Tag Archives: polyamory

How Do I Love Thee: On Comparing Relationships

Sepia historical photograph of a woman dressed as cupid next to a lion for Post How Do You Love Me by Malin James

Woman with Lion, courtesy of the Getty Museum

Every so often, my daughter asks me if I love her best.**

This is a tricky moment as a parent, because my impulse is to say, Yes! Of course, I love you best. It’s the answer she’s looking for and by far the simplest to give. But as much as my love for her is one of the most overwhelming things I’ve ever felt, to say that I love her best does something that I’m not quite comfortable with – it accidentally reinforces a way of thinking about love that can lead to insecurity later on.

I realize that I might be overthinking this. Is there really any harm in telling her that I love her best?  There are so many things I don’t bother worrying about, like Santa’s existence or whether or not she believes in god. But reinforcing emotional comparisons feels oddly dangerous to me. It implies that love is a zero-sum game and, as Exhibt A wrote, it isn’t. Survival is, but not love.

Love, like so many things, is contextually unique. For example, a person’s love for their child can be catastrophically powerful, but what if you have two or more children? Who do you love best then? That question is almost impossible to answer (without screwing up one of more of your kids), which is why “I love you all differently” is such a great response. It reinforces the love while avoiding the comparison.

Why is avoiding comparison important for all relationships (not just those involving multiple kids)? Because when you start to comparing the different loves you feel, you risk diminishing all of them. Love isn’t measurable or quantifiable, but comparing relationships with the intention of weighing who is loved best imposes finite limits on an emotion that is naturally infinite.

The real question is what underlies the comparison. Not to get all cold and pragmatic about it, but what it really comes down to is resource distribution. We’re a fundamentally competitive species because our survival depends on it. We commodify resources because resources, whether emotional or physical, have a value rooted in survival. That’s about as fundamental as it gets.

So where does love fit into that? Love is a resource too, or rather, the safety love signifies is. As a species, we evolved through dark nights full of predators that wanted to eat us. Abandonment = death. We are literally hardwired to fear being cast aside, and one of the best guarantors of that not happening is love.

When my daughter asks me if I love her best, she’s expressing a really basic concern: If a lion grabbed Daddy and me, would you save me, even if it meant not saving Daddy? (For what it’s worth, the answer is yes. Her dad’s okay with that). The anxiety that underlies the question is instinctively human – so much so that it shows up in all kinds of relationships, not just those between a parent and child, but friendships, business partnerships and romantic relationships.

I suspect that I’m hyper aware of all this because I’ve been poly for so long. While love is definitely not a zero-sum game, survival is, and at a very basic level, we have tied security to love and pain to exclusion. That’s why, in poly relationships, it’s important to be patient with a partner’s fears and insecurities. That sort of status anxiety is hardwired into us and, for most people, it takes a bit of effort to work through.

The impulse to compare is an instinctive attempt to see if our position in the relationship is safe. Unfortunately, it’s also a great way to torture yourself into fearing that it’s not. In the end, it’s about security. The surest way to avoid the trap of comparison is to address the underlying concern. If a person is secure in your love for them, they are less likely to be worried about your love for others.

In the end, it’s not about who is loved best, but how you are loved. Are you  loved well? Is your person’s love a revelation? A homecoming? A whetstone? Is it a soft blanket on a rainy night or a delicate porcelain vase? The how says so much more than any comparison could. The how is about the two of you. The how is solid ground.

**NB: Chunks of Browning’s Sonnet 43 are the answer I give my daughter when she asks me how I love her…that and “I love you bigger than the galaxy and 9 million stars”, which is really pretty big. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 10.36.51 AM

Love is Not a Pie

“Love is not a pie, honey. I love you and Ellen differently because you are different people […]. I don’t choose between you. And it’s the same way with Daddy and Bolivar. People think that it can’t be that way, but it can. You just have to find the right people.”

-Amy Bloom, Come to Me.

Art deco ad for a German cabaret for Love is Not a Pie post by Malin James

What if the woman in red were his wife?

Reading Amy Bloom’s story, “Love is Not a Pie”, was my first encounter with something like polyamory. Bloom didn’t call it “polyamory” or even “non-monogamy”. It was just a woman’s relationship with her long-term lover—a relationship supported by her husband because, for those characters, “love it not a pie”—there’s enough to go around.

