How not to be the damsel in distress
For anyone who may be attracted to polyamory and only scared off because of the fear of jealousy, I would like to point your attention to a great blog post about one woman’s experience with jealousy. I would stop writing right here and just say go read it. But since I know there will be some who won’t click on the link, I’ll just summarize a few things here. But don’t let my commentary fool you. Go read it anyway. Seriously. I’ll wait.
If you’ve ever been a kid with exactly one friend, you might be familiar with a feeling of horrible jealousy you might get when your friend decides to play with someone else, and not you, on the playground one afternoon. You might mope and kick rocks and cast sad looks in their direction and get angry that they aren’t noticing how clearly upset you are not to be included. Your attention is focused entirely on the fun you aren’t having.
I think you can see where this is going. If you have the perspective that you have just one person in your life who must be your everything then you are going to feel like that little kid on the playground. But you’re ignoring the fact that the playground is crawling with other kids eager for someone to play with. And you’re also unfairly trying to prevent those other kids from enjoying time playing with your favorite playmate.
If, however, you happen to be a kid with a lot of friends or a strong confidence in your ability to make new ones, that pang isn’t so strong. Sure, you might be upset that they are playing without you, but hey, there are some other kids playing a different game, and doesn’t that look fun? The confident child who makes friends easily is focusing on what SHE’S doing, not what her friend is doing with someone else.
That’s what monogamy does to us. It sets us up with the mindset that there is only one person in the world who has to meet all of our needs. When the author realized that she had been looking at her relationships through a monogamous lens and then adjusted her view, her jealousy dissipated almost immediately.
My perspective had been all wrong. I had still been thinking of love, fun, sex, and happiness as limited resources, as though my lover could hog them all and leave none for me. That wasn’t at all the case. There were a thousand happy things I could be doing rather than sitting alone in my flat feeling bad that my lover wanted someone other than me, could have fun with someone other than me.
And finally, she realized that the idea that someone else had to be everything for her was an idea of passive victimization. Of not taking responsibility for her own life, but waiting like a damsel in distress for the knight on the white charger to come swooping in and make everything in her life right for her.
I still get jealous from time to time. But I am less jealous when I remember that I am not a princess in a castle, waiting for my prince to come home and wake me so I can be a person again in his presence. I am not dependent on my partners to bring me to life and give me something to do and be and love. I am a whole person, and there is so much I can happily do and be and love even without one of my partners around.
So to summarize how one person confronted and overcame her jealousy, she realized:
- jealousy comes from being focused on what we don’t have
- it’s possible to focus instead on something we can have
- love and happiness are not limited resources
- we need to take responsibility for our own happiness
And interestingly, none of these things is necessarily incompatible with the idea of monogamy. All of these things would be as good for monogamous people to realize about themselves as they are for polyamorous people. These aren’t just good tools for polyamory; they’re good tools for relationships.