This is a 4-part series about jealousy, envy, insecurities, and moving past them. Part 1 focuses on explaining the difference between jealousy and envy and how those feelings stem from insecurities. Part 2 details how my past experiences led to my current insecurities. Part 3 shows how my insecurities have caused (and still cause) me to act out in certain situations. And Part 4 talks about how I’m trying to work on overcoming those insecurities so that I can work on my jealousy and envy in a healthy way.
Part 1: What Are Jealousy and Envy?
Whether you’re in an open relationship or not, jealousy, envy, and insecurities are all things that people experience at some point in their lifetime. You might want a bigger house like your friend. A newer car like your neighbor. A fitter body like that lady at the gym. More kids, less kids, more partners, less partners, more time to yourself, more time with your partners. You might wish you had better art skills, music skills, computer skills. You might be afraid that you will lose your partners time, love, and attention when they hang out with someone else. The list can go on and on, and it is unique to each person.
Jealousy VS Envy
A lot of times, people use the words ‘jealousy’ and ‘envy’ interchangeably, when really, they have different meanings. Jealousy is a fear that someone is taking something from you; whereas, envy is wanting something that someone else has. For example, you could be jealous of a meta because you feel like they are receiving more attention than you, and therefore, taking attention away from you. You may feel that your meta spending time with your partner makes you less important to your partner. You could also feel envious because you wish that you were receiving the attention that they were getting. Or you wish you had the qualities that your partner likes in your meta. The emotions often go hand-in-hand.
Both jealousy and envy are caused by insecurities and an underlying feeling of inadequacy. Jealousy can come from a fear of being replaced or feeling like you’re in competition with someone else. Both stem from making comparisons between yourself and others in an unhealthy way. Often, jealousy is linked to low self-esteem, communication issues, boundary issues, and an anxious attachment style. It is worse for people who suffer from mental illness, such as anxiety and borderline personality disorder.
Jealousy often leads to feelings of anger and resentment, while envy leads to feeling sad and wanting to change. The best thing to do to fight against jealousy and envy is to increase your self-esteem. Work on yourself. Feel confident in who you are and stop worrying about how you measure up to others. The big thing to remember is that the jealousy you feel is not about someone else, it’s about you. It’s something you need to work on. Yes, your partner can help by being reassuring and calm. But ultimately, it is up to you (maybe with the help of a therapist) to fix whatever insecurities are causing it.
Jealousy and Envy in Poly Relationships
One of the main questions that people in open relationships often get is, “Don’t you get jealous?” And the answer is almost always, “Yes, but I work through it.” Ethically non-monogamous people generally realize they are being irrational when they feel jealous, and rather than trying to ignore or avoid the jealousy, they acknowledge it and try to find ways to cope with it. It is commonly acknowledged in the non-monog community that jealousy is a natural response because it is something we are conditioned to see as normal growing up in a monogamy-centered world. Part of joining the non-monog community includes re-conditioning your thought patterns around relationships, jealousy, and the like, so that you can participate in multiple relationships in a healthy, ethical way.
Jealousy can crop up out of nowhere, or more likely, it can keep happening in the same situations over and over. You can feel completely fine telling your partner to go on a date, but then when they are actually on the date, you might start getting ridiculously jealous. You might encourage your partner to give your meta a phone call, but then feel jealous of the time you’re losing with them (even though you know rationally that you spend way more time with your partner than your meta does). Before you start feeling guilty about your jealous feelings, the thing to remember is that some jealousy is normal and there are ways to cope with it.
The issue in open relationships with jealousy is that the first thing the jealous person will want to do is put restrictions on behavior, because they think it will make them feel less jealous. However, the opposite tends to be true — trying to control your partner generally will lead to more jealousy and mistrust. Control can look like restricting certain physical acts (such as kissing, oral sex, cuddling, penetrative sex, etc.), restricting activities (dates at restaurants, watching a certain movie, eating at a certain place, eating a certain food, etc.), and/or keeping score (making sure that your partner is spending more time and money on you than your meta).
5 recommended steps to coping with jealousy in an open relationship in a healthy way include: acknowledging the emotions, figuring out where they are stemming from, breaking down your hetero/mono biases, talking about them with your partner, and building your self-esteem. (I will go more into coping strategies in Part 4: How I’m Working on Myself). Of course, this can be easier said than done, especially for those with mental illness.
Stay Tuned for Part 2: The History of My Insecurities where I start diving into my own journey with jealousy, envy, and insecurities.