In the scene that most stayed with me, the narrator’s father and her mother’s lover take a nap together, exhausted by grief over the death of the woman they both love. They lean on each other because they are the only two people in the world who can understand the immediacy and depth of the other’s loss. That, to me, makes sense. Those are good, healthy loves.

Sometimes I forget that what I experience as normal is not, in fact, the norm. When I look at the image above, I don’t see a man checking out a hottie behind his wife’s back. I wonder if the hottie in red is his wife…or the woman in black’s mistress. It does me no credit, but I tend to walk around in a sort of bubble, protected against the unconventional nature of my relationships by a community that is fundamentally accepting.

As a result, I get lulled into a false sense of normalcy. Of course, my husband has had girlfriends (one of them even became my bridesmaid). Of course, I go to London to see my boyfriend-partner-person. Of course, my boyfriend-partner-person has other emotionally committed relationships. It’s a lifestyle that feels healthy, honest, and stable because, to me, love is neither a pie nor a competition. In fact, The Other Livvy wrote an excellent piece about precisely that.

For all that though, sometimes I’m reminded that what I take for granted is, for some people, unconventional, unhealthy, and pretty confounding. I bring this up because I’ve gotten a surprising number of questions about the status of one of my relationships recently. After talking it over with Exhibit A (my partner in that relationship), I’ve decided to write a post addressing some of the questions / curiosities people have put to me.

Without getting into specifics, the issues are generally this:

  1. How can you love two people at the same time?
  1. How can you maintain different, emotionally connected relationships without one of those relationships suffering?

Before I launch into my thoughts, Exhibit A has been good enough to let me share his take on the subject….

Most of us are brought up with pretty traditional – and narrow – ideas about the nature of love and relationships. We’re taught that romantic love at least is finite, and acceptable only when focused on one person at a time. I struggled with that perceived constraint for a long time – it didn’t fit how I felt, but I also couldn’t see a way around it, and the relationships I formed suffered as a result.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned to take a more fluid, open view of love. Forming a primary bond with one person doesn’t preclude maintaining equally deep, valid, loving connections with other partners – indeed, as long as there is good communication, openness and honesty, each relationship actually supports and enhances the other. Not only am I much happier as a result of finding that out, I’m a better partner too, and finally feel like I’m able to express my feelings in a way that works for me.

-Exhibit A

The notion of fluidity that Exhibit A mentions is important. There are no guarantees in poly relationships, just as there are no guarantees in life. There is only the desire to take care of the people you love, and part of that care is allowing your relationships (and those of your partners) to change and grow.

For example, while my husband, James, and I have always been non-monogamous, we temporarily closed our relationship once. Of course, it helped that neither of us were in serious relationships at the time, but even if we had been, those other relationships would have been considered in that decision and quite possibly maintained, even if new relationships weren’t started. The key is open communication with everyone involved so that each relationship is allowed to grow and shift naturally.

Now, to bring it back around to the first of the two questions –  how can you genuinely love two people at the same time?

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure—it’s a bit like asking the caterpillar how it walks. All I can say is that it is possible though I think it has a great deal to do with how a person is wired and the nature of the relationships they find themselves in. Some relationships are safer and more emotionally supportive than others. I’ve been very lucky in that all of my serious poly relationships have been, with one exception, remarkably healthy, so my natural tendency to love / lust simultaneously has been positively reinforced.

The second question is easier to pin down. In fact, I suspect it might be simpler to address the first question through the second. The way you maintain two (or more) relationships without letting one negatively affect the other(s) is to engage your relationships honestly. Not every relationship will be a long-term love – some will be casual and some will run deep, but they all deserve respect and a certain level of investment. In other words, you need to feed the connection you have to each of your partners regardless of what’s happening in your other relationships. Here’s an example….

My roles as a wife and mother, while being an integral part of who I am, don’t negate my role as a partner in my other relationship. My relationship with Exhibit A doesn’t threaten my marriage (or vice versa) because James and I laid a foundation of trust and communication very early on. My marriage doesn’t threaten the health of my commitment to Exhibit A for the same reason, and it’s for that same reason that his other relationship(s) don’t detract from mine with him.

A lot of how polyamory works (or fails to work) has to do with a person’s motives for being in an open relationship to begin with. I’m not with Exhibit A because of some lack in my marriage. I’m with him because we share a genuine (and pretty fucking awesome) connection. That’s important because if I were using our relationship as an escape hatch for problems at home, both my marriage and my relationship to Exhibit A would be on pretty shaky ground. Instead, both are rock solid, existing side by side without one detracting from the other because one isn’t supplementing a lack and vice versa.

