Matt's note: here, in the second and final part of her guest post, my wife Vee tackles jealousy and envy.
A feeling that I touched on in the first part of my guest post, and that is intimately entwined with self-esteem for me, is jealousy. Jealousy is a very strong emotion that affects many people in many different relationships, both professional and personal. Deborah Anapol discusses different types of triggers from a polyamorous perspective in Polyamory in the 21st Century : possessive, fear, competition, ego and exclusion/time jealousies. Again, as I was reading I discovered two in particular that often occur together for me: fear and time jealousy.
Fear jealousy is concerned with the “loss of a partner to someone else. Images of rejection, loneliness and scarcity often accompany the primary fear of loss.” For me, this jealously is exhibited by a fear of being supplanted or replaced. Anapol always reminds people suffering from fear jealousy that their pain really has little to do with the other love interest, whether or not sex is involved. She says that the message of fear jealousy is that the sufferer has come to depend more on their partner than on herself for security and self-worth. No wonder low self-esteem and jealousy together make the perfect storm. In other words, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
In addition to fear jealousy, I simultaneously suffer from exclusion -- or time -- jealousy, which is “triggered when the jealous person feels that he or she is being left out of the fun or deprived of equal time and attention.” Anapol explains that this jealousy can be particularly intense when a new and exciting lover has recently arrived, and the perception of neglect might well be real. Even if my rational mind knows that my men are not neglecting me for a new partner, emotionally I don’t believe that (especially if I don’t particularly like the metamour) and I get physically queasy. Anapol suggests that “sometimes time jealousy can be managed by scheduling ‘date nights’ when all partners see outside lovers at the same time or by prioritizing quality time with existing partners before seeing others.” I have found this to work for me. If either one is going on a date with someone else in the near future, quality time together beforehand and afterwards make me feel much more secure.
It's easy to see how fear and time jealousy are heightened during periods of low-self esteem. One’s own imagination is an enemy in such a highly aroused emotional state. Once, when both Matt and Larry were on dates on the same night, I was left home alone. I had convinced myself that they preferred the others over me and therefore I would be supplanted by the other partners. At the time, no amount of self-rationalization that I was special, loved, sexually attractive and cherished helped. I felt envy -- in this case, the frustrated longing for the other’s experience -- alongside jealousy, and that’s a bad combination for a vulnerable kitten like me!
For me, fear-and-time jealousy occurs most often when I am emotionally vulnerable and when either of them starts dating someone new... whether I like the new partner or not. At the same time, I do not experience strong feelings of compersion: the feeling of joy and delight when one’s beloved loves or is being loved by another. Most of the time, I feel mildly neutral about Matt or Larry spending time with another partner, and if I don’t particularly like them or see what my partner sees in them, I feel indifferent to irritated. Often, poly folks are pressured to feel that there is something wrong emotionally or psychologically if they don’t feel a joyous sense of compersion 24/7. But for many of us, that’s just not the case: and that’s perfectly ok. Just being ok with a relationship is enough compersion for me, and I suspect for lots of others, too.
Where you are is where you are, and as long as you can answer, “Is it really worth it?” with a confident YES and your partners love and cherish you, then I am reassuring you that you are doing the right thing, even if it’s hard -- or very hard -- at times. I wouldn’t change my relationships for anything. They make me happy.