‘I couldn’t do it. I’m too jealous’. So ends most discussions I have about nonmonogamy. Like the pin that bursts the conversational balloon, bring up ‘jealousy’ and the chat comes to a grinding halt. I even, this morning, witnessed a young woman on Twitter say she’s not ready for another (monogamous) relationship since she’s too jealous. It’s as if jealousy is simply part and parcel of all romantic/sexual relationships.
There’s a cliché that rolls around my brain sometimes: ‘if you love something, let it go’ (etc). That cliché best encapsulates the non-monogamous approach to jealousy. Nonmonogamy is always letting go. It’s always letting your partner spread their wings. It’s always knowing they’ll come back as long as they want to.
Jealousy isn’t romantic, productive, positive or necessary in a relationship. Anything revolving around perceived ownership of a partner isn’t healthy.
I have an extremely close and non-negotiable friendship with an ex-boyfriend. I have close relationships with all genders. I share beds, platonically. I hold hands, platonically. I take holidays, platonically. I say ‘I love you’, and I mean it. None of this has any bearing on how I feel about the people I chose to enter into romantic or sexual relationships with. Which is why it works for monogamy, too. Jealousy of any of these things would be commonplace in a monogamous relationship. It would be expected that a weekend away with an ex would cause a fight. It would be expected that a full and frank apology would be in order for sharing a bed with a friend. Because they would have caused jealousy.
But really, what if they had nothing to do with you?
Jealousy is illogical because it asks the question ‘why am I not enough? Why do you need to do that with them?’. Whether that is eating Korean food, going on holiday, a particular sexual practice, watching horror films or, indeed, anything at all. Nonmonogamy opens your mind to the radical notion that lots of people can be good for you. That you can be attracted to and stimulated by lots of people. And not all of that attraction or stimulation has to be romantic or sexual.
Nonmonogamy can help jealousy because it helps you un-learn that you’re the centre of someone’s world. Monogamy seems to teach that one person is meant to solve all your problems, fulfil all your desires, share all your interests and exist in perfect synchronicity with you. Nonmonogamy accepts that this is not the case. It understands and anticipates conflicting schedules and differing interests. It accepts that it is highly unlikely, if not impossible, that one can flick the switch marked ‘sexual attraction’ into the ‘off’ position as soon as one is in a relationship. It’s the clear vision of the fact that we thrive on exchange and interaction. That we make better partners when we’re excited and happy, not when we’re feeling limited or trapped. It’s the understanding that needing romance or sex or friendship from someone else isn’t about our own ‘failings’ or ‘shortcomings’ but a natural desire to put our passion to good use.