So if jealousy doesn’t exist, where does this mythical beast come from? This green-eyed monster that leaves us sick with despair and transforms us into an angry god who fires lightning bolts at the ones we love to stop them from pursuing their bliss, on account of our own self-preservation? What causes such ugliness in us all?
The Ethical Slut (first edition) blew my mind during my first forays into polyamory over a decade ago. The authors suggested that ‘jealousy’ is not actually a feeling or emotion. Rather, it is an umbrella term referring to a collection of emotions that can come up in any number of situations. Reid Mihalko describes an octopus with eight arms, each arm a continuum of an emotion that falls under the construct of jealousy. We can fall anywhere along all 8 arms, creating a unique emotional venn diagram. Kathy Labriola prefers to simplify jealousy into three main feelings: fear, anger and sadness. She then provides a comprehensive list of feelings and symptoms falling within these categories that can help direct us towards a core underlying experience of jealousy.
While jealousy may not ‘exist’ as a pure emotion, it is real, it is alive, and it is valid. I have yet to meet anyone, even those who claim they are not jealous people, who don’t experience at least a wobble, if not a crushing blow, from this creature of the dark. I have seen friends and lovers try to tame or hide their emotions for fear of not being seen as ‘poly perfect’. I’ve even had a partner ask me, “Are you sure you’re poly?” during my own times of intense emotion (this was intensely triggering for me, btw). There is no shame in having feelings. Do not buy into the ‘stigma’ that becoming poly makes you more evolved to the point that jealousy falls off your radar. Jealousy is not weak, is not shameful, is not erratic or out of control.
My so-called ‘evolution’ only means that, in the face of jealousy, I choose to remain heart-centred, to swim through whatever is alive in me, do the shadow work, to love myself, and to come out the other side still loving you without trying to control your joy. No matter what happens, I know I will be ok, in fact I will thrive. From this place I can nurture my fear, my anger, my sadness, the way I would care for a child. There is such a thing as jealousy. She is a green-eyed dragon, but she’s a baby dragon. I’ve got this.