To that end, feeling secure in both of my relationships is the critical factor. That sense of security makes accepting and embracing Exhibit A’s (and James’s) other partner(s) a natural and happy thing, because I trust that our foundation is solid regardless of who or how he loves.

Admittedly, the only reason any of this works is because there is genuine love, attraction and connection on all sides, and because the principle relationships involved are emotionally committed and have been for some time. In addition to honest attempts at communication, everyone involved has genuinely good intentions. No one is angling, lying or undermining. While we don’t exist in a utopia where birds talk and mice do your laundry, everyone is honestly trying their best, and that counts for a lot (don’t ever discount how important awesome metamours are).

So, all of this is a long way of saying that you love whoever you love and the loves you feel are specific to each person. Sometimes that means falling in love with two (or more) people at the same time. If you’re, lucky, you’re able to love without losing anyone. And if you’re extremely lucky, you’re able to establish healthy, honest relationships that change and grow (if a relationship is what you want).

I know that isn’t normal. In fact, it’s rare enough that I’m extremely grateful for it, but it’s also not impossible. Because, sometimes, in some relationships, love is not a pie.

Little Monsters: On Jealousy

From an illuminated manuscript, (c. 1400)

Illuminated manuscript, (c. 1400)

Last week, I posted this on Tumblr:

“Jealousy isn’t a failure to transcend. It’s a persistent human reality. It requires acknowledgment and compassion and the gentle refusal to let it rule you developed through practice and patience – patience with the situation and, most especially, patience with yourself.”

This was not a random, theoretical musing on my part. It was a reminder, one I wrote to myself years ago – the last time I had a really good, serious bout with jealousy; because while I’m not fantastically prone to it, I still get jealous like anyone else. It’s just rare enough that, when I do, it really gets my attention.

So, why did it flare up? Something innocuous caught me off guard and I found myself slammed by an irrational, makes-no-sense case of the green-eyed monster. But here’s what really fucked me up (far more than the jealousy itself did): the fact that it happened.

I’ve written about non-monogamy before and, after being non-monogamous for a good fifteen years, I’m fairly practiced at dissecting my feelings. Very often, in the case of jealousy, there’s a territorial impulse at the heart of it (I get so impatient with myself over this). Other times it’s envy regarding time and proximity. Sometimes, it’s just old-fashioned insecurity (often stemming from the two things I just mentioned). This time though…this time it was much less clear-cut and, as a result, far more unsettling.

I’ve been sitting with it for a while now and I’ve finally begun to realize that even more than jealousy, frustration and proximal envy (all of which were mixed up in in there too), what really threw me off was the fact that I felt vulnerable quite suddenly, and that’s a frightening thing.

It’s one thing to love someone. It’s another to realize at a deep, cellular level that loving them means they could hurt you, and no one, including my ego-driven self, wants to get hurt. It was realizing how vulnerable I am that rattled me more than anything else.

In a strange confluence of circumstance, this subject has been making the rounds a bit. Rachel Kramer Bussel used a couple of my quotes in her excellent article on polyamory last week, and since then, I’ve had some good conversations with people about non-monogamy, jealousy and how to deal with it in poly relationships. Here’s how I manage, for what it’s worth:

  1. I try not to lash out because I’m having feelings. If possible, I try to understand what’s going on before I express how I feel to anyone else. Unfortunately, this time I dropped the ball and vented, which rattled me even more because it indicated how totally consumed by my feelings I was.
  1. I try to look at the source of my jealousy and figure out why it triggered me. In this case, it wasn’t the trigger so much as the fact that having tangled, jealous feelings made me realize how vulnerable I am.
  1. I try to reframe the issue in a way that puts me in control of those feelings rather than allowing them to rule me. In this case, I could A. shut down, shove my partner away and not feel vulnerable B. double-down on my initial response and make everyone miserable or C. acknowledge that I feel vulnerable and gradually bring myself to a place where that’s okay. For the record, I chose C. because I’ll be goddamned if I let my emotions own me – they are mine, not the other way around.
  1. Finally, I try to talk to my partner. This can be really fucking hard, because to admit to being jealous is, in fact, to admit to being vulnerable. That takes trust and a leap of faith. I was very lucky in that he was great when I told him, and though I’m still getting comfortable with the vulnerability, I don’t feel nearly so rattled anymore. In the context of our relationship, it’s just a fact and I own that because, at a very basic level, loving someone means you might get hurt. It’s just part of the deal. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to connect those dots, but I’m glad I did.

