Jealousy and consensually non-monogamous relationships

Anna Kelberg

As a psychotherapist and expert on sexual relationships, I've encountered many individuals who engage in consensually non-monogamous relationships. In my experience, one of the common challenges that arise in these relationships is jealousy.

First and foremost, it is important to recognize that jealousy is a natural and normal human emotion. It is a signal that something we value is at risk, and it can be a powerful motivator to take action to protect what we care about. However, jealousy can also be a destructive force in relationships, particularly when it is not managed well.

In the context of consensual non-monogamy, jealousy can be especially challenging. When we are in a monogamous relationship, the boundaries are often clearer. There is an expectation that our partner is committed to us exclusively, and any threat to that commitment can trigger feelings of jealousy. In a polyamorous relationship, however, those boundaries are more fluid. It is possible for one partner to form a connection with someone else, without it necessarily being a threat to the existing relationship. This can be confusing and disorienting, and can lead to feelings of jealousy that are difficult to understand and manage.

So what can we do about jealousy in the context of a non-monogamous relationship where we are expected to have broader boundaries, but experience jealousy nonetheless? There are a few key strategies that can be helpful.

First, it is important to be honest and transparent with your partners. If you are feeling jealous, it is important to communicate that openly and honestly, without blaming or attacking your partners. This can help to build trust and intimacy in your relationships, and can also help to prevent misunderstandings or miscommunications that can fuel jealousy. Instead of blaming the partner for making you feel jealous, say “I feel jealous and I need to talk to you”.

Second, it can be helpful to explore the underlying emotions that are driving your jealousy. Are you feeling insecure? Afraid of losing your partner? Do you feel like your needs are not being met? By identifying these underlying emotions, you can begin to address them directly, rather than getting caught up in the surface-level emotions of jealousy. In my practice, it is never about your partner not answering the phone or not messaging you when promised. It is about something bigger, usually your value to them.

Finally, it is important to recognize that jealousy is not always a sign of a problem in the relationship. Sometimes, jealousy is simply a sign that we care deeply about our partners and want to protect the relationship. By reframing jealousy in this way, we can begin to view it as an opportunity for growth and deeper connection, rather than a threat to the relationship.

Also, as you learn how to manage the negative aspects of jealousy, you might want to explore what it actually brings to the relationship. Many couples in my practice admit that jealousy in manageable portions is like salt and pepper to the food – the spice up the relationship, make you see your partner in a new light, and even stimulate desire for them.