Jealousy & Compersion in Relationships

Jealousy & Compersion in Relationships

It feels like sometimes the discourse around non-monogamy and polyamory can become too focused on maximizing compersion and minimizing jealousy in relationships. Compersion is often defined as the opposite of jealousy - it is the feeling of happiness one experiences for one's partner(s) when they experience happiness with their other partner(s). Meanwhile, jealousy is painted as this negative-spectrum feeling that should be avoided at all costs.

Jealousy is often seen as something to be "worked on" and is framed as something that should be entirely eliminated in order to have a "successful" non-monogamous relationship. But is that really true?

The problem with this particular framing is that it is entirely unrealistic for the vast majority of people - in relationship, and in life! With few exceptions, everyone experiences jealousy in life and in their intimate relationships and we'd like to argue that jealousy isn't negative at all. At worst, it is a neutral feeling and at best, it is emotional information that we should be listening to and learning from.

In our experience, this focus on minimizing jealousy in polyamorous relationships inevitably leads to folks feeling like if they feel jealousy, they're "not good at poly". If people feel like their expressions of jealousy are being judged by this metric, they are more likely to repress their true feelings which inevitably come out in more harmful ways. When we start repressing our feelings, this leads to a breakdown in intimacy and communication in our relationships. People often - perhaps subconsciously - act out in other ways sabotaging their relationship and their partners' relationships.

Like all emotion, jealousy is just information. If you're feeling unbearably jealous, it may help to stop repressing this feeling and really feel into what information your jealousy is trying to convey. It may be that you're not feeling secure in your relationship or secure in yourself OR your jealousy might be telling you that you partner isn't treating you fairly or equitably in comparison to how they're treating their other partner(s).

Even if you're flying solo or in a monogamous relationship, jealousy may be telling you something about what you desire in your life that you're not currently getting. Jealousy is a great starting point for setting personal goals or a great way to determine what you need to let go of. If you're feeling jealous of some instagram influencer's recent yacht vacation but aren't a boat enthusiast yourself, maybe jealousy is just telling you to get off the 'gram or to unfollow that person?

Ultimately, what you choose to do with your feelings is your business, but as much as possible, be realistic about what you're feeling, why you're feeling it, and as much as possible let yourself feel your feelings without judgment or shame - no matter what your fave polyamory influencer says.

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