"Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!"
How It All Began
We all know the feeling, that pit of your stomach clenching nausea, the fear and the metallic acid taste at the back of your throat. Whatever symptoms the demon brings with it, you know what I am talking about: Jealousy. This emotion is so pervasive a human experience that we have even given it a demonic name to personify everything we fear/loathe/hate about the emotion. We run from it. We hide from it. We build rituals to escape its clutches. If we are really honest with ourselves, we acknowledge it and face it down. We can never really escape from the torment but we can minimize the experience until it becomes just a small part of our overall human experience.
We all know what jealousy feels like, but most people cannot explain what jealousy is or why it happens. We just know what might cause it. As an open polyamorist, I am constantly barraged by questions about how I deal with jealousy as though it's just a foregone conclusion that it's going to be prevalent in my life. I have been vague, I have talked about how I work through the problem rather than letting it fester, but I have never opened up and really talked about how this demon worked in my life. So for the first time I will try to explain what drives jealousy by explaining how it nearly wrecked my heart.
I was raised to believe that if you truly loved someone that you would simply, and magically, never want to be touched by anyone else. I was also raised that to truly give open love and acceptance to another human being was to open yourself up to the worst pain a person can ever feel. I have always been capable of giving unconditional love; it is my fallback condition. I am primed to accept you for who you are, and love you without demanding that you change. I was taught, through many years of being physically and verbally abused by my parents, that if you love someone it's ok, even forgivable, if you will, to abuse the very essence of who they are. This is the real damage alcoholism and co-dependency wrecks on children caught in the wake. It nearly destroyed the essence of who I am but I am made of stronger stuff. I knew the pangs of jealousy but I refused to allow myself to be mired down when I was a child. I reasoned that I could steal away the thunder if I changed my parity jealousy to true celebration of the fortune of others.
Jealousy of parity is the idea that what you have is better than what I have, so I wish you ill fortune. I will then be able to obtain what you seem to have. It is theft of spirit. This is a very watered down definition of the term but you get the idea. Since I had never had something stolen from me, I had never experienced spousal jealousy. This term can mean actual jealousy of the spouse or be used more generally to mean jealousy of loss. The best term I have ever heard is the biblical "Covetousness." This term is a very strict "sin" in which you truly wish for the misfortune of another person in order to obtain that which is theirs. I have rarely felt this kind of killing emotion and I am glad of it because it tastes bitter in the mouth.
When I learned that my fairy tale romance wasn't what I thought it was, I lost my mind. I lost my reality and I learned what jealousy was, REALLY was. I burned with hatred toward these women for experiencing something with MY man that I had missed out on. I dwelt on the torrid nights of passion until I could no longer enjoy such nights of my own. I threw my fidelity in his face as often as I could so that he would understand that he was basically flawed as a human being. I railed, I screamed, I cried and worst of all I told him that I hated him. Even as I was screaming it at him in my heart I was crying, "Why am I not good enough to be your everything?" I knew I hated myself and not him. I tried my hardest to make him feel my pain but he couldn't because I was busily running from my pain. We stewed in this mess for many years until a wise mentor of mine said, "But he does love you! He has taken everything you have done and seen you at your absolute worst. What other woman has he done that for?" That day I learned that there is no room in love for jealousy.
Jealousy comes from many sources: fear of loss, fear of being marginalized, fear of being wounded. The key factor here is fear. Most people see love as a sum total loss commodity: If I love you and him then one of you HAS to be loved less. There is also the opposite: If you love me and her then you must love one of us less than the other one. The truth is the complete opposite, but we are not rational when we are faced with being open to hurt and pain. Then it follows that this fear will deepen into: If you love him/her more then you will leave me with nothing and I will be destroyed because I am less than this other person. I will be flawed if you love someone else. All of these examples truly have no basis in love but I learned that later.
Although I am Pagan I turned to the Bible for inspiration because it was where I first heard love described in great detail and in a truly inspired manner. I am, of course, speaking about 1 Corinthians. Now, gentle reader, I was raised Catholic and I have great love for the Church so you will have to forgive me for seeking out the passage in the form I am most comfortable with. I am speaking, of course, of the Catholic Bible as studied by the United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops. The message is one that comes through loud and clear in any translation, however.
