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Melissa A. Fabello, PhD @fyeahmfabello
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I want to talk a little bit about jealousy in polyamory, since it's such a common question – and shouldn't be. A thread. 👇🏼
Whenever the topic of non-monogamy comes up, people inevitably ask, "How do you handle jealousy?"

Of course, it's such a common question that you can Google it easily and get 567 answers. Yet, people continue asking – because it's hard for historically monogamous folks to grasp.
I want to start here: Jealousy is a perfectly normal, healthy emotion, including in intimate relationships.

Raise your hand if you've ever felt jealous ever in your life. 🙋🏻‍♀️ See? Look. It's all of us.
It's important to me, especially as someone who's worked in domestic violence, to point this out: The feeling of jealousy is normal. *How you react* to jealousy is what can be problematic.

But I need us to separate out jealousy from possessiveness – because they're not the same.
Jealousy is the feeling of envy, suspicion, protectiveness, or vigilance regarding another person's behavior. It's the feeling of "Oh, I didn't like that – it made me feel insecure."

Possessiveness is the demanding of someone's attention or love in totality. It's "You're mine."
Possessiveness is unequivocally unhealthy.

The belief that someone owes you all of their love or attention is harmful. You do not own your partner; your partner does not belong to you. Your partner can only offer you so much, as they have other relationships to nurture, too.
Often, when people ask me about jealousy in polyamory, I sense that they're actually asking me about possessiveness.

Here's why: Jealousy is neither unique nor inherent to polyamory.
When monogamous people ask me "How do you handle jealousy in polyamory?," I usually want to respond, "I don't know. How do you handle jealousy in monogamy?"

Because the answer should more or less be the same: You talk about it with your partner(s).
The issue that really confuses people isn't actually jealousy, then: The question is actually more akin to "How can you stand seeing your partner(s) with someone else without falling apart?"

And that has more to do with possessiveness than jealousy.
Possessive romantic love is written into all of our cultural beliefs about relationships: that you have a soul mate, your one and only, your other half, that "I am theirs and they are mine."
Indeed, the very idealized concept of monogamy is rooted in a type of possessiveness: The commitment is between two people, and only two people, above all other people.

Of course, not everyone *practices* monogamy this way (thank God). But it's how it's sold to us.
People who choose to practice non-monogamy in a culture that normalizes monogamy, then, are (usually) people who have sat with the concept of monogamy and thought, "Wait. I don't think this makes sense. This feels very limiting and unnecessary."
That is to say, people who practice polyamory have already broken down and come to the conclusion, for themselves, that *there is no need to be possessive of another's person's love and affection* because those things are not finite.
"How do you handle jealousy in polyamory?"

Well, to start, we've all already decided that we don't believe jealousy is the appropriate response to someone that we love (or date or sleep with) loving (or dating or sleeping with) someone else.
People who practice polyamory are already critical of the concept of jealousy, especially insofar as it's related to possessiveness.

So while jealousy, as a normal emotion, still comes up, our response to it is very different from someone who practices monogamy.
Often, this means that we dig a little deeper: "I feel jealous. Why? Because I know that, from a values-based standpoint, I'm okay with this arrangement."

The very act of one person having feelings for another person isn't inherently the root of the jealousy. So what is?
Maybe my partner has gone on a lot of dates recently, and I feel neglected. Maybe my partner has met someone new and exciting, and I feel like that must be more fun than our established relationship. Maybe I'm insecure because I think the new partner is more attractive than me.
The jealousy doesn't come from *what my partner did* (or who they were with), but from *how that made me feel* – and talking about how I feel and how we can find solutions together should be part of any healthy, functioning relationship.
So, HOW do you handle jealousy in polyamory?

We talk. A lot. About the same things over and over again sometimes. We have conversations with all partners involved. We explore compromises so that everyone's needs are met. We take responsibility for our own feelings.
Even better, one of my favorite things about polyamory is the concept of compersion. It's not unique to polyamory, but it comes up a lot in our communities, and it's the opposite of jealousy: the feeling of joy and excitement seeing someone we love happy.
Yes, of course I feel jealousy in polyamory – just like you do in monogamy. But I also feel compersion: When one of my partners finds in another person something that I can't offer them, that's fucking awesome (and makes our relationship less strained).
I looove the feeling of having a new crush – the rush that you get when they call you or how on-cloud-nine you feel after an awesome date. And it's an honor to watch someone you love have those feelings about someone new for them! You get to take part in the fun.
My favorite part of polyamory isn't meeting new people (although that's awesome). It's how much more spacious my relationships become when we can shift from jealousy to joy, when we can stop seeing others as competition and instead see them as complements to what we offer.
Because I want all of my partners to feel fulfilled. And I own that there's no way I can fulfill every single need that they have. And letting go of that expectation – of the idea that I have to be the "other half" who completes you – makes my relationships healthier and happier.
(To be clear, I mean that it makes *my own* polyamorous relationships healthier and happier than *my own* monogamous relationships – NOT that polyamory is inherently healthier or happier than monogamy. I don't believe that at all.)
Polyamory isn't for everyone – and I would never say that it's somehow more evolved or ethical or politically radical. Please practice the types of relationships that work well for you, while remembering to be critical of what you've been socialized to believe.
But as for "How do you handle jealousy in polyamory?"

I don't know. How do you handle jealousy in monogamy?
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