**Note on #4: It’s important that you communicate your feelings to your partner in a productive way, not in a knee-jerk reaction kind of way. That’s why I try to figure out what’s going on before I get anywhere near discussing it. The point of telling your partner is not to make them to stop doing the thing that makes you jealous. The point is to help them understand what’s going on so you don’t accidentally create a wedge in your relationship. It also has the nice side effect of giving them the opportunity to give you a bit of slack while you’re dealing with it.

And that’s the key – you dealing with it. Because your feelings are your feelings and you’re the one who has to deal with them. As Cunning Minx over at the Polyamory Weekly podcast says, it’s all about owning your own shit.

Here’s the bottom line (or, at least, my bottom line specific to this instance). The fact that I feel vulnerable isn’t bad. It’s not something to fear. It’s just a statement of fact. What I have to do is adjust my self-perception to include that vulnerability. Now, thanks to the discomfort of jealousy, I’ve realized that I am vulnerable and I’ve accepted that as part of being with my partner.

Jealousy is only a monster if you let it be monstrous. Like anything else, you can use it – not to change your partner or your relationship, but to better understand yourself. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s legitimately hard, but the alternative is even harder in the long run. I’d rather keep the little monster firmly on its lead.

**NB: I had a lovely conversation with Molly Moore about communicating and receiving admissions of jealousy, and she very correctly pointed out that this is much easier said than done. I’ll be writing a follow-up post or two soon exploring this in more depth.

**NB 6/1/15: As part of the lovely conversation I mentioned above, Molly Moore invited me onto her podcast, the KissCast to talk about jealousy in more depth. You can listen to that episode HERE.

All in One Person: On Non-Monogamy

A woman sitting on a railing between two men for All in One Person: On Non-monogamy by Malin James

The Game of Life by Jack Vettriano

Updated: 6/22/16

I’m in an open relationship and have been for eleven years. My husband and I have been married for nine of those years, and in that time, I’ve had a very small handful of lovers, which is not what people expect. After all, I’ve been given carte blanche to cheat…uh, sleep around…er, whatever the hell you people call it, (I can hear my dad saying). But just because I can sleep with other people, doesn’t mean I will…at least not lightly.

There are all kinds of non-monogamies. Ours is relatively selective. Other happy, successful non-monogamous couples are more open about their open relationship. In fact, even within a relationship, it can be different for each partner. My husband tends to date more than I do but that’s because I don’t date casually. It’s like buying flowers. He’s more likely to see what’s in bloom, whereas I’m never actively looking. It’s more that, every rare now-and-then, I meet someone and when I do I’m free to see where it goes.

Those parameters work for us and always have, but they may not for someone else. It all depends on the people involved and the nature of the dynamic. That’s one of the reasons why open relationships are so easily misunderstood.

The other difficulty with talking about non-monogamy is that there’s no single set of terms to use. There are, however, a lot of misconceptions. Non-monogamy isn’t “swinging”, though swinging is one form of non-monogamy. It also isn’t “sanctified cheating,” polygamy or polyandry, though it can be (and often is) polyamory. As you can see, it’s somewhat difficult to define. Part of the problem with (and the strength of) open relationships is that there’s no one way to do it – non-monogamy can take as many different forms as there are people and situations.

In the end, regardless of flavor, open relationships require the same things that any functioning traditional relationship does – trust, communication, honesty and work. Let me stress that last one. Open relationships take a lot of work – as much, or possibly more, than their traditional counterparts. That doesn’t make them more enlightened (as some poly factions would have you think). It just means that, for some people, it isn’t right. For others, it means being in a happy, fulfilling relationship with the person (and people) you love.

Here’s a snap shot of how non-monogamy works for me:

* My girlfriend being a bridesmaid at my wedding, (she looked beautiful, by the way).

* Watching my (then) boyfriend fuck a woman we both loved, and feeling peaceful, content, and so very happy.

* Cooking Thanksgiving dinner with my (then) fiancé, my girlfriend, my lover and our friends.

* Making travel plans around three different work schedules and two different time zones so I could fly across the country to see my current partner this fall.

