It is a common myth that people practicing consensual non-monogamy do not experience feelings of jealousy. The logic appears to be that no one who experiences such feelings could sensibly choose to enter into a relationship model which ‘by design’ involves sharing your partner with others.
On the contrary, CNM practitioners frequently do experience jealousy. The trick (or rather the key to success) is their ability to navigate these feelings without resorting to a retreat into monogamy.
There are some key components that can assist with managing feelings of jealousy.
Identifying the pattern of jealous feelings
The jumping off point for managing feelings of jealousy is identifying how they manifest. Do the feelings arise when you are confronted by certain triggering behaviours? Do the feelings come up when your partner spends time with one individual in particular? How often and how intensely are you experiencing feelings of jealousy?
Identifying the pattern of jealous feelings is vital to working towards ameliorating them.
Effective communication amongst partners
Jealousy arises when we perceive a potential threat to our relationship. Being able to openly and honestly discuss how we feel at an appropriate moment plays a big part in managing feelings of jealousy.
Creating a safe space to discuss the pattern of jealous feelings you are experiencing provides partners with the opportunity to understand and acknowledge those feelings, as well as being able given the opportunity to comfort and support you. Confiding in each other the feelings of jealousy that arise also allows for a deepening of connection between the partners which can counteract the perceived threat to the security of the relationship.
Some specific communication strategies include: making sure that the setting and timing of discussions are mutually convenient and as neutral as possible; using “I” statements to express emotions without blaming; having a time-out strategy if discussions turn hostile.
Consider revisions to minimise feelings of jealousy
Depending on the pattern of jealous feelings, there may be easily identifiable steps that can be taken to minimise their occurrence. Partners might discuss revisions to their day-to-day schedule, a tightening of certain boundaries governing the CNM relationship, scheduling regular check-ins, or even a much-deserved holiday may well assist with reducing the force of the perceived threat and assist with managing feelings of jealousy.
Much will depend on the pattern of the jealous feelings and the intensity of the feelings experienced. Effective communication is fundamental to any adjustments to the status quo as buy-in and consent are the underpinning of successful and healthy CNM relationships.
Healing jealousy through compersion
Compersion is a feeling of joy prompted by the pleasure your partner takes from their other relationships. It can also be directed at those other partners and the joy they experience. At essence it is grounded in
sympathy and empathy for another person’s experience.
It is often considered a measure of self-growth in CNM relationships and can play a large part in counteracting feelings of jealousy.
Individuals develop feelings of compersion in their own way: I have heard, for example, of couples dedicating time to exploring new activities with their partner’s partners. Taking time out to assist with charity work can also be a start to developing broader feelings of empathy if jealousy is directed at specific people. Whatever approach is taken, developing such feelings can go a long way to healing perceived wounds and managing feelings of jealousy.
Please do feel free to share your own experiences of jealousy and any helpful strategies you have developed to manage their impact on your relationships.