment period can be tough for the person or people not in the fog of NRE. The existing partners have no idea what to expect or how the new relationship may play out.

During this early time period, it is important for the person experiencing NRE to give existing relationship(s) priority to aid those partners in feeling more secure within those relationships. Those who are watching all this NRE from the sidelines may want to express their feelings, as the true feelings they are, for example fear of abandonment or loneliness. This enables the person with NRE to make some changes in how they are conducting the new relationship—spend more time with the existing relationship, etc. Given enough time, communication, and patience, all partners may settle into a new routine where jealousy and tumultuousness fade. It’s important for all partners involved to realize that the new relationship has potential to significantly change how the polycule looks moving forward.

  1. Embrace Compersion in Your Polyamorous Relationships
    What is compersion? This is a term coined within the polyamorous and consensually nonmonogamous community used to describe positive feelings due to a partner’s happiness about another partner. The 2018 study also offers a more thorough discussion of compersion.

Here’s an example: Ali and Kendra are partners. Ali begins to feel overwhelming joy because Kendra is feeling NRE with Jon. In this instance, Ali is feeling compersion. If, instead of jealousy and insecurity, someone is able to tap into the happiness they feel on behalf of their partner who is in a new relationship, sometimes this compersion actually deflects, minimizes, or eliminates the jealousy.

How does someone learn to find compersion? Practice tapping into this feeling with people in your life who are not intimate partners. Focus on what it feels like to feel really pleased on behalf of your friend when they successfully land the new position they’ve always wanted. Or, what does it feel like when you feel proud of a family member’s high school or college graduation? These events and the positive feelings you gain from them are very similar to how compersion works. When your partner is doing something fun with another partner, imagine what it feels like to be in their shoes, feeling joyful and happy. Transfer that feeling to yourself and feel joy on behalf of them for finding one another and playing in the way they do. Another part of compersion is feeling happy for yourself because your joyful partner brings home positive energy to share with you!

In the long run, there is no one solution for all jealousy issues. Most likely you and your partners will need to try out various solutions to see what can help you manage and work with jealous feelings as well as how to tap into compersion. To learn more about consensually nonmonogamy and polyamory read Pam’s blog.

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