Non-monogamy requires a lot of attention to detail, logistics, emotions and moods. There are more feelings to get hurt and schedules to fuck up and feet to tread on. But there is more of everything else too – love, connection, satisfaction and joy.

There is an Amy Bloom story that I love called “Love is Not a Pie.” It was the first time I’d ever encountered the notion of non-monogamy as anything other than cheating. I was in my early twenties and I cheated a lot, not because I liked cheating (I hated it), but because, despite being actively in love with the person I was with, I would occasionally fall in love (or serious like) with someone else.

Loving, (or being attracted), to two different people at the same time is an odd notion and acting on those feelings has been, historically speaking, the opposite of ok. As a pretty inexperienced 22 year old, the fact that I often did made me feel like an awful slut. That’s why Bloom’s story resonated so deeply with me. The protagonist’s mother tells her that “love is not a pie” – it’s something you share. Sometimes you share it with one person, sometimes with many, but there is an infinite amount. You will not run out. And that, made sense to me.

This is when most people think, that’s fine when you’re the one with the lover, but what about when the shoe is on the other foot?

Well, as long as I’m not getting lied to, the shoe fits very well. I don’t tend to feel a sense of competition with my partners’ partners. Their relationships with their lovers, girlfriends, subs, flings and fuck-buddies have nothing to do with me so long as they are honest, open and safe about it. The fact that they have casual sex or a long-term relationships with someone else isn’t a referendum on our dynamic. The relationships exist separately (for me), and it’s important that they do because it’s too easy to escape problems in one by starting another. Everything has to stand on it’s own.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get jealous. I do. I think most people do, no matter how much you hear about the virtue of compersion, (and compersion is real. What’s more, it’s a wonderful thing). What keeps me grounded is the knowledge that my partners’ lovers do not indicate a lack in me. To paraphrase John Updike, it’s difficult to find everything all in one person. It’s that understanding that helps me keep my perspective when jealousy flares up. And that is a big part of the work.

There’s acceptance and contention in equal measure, but there isn’t much of a cultural dialogue yet. One is starting—you know things are changing when Salon and Fox News Magazine run features about open marriages—but it’s still a challenging thing. Homosexuality, atheism, kink and non-monogamy have existed despite the pressure of cultural norms for centuries, but it’s only in recent decades that they’ve announced their presence without apology or excuse. It’s an important time in our culture, one that requires tolerance, curiosity and dialogue – as do love, sex and relationships, monogamous or not.

Non-monogamy isn’t perfect – far from it. It depends too much on the honesty and integrity of the people involved to ever be perfect. But the same can be said of any relationship. So, for what it’s worth, this is my experience with non-monogamy so far. I’ve no idea how it will look in 5, 10 or 15 years but I can’t imagine not being non-monogamous in some form. It’s given me healthy, loving, long-term relationships and, for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

On Jealousy

Occasionally, I’ll invite a thinker or writer whom I respect to come on and do a guest post on a particular topic. This guest post on jealousy, by @modern_apostacy, comes with the perspective and clarity of a considered mind, and the experience of a person who understands non-monogamy from a practical point of view. Enjoy…

I remember sitting in bed once, with a woman’s head resting on my left shoulder.  She was not my primary lover.  As I was gently brushing her hair back from her face with my fingertips, she was listening, lazily, to the sound of my primary lover having sex with her primary lover on the sofa across the room.  About the time I’d finished tucking her hair behind her ear, this other man was just burying his hand up to the wrist inside the woman I cared for more than anything else in the world, who cried out “Oh, God!” and proceeded to buck & scream loudly.  Almost a minute(!) later, she finally collapsed into the sofa, breathing raggedly.  Afterwards, I watched her clutch onto him tightly for a long time, watched her rest, quaking, in this other man’s arms.

Pretty interesting, so far as memories go.  One of the things that’s really interesting, in retrospect, is that neither of us on the bed were at all disturbed by the intense moment that had just transpired between our lovers.  On seeing one’s lover ravished by another, most people would have felt anguish, rage or humiliation.  We felt none of that, which is actually pretty typical for the polyamorous.  One might wonder how that might be, and the answer, more than anything else, is that polyamorous people are connoisseurs of jealousy.  Some polyamorous people feel a twinge of jealousy every now and then, and others are vexed by it constantly, as if jealousy were a wayward mosquito one wished would go away.  Irrespective of the particulars, jealousy is something poly folks deeply understand.

