My mate and I have always been open, but now I'm feeling jealous

Question

When we started our relationship, I was the more outgoing one when it came to relations outside of our own, but recently we had a huge shift in our personalities. I’m not sure what’s getting to me, but I’m shifting to a more monogamous mindset and I’m having a hard time not pushing those expectations on him. It’s bugging me because I know it’s very unhealthy to feel threatened or lash out and I’ve never had these feelings before. I’ve always been rather relaxed, so I’m feeling really guilty about all these recent feelings I’m having where I want to control a situation or where I don’t want him to enjoy himself at all at the expense of my own feelings.

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Answer

First off, it’s great that you have started on the difficult work involved in figuring out your emotions surrounding this issue and have realized that your feelings have shifted without blaming your partner at all. Very few people pull this off so well, so way to demonstrate some emotional intelligence! However, you still have a few places to improve in the emotional intelligence department. You mention that you aren’t sure why you’re feeling this way, and that is something you will definitely need to figure out. You mention feeling a bit guilty about the fact that you’re experiencing some jealousy, too. Please try not to be so hard on yourself! It’s perfectly natural to feel jealous about someone you love. The trick is to look at jealousy as a warning flag that something might be wrong with how your relationship is currently set up, and not assume that the feeling is either totally unwarranted or totally justified. In your case, it sounds like the jealousy might be signaling that your current relationship terms need some retooling — you aren’t as comfortable with non-monogamy as you once were, perhaps because your relationship is getting more serious and you’d like to “settle down,” or perhaps for another reason. That’s for you to think about, figure out and communicate to your partner.

So, what do you do from here? Well, for starters, it is super important that you communicate your discomfort to your partner non-violently, without blaming him or making him feel responsible for your negative emotions surrounding non-monogamy. It sounds like you don’t feel he’s responsible for how you’re feeling, so this part shouldn’t be too difficult for you. You might say something like, “I am feeling more jealous than I ever have before. How can you help me to feel better about the relationship dynamic that we have?" By asking the question in this way, you keep the conversation constructive and engage your partner as an equal in doing some problem solving with you and determining how you are to proceed together. This conversation may involve the two of you renegotiating your relationship terms to be more restrictive, or it may not, depending on what you both determine your needs and wants are.

In the short term, I would suggest cutting back on the amount of sex outside of the relationship each of you has. To avoid punishing other partners who are emotionally invested in your partner, you might tell him that he can continue to see them, but no new partners, at least for a while as you try to sort out the real source of your jealous feelings.

To solve this issue long term, you need to work on trying to disarm the jealousy by figuring out what it is you’re afraid of losing when your partner is intimate with other people. Are you afraid of losing control? Afraid of others performing better than you? Afraid of losing your partner to someone else? Afraid he won’t enjoy or seek out sex with you anymore? Afraid he’ll fall in love with someone else? Afraid he’ll harm your chance of having a future together? At the end of the day, almost all jealous feelings are based in some combination of fear and insecurity, so unpacking why it is you’re feeling jealous will really help you with figuring out where to take things from here. To borrow an analogy from medicine, jealousy is like a fever; you know something is wrong, and you can treat the symptoms (by taking an aspirin), but that doesn’t address the root cause of your discomfort. In order to feel better in a durable way, you need to figure out what you are sick with, so you can treat the cause (such as by taking antibiotics).

Ultimately, you might decide that nothing is really wrong, and that you just need to work on converting your jealousy into happiness that your partner is happy, also known as compersion. Assuming good faith in your partner and being courageous in allowing him to indulge in what makes him happy might be the solution you need. If instead you determine that what you really want is more of a closed relationship, then you will need to ask your partner for that and see if he’s willing to go there with you.

Viro the Science Collie

Viro Science Collie is a PhD virologist and medical writer, experienced in teaching, technical communication, and writing for the public. He has been active in the furry community since 2012 and has been happily and ethically non-monogamous for much of that time. His interests include non-traditional relationship structures, technology, biological science, and tennis.