Navigating Jealousy, How “The Ethical Slut” Can Help

Guest post from Lady Jane

Four children are playing with toys at nursery school. One child is playing with a fire truck, the most desirable of the toys. She invites one of the other children to play with her and the two of them are busy having fun with the fire truck while the other two watch, feeling left out. They want the fire truck and are feeling jealous that not only are the other two children having fun playing together, they are also monopolizing the most favored toy. Their jealousy, rage, sadness, frustration, and anger build.

Sound familiar? Now let’s apply this scenario to our adult lives where unfortunately, our wants and needs aren’t (and can’t) always be met. What we can do is take a lesson from what we all learned long ago in nursery school (by the way, my mom is an early childhood educator and I like to think that if my mom knew how well I “played with others,” she’d be so proud of the skills she taught me as kid!).

The fire truck situation is very common amongst youngsters (adults, too!) and it is important to help these children talk out their feelings so that when they grow up, they have communication skills to verbalize their wants, needs, and emotions.

As adults, it’s easier said than done to use our words to navigate the muddy waters of jealousy, but, if we all devote some time and effort to developing these skills, floating down “Jealousy River” is not as scary a monster as we all think it is. Plus, many of us have life preservers, river guides, and rubber dinghies to help us through the really rough rapids.

In fact, get ready to embrace jealousy, become intimate with it, and learn how you are affected by its wide web. Feel your feelings deeply, breathe them in, and distill them down to their purest forms.

What’s the real issue with the fire truck? Couldn’t they just share, take turns, or all play together? Can the children empathize and relate to the feelings of the other children who feel left out? Understanding the feelings of others and being able to say, “yeah, I’ve felt that before and it hurts,” is a great way to conquer and deal with difficult feelings in a positive way because it shows a genuine connection and attempt to feel what another person is feeling.

Remember, we’re all human, so let’s try to understand each other and get to a place where we can communicate openly, without fear, and from a place of love. Sometimes the act of speaking is much scarier than the words that come out of our mouths, but, we have to remember that if we don’t ask, the answer is always, “no.”

We’ve all experienced jealousy at one point or another in our lives. The pain and fear of missing out, the anxiety of being forgotten, replaced by someone younger, more attractive, or the rage of catching our partners stealing a glance (or more) at someone else. Jealousy could even arise from a parent spending more time with one child over another or with one friend monopolizing another friend’s time instead of our own.

It isn’t a good feeling. It’s unsettling, makes us feel small, and often throws our self confidence out the window. Maybe we feel like someone took our fire truck, our needs aren’t getting met, we’re getting short changed, discarded, or left behind.

Regardless, there are many lessons that can be learned from facing the ugly jealousy beast in the face and I’m suggesting that you take the time to really unpack this complicated emotion instead of ignoring it, pushing it aside, or worse, physically acting out towards a lover, friend, or family member.

In their book, The Ethical Slut, authors Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy do a great job helping readers navigate through the jealousy ridden waters of polyamory, non-monogamy, and open relationships of all kinds.

Just to be clear, I’m writing this article from the perspective of a non-monogamous woman, but nevertheless, jealousy is felt across all types of lifestyles and relationships. To quote Easton and Hardy, “Let us point out that monogamy is not a cure for jealousy. We have all had experiences of being ferociously jealous of work that keeps our partner away or distracted from us, or our lover’s decision to cruise the Internet instead of our bodies, or Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) Night Football. Jealousy is not exclusive to sluts; it’s an emotion we all have to deal with.”

As I’m sure you can imagine, the more people you add to a relationship, the more potential for complications and miscommunications to arise (just think of a giant, family game of “telephone” and you’ll be experiencing my dinner last Friday night with my more-than-a-friend, his primary girlfriend, her two teenagers, and four of their friends. It was a huge, warm, fuzzy success! Not only did my more-than-a-friend cook all 8 of us ladies dinner, but the teenagers even cleared their plates, conversed with us, welcomed me, and saved leftovers for their male friends who were arriving later that night for a movie. Talk about the modern family, talk about patience, and talk about love! After washing the dishes and chaperoning the teens, my more-than-a-friend, his girlfriend, and I had quite the Valentine’s Day threesome, brunch the next morning with all the kids, and mimosas for the grownups – a true scene out of a classic American Norman Rockwell painting, only slightly modernized!).

I have to add, being surrounded by that many warm fuzzies and feeling part of a large family is an amazing thing! But, let’s not forget the fire truck, the not-so-warm-fuzzies, and what Easton and Hardy name the “biggest obstacle to free love…the emotion we call, jealousy.”

Feelings of competition for attention are common as well as finding the delicate balance of wanting to get as many of our needs met as possible. They write, “What is jealousy to you?…It can show up as rage, hatred or self-loathing – jealousy is an umbrella word that covers a wide range of emotions we might feel when our partners make a sexual connection with somebody else.”

I refer to The Ethical Slut often when feelings of jealousy arise. Even now as I sit here writing, I know that my more-than-a-friend is off with his lover across the country on a romantic getaway. Do I wish it was me instead of her?  Kind of.