Envy, the condition of seeing that someone has something that one lacks, and feeling pained by the lack, can be a highly productive emotion.  Musicians, athletes, writers, and other people of all stripes find themselves driven to achieve what they see others enjoying.  Envy by itself is value-neutral, not the green eyed monster that it’s often made out to be.  Combine envy with hope, and you get aspiration.  Combine envy with humility and you get admiration.  This sort of combinatorics holds true on the negative side of our emotional ledgers as well: envy and despair produce bitterness, for example.

At first blush, it would seem that jealousy, especially in a sexual context, doesn’t quite fit this analysis: if I have difficulty with the notion of my lover having sex with someone else, it can’t be that this someone else has something I lack — the woman in question is already my lover.  In this hypothetical situation, I’m not reacting to witnessing something I lack, I’m putatively unhappy with someone else also having what I have — not wanting to share.  As any parent can attest, love is not a sandwich: sharing love doesn’t diminish it, it strengthens and deepens it.  So, something deeper is clearly going on with jealousy.

If one attends sufficiently to the feelings inherent in jealousy, one finds that the emotional cloud comprising jealousy has a sense of risk, of danger.  It’s terribly unsettling.  The reason for this is that jealousy isn’t rooted in the present, but in the future.  Relationship jealousy is an extrapolation of present feelings and circumstances to the anticipation of envy and loss — it’s primarily a present anticipation of future grief.

At its core, jealousy is caused by insecurity.  Very often, this insecurity is illusory, and is simply a lack of confidence in one’s self.  Other times, the insecurity inherent in jealousy is based on known but unacknowledged instability within one’s main relationship.

For example, in many cases, marriages end not when one of the married folks starts having sex with another person, but long before that, when a spouse who is lacking emotional intimacy with his or her mate starts to find this need readily met in another person.  As time goes by, the cheating person’s emotional focus drifts until the marriage becomes not much more than a background technicality — by the time sexual “cheating” occurs, the core of the marriage has long since become dry rot.  A person with such a dessicated marriage might be quite prone to jealousy, and would be wise to heed the warning that his or her jealousy provides.  Perhaps the relationship can be fixed; perhaps it cannot.  Regardless of the particulars, in this kind of situation, the warning of jealousy is serving a valid and useful role.

This scenario, by the way, is not solely the province of the monogamous.  Open relationships, should they be taken for granted, are equally susceptible to this sort of emotional drift, and a poly person who neglects his or her primary relationship in favor of his or her secondary relationships isn’t going to be happy with the long-term results.

Mostly, though, for the polyamorous and monogamous alike, jealousy is not a warning sign flashing “Hey buddy, your relationships out of whack!”.  Most of the time, jealousy results from more garden-variety insecurities.  Sometimes, a jealous person might be willing to let his or her current lover go, except for lack of confidence that they might be able to find a replacement.  Other times, one might feel that one’s lover is more desirable than one’s self, whether due to clinically realistic analysis or having put one’s lover up on a pedestal.

In most of these situations, the jealousy that one feels isn’t signalling that a real problem exists, but rather that one has more personal growth to undergo.  The more that one understands one’s own emotional landscape and is able to rectify unreasonable insecurities, or, at least to recognize them as present but undesirable aspects of one’s self, the more that one is freed from jealousy’s sting.  For many, jealousy completely disappears; for others, it remains, but loses its power to disrupt, like a mild headache when the barometer falls.

In the polyamorous community, jealousy is very much disrespected.  Poly folks instead advocate an emotion they call “compersion”, which can essentially be summed up as joy resulting from witnessing one’s lover in a happy relationship, generally in a sexual context, but not exclusively so.  If the thought of one’s lover being pleased (or pleasured) by another fills one’s heart with warm fuzzies, that’s a great thing.  But just because an opposite of jealousy is espoused in the poly community doesn’t mean that jealousy deserves the disrespect that it gets.

The problem isn’t that jealousy arises: the problem lies in how jealousy is handled.  Jealousy is a great indicator that something, either small or large, isn’t right.  One should never blindly obey a negative emotion, especially a socially destructive one, but nor should one bury one’s head in the sand, either.  Consider jealousy to be like a car’s “check engine” light — safe to ignore if you know the situation’s trivial, unsafe to ignore otherwise.  The upside of doing the hard work of understanding one’s jealousy is that one can become completely liberated from it.  By heeding jealousy, we grow free of it, and are able to adore our lovers passions purely, without fretting over where we fit in.