In the past year I made an interesting discovery: jealousy isn't a real feeling. Jealousy is an emotional flag that points to an underlying feeling that should be looked at and worked through. Usually, what I feel when I think I'm jealous is fear - fear of being replaced, fear of being left alone, fear of not being good enough...
Do polyamorous people feel jealousy? Of course. However, I feel the pangs of jealousy more often in new relationships than in my relationship with my husband. Probably has something to do with having 15 years of history, a few kids, a few mortgages and the commitment to being together that we both truly believe in. When I meet someone new - I don't know them yet, we have no mortgages or kids to tie us together, and I have a very minimal idea of what's going on inside their head or how they feel about me. Over time I came up with a recipe of how to work through these unpleasant moments when insecurities surface and take over my mood.
First of all, I notice the feeling. I don't try to suppress or express it - I just stay with it and let it be for some time. Then I start asking myself - why am I feeling this way, what am I worried about? For example, I might find that I am scared of not being exciting enough for my partner anymore, or being less exciting than someone else. When I ask myself why, I realize it is because I am afraid of him losing interest in me and not wanting to see me as much anymore. Then if I ask myself why that worries me, I might realize that it's because I'm afraid of not receiving the love I am craving. Only then can I realistically work on finding ways to make myself feel loved and special without having to rely on my partners. As soon as I unravel these levels of insecurity and fear, watch them mindfully, let them be, and uncover their true meaning, the annoying unpleasant fear goes away.
Sometimes it helps to talk to my partners and close friends about this. I have a few people in my life who are in polyamorous relationships with their partners and who understand what I'm going through because they've been in similar situations. Of course, my fears are unique to me, but voicing them to people I trust and talking through them with my partners helps me deal with doubt. There is a side benefit to being open and vulnerable with partners: they know to be more supportive yet they give me space to work through my insecurities.
Also, feeling jealous in an ethical polyamorous relationship is a very different experience than feeling jealous in a monogamous one. When a monogamous partner starts liking someone outside of the relationship, spending time with them, showing them signs of affection, or sleeping with them, usually it happens without the knowledge or approval of their main partner. If this kind of situation becomes known, someone inevitably ends up getting hurt, usually because of the break of trust. So the main issue here is not the other relationship itself, but the fact that it happens behind someone's back, tied to lies and secrets, and breaks the trust between two people.
In a poly relationship, on the other hand, the people involved are already aware of the possibility of outside attraction (for them and their partner). If one of the poly partners feels uncomfortable, more often than not they have a safe space to talk about it with their loved ones. I quite enjoy talking to my husband about his new romantic interests, because it gives me an opportunity to see the kind of people and things attract him so I can get to know him even better! I am also really happy for him about his new connections because I think developing deep connections with people is the most beautiful thing anyone can experience.
This is the concept of "compersion" in polyamory, which is the feeling of joy for your loved ones when they are happy with someone else. I have started to notice that this feeling comes up quite a bit in my relationships. It's not only related to my relationships, but also to being happy for my loved ones whenever they solve a challenge they've been working on, have a personal breakthrough, acquire a new skill, or generally are experiencing joy for any reason.
So, here's my challenge to you – if you find yourself feeling "jealous", whether you are in a polyamorous, monogamous, or some other relationship, try to unpack that feeling. Is it fear? Is it self-doubt? And if you can't figure it out after some introspection, it's time to have a respectful, mutual chat with your partner :)