But honestly, the hardest part for me is that I cannot be with the people I love in this moment. It isn’t about the kinky sex or the orgasms I’m not having. It’s about the emotional support, the hugs, and reassurance that they love me, too.

Luckily, these reassurances are no farther away than a phone call, plane ride, Facebook sticker, or Skype message. Additionally, if I were to have my own romantic getaway with someone else, it would have no bearing on my feelings for my more-than-a-friend and his lover. I love them just as much, no matter what.

Easton and Hardy wisely write, “What bothers you the most? Is it that you don’t want your partner to do those things with someone else or that you do want your partner to do them with you? Jealousy might be envy, and envy is often very easy to fix.”

USE YOUR WORDS, ask for what you want, and you might just find that your desires, needs, and wildest fantasies can (and will!) come true.

Plus, last weekend, it was me who went on the romantic getaway so that this weekend I could have time to devote to homework, work-work, and do the things that I need to do to keep me healthy and independent.

Perhaps your jealousy comes from a place of loss. Sometimes when we’re jealous, we feel as if we have lost something with our partners because “we have been taught by our culture that when our partner has sex with another, we have lost something.”

Easton and Hardy further explain, “…the sense of loss you feel might be the loss of an ideal, a picture you’ve been holding in your head of what a perfect, monogamous relationship might look like. It may be helpful to remember that relationships change through time… and the most successful long term relationships are the ones with enough flexibility to redefine themselves over and over again throughout the years.”

Take that, Norman Rockwell.

Easton and Hardy continue in The Ethical Slut to go into greater detail about “unlearning jealousy,” and, “learning to establish within yourself a strong foundation of internal security that is not dependent on sexual exclusivity or ownership of your partner.”

“This difficult work is part of the larger question of how to grasp your personal power and learn to understand and love yourself without such a desperate need for another person to validate you.” I agree that the prospect of having just one person fulfill every one of our needs for the rest of our lives seems insane, daunting, and impossible, thus I believe that I am responsible for having my own needs met. I find that when I’m not being true and honest with myself, this is when I feel jealousy and feel like someone else is getting what I’m not.

In these cases, it’s essential for me to take a step back and view the situation from above. What is it I’m really feeling? What needs aren’t being met and how can I meet them? “Once you have made a commitment to refuse to act on your jealousy, you become free to start reducing the amount of power you let your jealousy have over you. One way to do this is simply by allowing yourself to feel it.”

It will hurt, no doubt, but disempowering your jealousy and listening to yourself with compassion will serve you well in the long run. Listen to that inner child who wants the fire truck and you will realize that by communicating with those around you, you can persevere through and thrive.

The book continues with many, many more gems of knowledge and I highly recommend you pick up a copy and keep it by your bedside. With regards to jealousy, I’ll conclude with one more quote from a woman who chose to speak to her partner about feeling jealousy rather than bottling her emotions, hiding them, and not sharing them. This woman could be me and I am very thankful that my more-than-a-friend is much calmer and more patient than I am.

Once I get over the fear of speaking, I have found that he consistently hears me without blowing up, judging me, or thinking I’m crazy.  In each case that I have communicated my feelings, wants, and needs to him, the anticipation of speaking is much worse than the actual speaking itself.

A woman shares, “He allows my feelings. I don’t hesitate to say anything I want; in fact, he encourages me to. I’ve found that just being allowed to say these things, to talk about my jealousy and sadness, somehow defuses them. They lose a lot of power because they meet no resistance from him; he just listens and lets them be.”

Sluts of the world, polyamorous lovers, single folks, married couples, and all family units of the world, unite! Jealousy is a powerful emotion that is culturally forced upon us beginning at a very young age. Take the time to “go for the ick” and imagine the worst case scenarios that jealousy creates in your mind. I have found that reality is never as bad as my imagination makes it out to be and if I can just communicate without fear, the people around me can help me to disempower my jealousy, support me emotionally and physically, and help me move forward in a positive way.

“When we tell our partners that we feel jealous, we are making ourselves vulnerable in a very profound way. When our partners respond with respect, listen to us, validate our feelings, support and reassure us, we feel better taken care of than we would have if no difficulty had arisen in the first place.”

I wish that I had read The Ethical Slut earlier in life, even before I became a slut myself. Its lessons are applicable to almost every person in almost every relationship. It even discusses child rearing, heartbreak, celibacy, opening up existing relationships, and of course, practicing safer sex and staying healthy.

It’s a great read and can help you navigate through the rapids the next time someone takes your fire truck and hasn’t yet learned how to share. Feeling jealous? Feeling unloved? “If you want to feel better, go love someone and see what happens.” Go ahead, give yourself permission to love.

The next chapter in The Ethical Slut begins, “Can you imagine love without jealousy, without possessiveness – love cleaned of all its clinginess and desperation? Let’s try!” Good luck out there, fellow sluts!

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  1. Pingback: Non-Monogamy: Most Common Questions & Answers | Better Sex Ed

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