Thu Feb 25, 2010
So yes, I am sitting here blogging on birthday day. But only because I’m at the shop until the early afternoon, and it’s a sloooowww day. Yow.
Been reading blogs and this and that. Read MM’s Stranger column, about the familiar and never-resolved hotbutton topic of jealousy. As interesting as the column, were the comments afterward. I think the topic is so difficult to discuss because everyone brings their own stuff to the discussion. I bristle whenever I hear suggested that jealousy is an inherently negative emotion, but if I look at why that is, I think it’s because I felt unfairly painted as “the jealous one” when my poly relationship came to a close. At any rate, everyone wants to be thought of as enlightened and rational, so it gets personal really quickly.
For me, now in a monogamous relationship, I will say that small flares of “jealousy” have happened a couple of times, but I think in a positive way. With experience, I was able to stop, assess, and move forward in a reasonable way.
Case in point: over the years of my marriage to Elliott, more than one girlfriend from the past has resurfaced wanting to reconnect. Sometimes it was natural, just bumping into each other again. There were a couple though, who engineered meeting him alone, or just tried to find ways to ignore the fact that he was married. I then made a reasonable request: if this person is just after friendship, invite them over, or out for drinks, or whatever with BOTH of us. Then if the phone rings, I at least know the person on the other end. We know each others’ friends, it’s kind of part of sharing a life. Funny how the couple of people who raised red flags with me magically vaporized once Elliott suggested that they should meet me too. To me, that is the positive aspect of jealousy: to be able to recognize when something isn’t quite right. In this case, it wasn’t his motivation I was calling out, rather it was theirs. Elliott is a sweetheart who thinks everyone means well. I know enough so-called monogamous people to whom a wedding ring is an aphrodisiac to believe everyone is sweetness and light. I don’t think it 99% of the time, but I pay attention the 1% of the time that I do. Is that jealousy? I think so, because I think it’s the trusting your instincts part of it. If we try to talk ourselves completely out of jealousy, and ignore our gut when something isn’t right, that is taking it too far the other way. Kind of like the book “The Gift of Fear“, which points out the same issue, but regarding fear instead of jealousy.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum, people who ARE with super-controlling and jealous partners. Elliott’s most recent ex before me was that way. She leaves in her wake a train-wreck of negativity. We still see her in our social circle, wreaking havoc with whichever person is unlucky enough to fall into things. Usually it’s someone who does romanticize jealousy, and at the start, finds it “passionate”. Yikes.
What I would say of this column is that perhaps a different letter would have better served the answer. To me, this was more a question of doubt as to whether or not this was the right lifestyle choice. It wasn’t someone already in an open relationship asking for help on how to deal with things. It wasn’t someone contemplating it because that would be their first choice of relationships. It was someone trying to figure out how to make her heart conform to her partner’s wishes when it’s not what she would choose for herself.
I don’t have any good advice for that. While I have ultimately decided that poly is not the right lifestyle choice for me, I see as invaluable the lessons I learned during those years. They’ve served me well, not just in my current relationship, but even in friendships. I grew up a lot, and I honed my own beliefs and values in the crucible that was poly, and for that I am grateful. I can’t even say I’d do it differently, if given the chance for a do-over. I just don’t think I’d do it again. I went back and re-read what I wrote about poly/monogamy choices 2 1/2 years ago, and I have to say I feel essentially the same.
Oh, another interesting side note: I noticed that sex educator Sarah Sloane is actually teaching a class on monogamy within the sex-positive community. Interesting to see that, and honestly glad that it’s starting to be talked about as a sex-positive choice.