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One Reason Polyamory Didn’t Work For Me Was Jealousy


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Photo by Žygimantas Dukauskas on Unsplash

Embarking on the journey of polyamory was, for me, an exploration of love’s limitless potential. The philosophical underpinnings of polyamory — openness, honesty, and the freedom to form intimate connections with multiple people — resonated deeply with my personal beliefs about love and relationships. After my poly relationship “experiment” failed, I rationalized that the main reason polyamory didn’t work for me was the inability to balance the need for privacy in each relationship and the depth of a truly meaningful connection. Looking back now, I can say with certainty that it sure played a role. But it wasn’t the main reason I gave up the poly lifestyle.

I hate to admit this, but polyamory didn’t work for me, mainly because of jealousy.


Jealousy is a multifaceted emotion, a tempestuous blend of insecurity, possessiveness, envy, and fear. While I genuinely believed in my capacity to love multiple people and accepted that my husband could, too, the visceral reaction I felt at the thought of him with someone else was overwhelming. I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to feel it. Yet, whenever he would bring up the topic of other people, my heart would start pounding, my palms — sweating, and my mind — racing.

In polyamorous communities, there’s a term called “compersion.” It’s often described as the opposite of jealousy, a feeling of joy one experiences when seeing one’s partner happy with another person. It’s a beautiful sentiment, and in my heart of hearts, I yearned to embody it fully. I wanted to rejoice in my husband’s happiness and take comfort in the knowledge that his love for someone else didn’t diminish his love for me. But every time I tried to embrace compersion, jealousy reared its persistent head, casting a shadow over my aspirations. My jealousy was my own, stemming from deeply rooted insecurities and a lifetime of societal conditioning that equates exclusivity with love’s truest form.

When my husband brought up even a hint of his interest in others, my imagination would spiral, painting vivid images and concocting stories that made me cringe. The shared jokes I wasn’t a part of, the intimate moments I wasn’t privy to, the whispered secrets in the dead of night — all these thoughts became a recurring narrative in my mind, each one stinging like salt in a fresh wound.

My reaction wasn’t a reflection of my husband’s actions. He was always transparent, respectful, and loving. My jealousy was my own, stemming from deeply rooted insecurities and a lifetime of societal conditioning that equates exclusivity with love’s truest form. When I think of my husband choosing to be with someone else over me, my soul contorts in pain. I start feeling like I’m five years old, curled up in a ball in a dark corner of my soul. A child who is utterly and completely alone, abandoned by the world, and whose needs are unimportant.

In conversations with friends and fellow polyamory explorers, I often heard stories of how confronting jealousy head-on led to profound personal growth. They spoke of it as a mirror, reflecting back areas of insecurity and providing an opportunity for healing and development. And while I respect and admire their journeys, I had to come to terms with the fact that, for me, the emotional turmoil was too high a price to pay, and not for the lack of trying. Oh, the things I’ve done to try to work through that trauma… I have attempted to deal with my insecurities in therapy, multiple forms of it. I hired a sex coach, and I drank ayahuasca.

While polyamory offers a beautiful landscape of connection and love for many, my journey made it evident that it’s not for everyone — and that’s okay. After seeing me suffer like that every time the subject came up, my husband let go of the idea. For now. We agreed to revisit it if I ever work through my traumas and shadows.


While polyamory offers a beautiful landscape of connection and love for many, my journey made it evident that it’s not for everyone — and that’s okay. Relationships, in all their myriad forms, should be a reflection of mutual understanding, respect, and comfort. For now, I’m content with the knowledge that I tried, I learned, and I grew. And that, in itself, is a journey worth celebrating.


 




1 Comment


Mark
Mark
Sep 18, 2023

I remember that visceral reaction and being curled up in a ball. I admire how you have been able to separate out what is a trigger reaction in the form of jealousy from what you hope for and understand is possible, that the issue lies with you and with the conditioning we all experience that says exclusivity increases the value of love, by literally making it scarce - based on choosing once and not several times, to love a person in that intimate way. I thought your descriptions of that internal narrative in reaction to your fears echoed things I also saw in myself. "The shared jokes I wasn’t a part of, the intimate moments I wasn’t privy to, the whispered…

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Polyamory (Greek πολύ poly, "many, several", Latin amor, "love") is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved.

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