For the Love of Sex: Trustworthy, ethical, sexual life advice

Pollyanne Marie | Columnist

My journey into polyamory has taught me a lot, but don’t get me wrong, I still struggle like everyone else. I think society has us convinced that in the case of love, if we meet the right person all of a sudden everything will be easy and there will be no feelings of jealousy, hurt, or dissatisfaction. The truth is that marrying for love is actually a fairly new concept in the grand scheme of things. It used to be that a man would marry a woman to keep track of his bloodline and who got the cows after he died, as author and psychotherapist Esther Perel explains:

“Despite a 50 percent divorce rate for first marriages and 65 percent the second time around; despite the staggering frequency of affairs; despite the fact that monogamy is a ship sinking faster than anyone can bail it out, we continue to cling to the wreckage with absolute faith in its structural soundness.”

Somehow we have had it programmed into us that monogamy is the one right way to express our feelings of romantic love, not to mention, gain a sense of self. As Meg-John Barker expressed, quoting the Buddhist writer Martine Batchelor:

    Let’s imagine that I am holding an object made of gold. It is so precious and it is mine – I feel I must hold

onto it. I grasp it, curling my fingers so as not to drop it, so that nobody can take it away from me. What

happens after a while? Not only do my hand and arm get cramp but I cannot use my hand for anything else.

When you grip something, you create tension and limit yourself. Dropping the golden object is not the

solution. Non-attachment means learning to relax to uncurl the fingers and gently open the hand. When my

hand is wide open and there is no tension, the precious object can rest lightly on my palm. I can still value

the object and take care of it; I can put it down and pick it up; I can use my hand for doing something else.

Something a lot of people don’t realize is that jealousy is something we feel often, and not just in romantic relationships. We feel jealousy towards coworkers, celebrities, family, and friends, and when this happens what do we do? A lot of the time we actually work through it. We (hopefully) deal with it calmly and rationally, possibly even by communicating with the person we are feeling jealousy towards. However, when it comes to romance, we have been taught to deal with our feelings in extremes. Either we are explosive, slamming doors with violent expressions of our “love” or we bottle everything up and deny that anything is bothering us at all.
Usually the latter leads to the former, as resentment builds and a volcano of jealousy and frustration erupts, most likely at the most inappropriate times. Thanksgiving dinner, anyone?

Now, something you won’t hear about nearly as often, especially in monogamous circles, is compersion. Poly people often explain compersion as the happiness they feel knowing that their partner is happy with someone else. It is seen as the opposite and lesser known relative of jealousy. I know that when I am seeing a new partner it in no way changes how I feel about anyone I am already with and when I am feeling jealous in my relationships, I try to remind myself of what Meg-John Barker and Martine Batchelor said and strive to open my heart and feel joy for the new love my partner is receiving.

I have read countless books and articles on all of these subjects, but my favorite way to gain new understanding is still through personal interactions with people who are currently living the lifestyle I am seeking to emulate. In order for those of you who are interested in moving into a poly or open relationship to find better understanding yourselves, I interviewed a few of my close friends and lovers who have lived it, learned it, and are still doing it, feelings of jealousy and all.

Andrew, age 38, has been practicing polyamory for about three years. He has two romantic partners, one play partner and goes on dates. 25 year old Danny has been actively practicing for two and half years, has one committed partner who they live with and a few people they see or play with regularly. Alice, age 27, and Paul, age 29, have been together for over 7 years, and have been poly/open for over a month. They are currently only seeing each other. Halo, age 38, has three romantic partners and has been open for over two years, poly for about a year.

Pollyanne – Can you describe what jealousy feels like to you?

Andrew – I’d say sadness and insecurity. If I don’t feel secure in a relationship it’s easier to have feelings of jealousy; there needs to be a healthy foundation.

Danny – I always feel my stomach drop first and fiery emotions curl around it. But at its core is a fear of being hurt in some way by someone you care about.

Alice and Paul – Like I’m not good enough, but then it’s like I’m not really interested in the same kind of things so I’m glad she has someone to do it with.

Halo – I mostly felt my own insecurities biting at me; how I compare myself to others, the way most of us are taught to. Wondering if I was “good enough.” After I dealt with that and found security within myself and since we were so open and honest about what/who we were doing, I realized I was actually feeling protective. I was protective over my partner like he would get hurt by whoever he chose.

Pollyanne – Have you experienced much jealousy since you began practicing poly? Has it gotten easier to deal with over time?

Andrew – I do a lot of self reflection when I have feelings of jealousy but I don’t get jealous as often as I used to. Laura, my longest term partner and I, talk a lot about our feelings, especially when jealousy pops up, and it’s never become too big of an issue. We always work it out.

Danny – Mostly in the first year but it has subsided over time. I trust my partner more and I’m less personally insecure as well.

Alice and Paul – At the start we did, but it has gotten easier. We are dealing with it in different ways but I’d say we are about even in where we are at now.

Halo – Eventually I figured out that I am not responsible for his actions or life experiences. So no, I’m no longer “jealous,” but sometimes those old feelings still bubble up and I deal with them when they do.

Pollyanne – Have you experienced many feelings of compersion? What does that feel like for you?

Andrew – Oh yeah, while I was away all summer Laura had a new lover. It made me so happy for her. I was worried she would be lonely. Compersion to me is happiness, joy. It’s a reminder that things are going well and we are in healthy relationships. Things must be good if I’m happy my partners are getting some of their needs met with multiple people.

Danny – It feels like warm fuzzy butterflies in my stomach because someone I care about is happy. I remember meeting my partner’s first boyfriend and it was so sweet to see them together.

Alice and Paul – I would be happy for my partner to find someone else they can relate to.

Halo – Yes, for the most part I do feel good about my partners being with others. First, it’s kind of a kink of mine. But it’s also that I feel good that they are able to get something from someone else that I can’t fulfill for them. Like when Marc comes home and he’s happy with a certain glow, it makes me feel happy.

Pollyanne – Do you have any words of advice for people who are looking to try polyamory or are struggling with jealousy in their current relationships?

Andrew – Talking to your partner is always the way to go. If poly is going to work you and your partner need to create a safe space between the two of you where you can openly discuss concerns. I find my jealousy goes away after a talk. So sometimes I just need to say “this kinda makes me jealous” or “angry” or “sad.” I also think time can help jealousy as well. Time with a partner. Time to trust them. Some people also do well with rules. I think my first poly relationships had lots of rules but I don’t have many or any rules that I can think of right now.

Danny – Only try poly if it’s something you truly want. Don’t do it for someone else because that will never make you happy. Be ready to be open and honest with yours and other’s feelings. And be ready to learn a lot about communication.

Alice and Paul – Take it slow and.let things happen naturally. Research lots and be honest with yourself and your partner.

Halo – Personally, I talk about them with my partner, but I also understand that they are my feelings to deal with. If my partner can do something to help me work through my feelings, all the better but it’s not expected. If you aren’t interested in self growth and self discovery, don’t get into polyamory because it will push and test every boundary and comfort zone you have. If you are into growing as a person, though… the rewards are much greater than the struggles.

Hopefully this has shed a little light on how some of the poly people next door are making space in their lives for a greater sense of love and fulfilment. If you would like more information on these subjects or if you have any questions you can always email me at askpollyannemarie@gmail.com. You can ask questions anonymously, check out past articles, and a list of suggested reading material through my website http://pollyannemarie.tumblr.com

As always, keep it kinky and keep it consensual!

~Pollyanne Marie