My mentor asked me where I had learned what love was. I told him that my understanding of love was from 1 Corinthians and he said that I had read the words but missed the meaning. He urged me to go back and read the passage and apply it to my relationship with Sigel. During this time I also met Arch and suddenly had a friend that I could talk to. With the help of my mentor and my new friend, I began the long road that leads past jealousy into real love.
What I Learned
I took my mentor's advice and I went back to re-read the passage and try to learn from it. Obviously I missed something important!
1 Corinthians 13:13
"If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails."
Here is what I learned:
Even if I am able to speak to my fellow human beings or even converse with angels, if I do not possess the ability to love then my voice is no more meaningful than a cacophonous noise. If I can predict the future accurately and understand everything but I do not understand love, then I don't really understand anything. If I give away everything and sacrifice my own body but I do not do it from the place of pure love, then I have sacrificed nothing. It's kind of straight forward at this point, right? Well then let's look at what I was doing to the person I was supposed to be loving.
I was impatient, and I was unkind. I was jealous, pompous and full of myself because "I" was faithful! I was rude, sought only my own interests, was quick tempered, and oh my God did I brood over the "injustice" he was doing to me. I rejoiced when he failed, I admit it. I rejoiced because it meant I was better than he was at loving. I refused to see the truth. I gave up, gave in and quit believing in him. I was hopeless and felt as though I couldn't endure anymore. I nearly failed love.
The truth was that sexual fidelity was never very important to me. I was mad, hurt and scared because he had cheated me out of an experience that I thought was so much more exciting than I was. I was jealously obsessing over everything about my lover. I wanted everything he was to be MINE and mine alone. The fact that he sought experiences for himself was a betrayal. I wanted everyone to see me as the best wife and the only woman that could excite this wonderful man. The problem was I didn't really care if HE saw me this way as long as everyone else did. My love was all for show. I had never really opened my heart and allowed myself to be vulnerable and trusting. I didn't truly care who he was with as long as he was honest and allowed me to celebrate the experience with him. Still I punished him for making me scared. We were going no where fast.
How It All Shakes Out
So there I was a pitiful, vengeful, soul sick woman reveling in her sense of betrayal and screaming how much I loved him to the high heavens. I was faithful after all...I was better, more moral and the wounded party. Forget the fact that he had never done any of this to hurt me and was in a deep dark place of his own! I decreed that he should suffer. I thank my Holy Lord and Lady that They decreed something else. If he was to suffer then I would suffer right along side him!
This was the pitiful state we were in when we met our third. Arch patiently listened to me, he agonized with me, he made soothing noises and then one day when I was particularly vicious he asked me why Sigel stuck around. I don't know why that struck such a cord in me but it resonated through my body, that simple question. Sigel is not a masochist so why DID he stick around. I am a curious woman so I asked him. This time I asked him politely and I was prepared to hear the answer. I braced myself for the worst and he did take some time to think about his answer. The truth was so damn simple. He sighed, looked at the floor and said softly, "I love you. I keep on loving you and I have hope that one day it'll mean more than your fear. I am worried though, because with each passing day I realize that I don't know who I am. I love you, and I am truly sorry I hurt you, but your hatred is killing me." He sighed and then looked up into my face. I have no idea what he saw but it scared him. I felt like someone had ripped out my soul and shredded it. He had lied, cheated, and stole happy couple moments from us both. What I had done in my jealousy and fear was far, far worse. This time the healing could begin and we began the ten year journey that has lead us to where we are right now.
I have learned that there is no room in love for jealousy. Jealousy steals your accomplishments and cripples what could be in a layer of suffocating fear. There is nothing wrong with wanting sexual fidelity but choose it from a position of power, not because jealousy has made the choice for you. This allows you to find a partner that shares your goals and desires. This allows you to find a partner that will choose from a position of power to share your goals. For us, we share the desire to be open sexually, but not so open that someone falls out of the door! A funny thing happened when I opened myself to the possibilities of responsible monogamy: My alley cat became content at home. The possibility was enough, the trust I placed in him was enough. I was enough. Now we play together and we have a third partner who shares our desires and goals. He helped us to find our way back to real love and along the way found his own.
I am profoundly grateful that I turned around and shined a light on my deepest, darkest fears. I urge all of my readers to open themselves to the possibility of real love. No longer allow jealousy to keep you prisoner, make peace with your fears and grow into the person you were meant to be.