We talk about jealousy. We suffer from jealousy. Sometimes, jealousy rules us. But once we pick it apart and see deeper inside it, we can move forward to its opposite, compersion, the feeling of joy in seeing another person experience joy. In this blog, I will detail my own thoughts on the topic, and how I deconstruct jealousy in order to manage it. I will not presume to tell you how to do things; rather, I simply wish to offer insight into my own thought processes. Where I say "you can" or "you should," please take it as rhetorical.
In an ideal world, the love between you and another will make you feel more free rather than restricted. In all of my past relationships I felt like I was slowly losing myself, that I was less like myself than I was when I was single. I was holding things in, holding things back, not really expressing my truest self. I suspect that this was caused by a mix of being with the wrong kinds of people and also by not really being able to express the kind of relationships I needed to be in. Nowadays with Dani I'm in a relationship that many onlookers would think impossible to achieve, and that some others see as a fascinating goal to work towards.
We have a relationship that allows for lovers, threesomes, foursomes and moresomes. Many people would find such a relationship terrifying, mainly because the idea of their partner having sex with someone else upsets them. In order for us to enjoy such a life, we need to understand everything about jealousy and our own instincts, and move above them. We also need to have some insight into the societal defaults that people think are normal, and be able to articulate our own feelings about them.
Firstly, everybody needs to acknowledge that we are animals. We are members of the primate family, closely related to chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas. Like every other animal on earth, we have evolved our own set of instincts. Our brain, like every other organ, has traits that were selected for by evolution, and we lost traits that were selected against. These instincts include fight or flight, altruism towards family members, sexual jealousy and a myriad of other things.
Why does sexual jealousy occur? Dr Robert Winston says in "Human Instinct" that from an evolutionary point of view, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you expend energy and resources raising someone else's child, because they do not carry your genes. Conversely, someone who impregnates another's mate has the benefit of passing on his genes with none of the energy expenditure. So evolution favours a male who demands chastity from his mate, because it enables him to be certain of the paternity of the offspring they raise. Therefore, Winston says, that the fear of cuckoldry "casts a dark shadow across much of men's sexual; psychology. The fear of cuckoldry stems from the idea that you may be depositing time and energy into someone else's genetic bank account. Men often fear cuckoldry, and they fear being humiliated for it by their male peers (we know this to be true when the grosses denizens of the internet bubble up and start throwing "cuck" around as an insult). Women also experience jealousy, and Winston puts forth the idea that this may be based somewhat more in the threat of diversion of material resources and care away from her.
People can rise above these instincts, they still exist, they are a force of nature, and they pull all of us a little bit this way, and a little bit that way. They may not be totally in charge of our psyches, but they are there. Once we acknowledge their existence, we can process them, and move towards a more joyful life.
So that's step one. You've stepped outside yourself and remembered that jealousy is a product of your ancestors' upbringing on the African savannah. It served to protect your genes & offspring, and prevent the waste of resources on others. But you're not on the savannah any more. You're a fancy human in fancy clothes with big ideas and a sweet digital watch. You're better than that, right? Well, sometimes you are. Sometimes you're not.
What's step two? Whatever you want. Do you want a life that contains some amazing friendships, some more lovers, perhaps some more love, and a lot more honesty? Cool. That's what I want to talk about. That's our step two.
Compatibility is crucial. Many relationships begin by two people getting together and immediately subscribing to a set of assumptions and default norms. When Dani & I first became friends, we spoke deeply and extensively about those assumptions, taboos and societal defaults, and how we disagreed with them. We didn't hold that all relationships must be vanilla, heterosexual, monogamous to be either satisfying or "normal." But society heavily implies that you must subscribe to these defaults and that any breach of them will be a huge blight upon you, your self worth and your appeal as a partner. We also internalise those assumptions, and assume that everyone else is believes them & is judging us, even when they really aren't! Screw that bullshit. We've got better things to do!
Dani told me that she didn't like the idea of a future in which she'd never have sex with anyone but her partner, especially because she is proudly bisexual. I felt the same - we both adore the variety of beauty out there to admire, and wanted to continue to enjoy it even when in a committed relationship. We talked about the idea of being alone with a new lover without our partner, or having lovers visit us both together. By talking so much at the start, we knew that we shared so many common beliefs and needs.
People also need to ensure that your libidos are similar. The amazing relationship columnist Dan Savage speaks constantly about sexual incompatibility being a slow-growing cancer upon any relationship. Each partner tries to pathologise the other, making them feel like there is something wrong with their needs or lack thereof.
Honestly, too, is essential. It's a habit, a skill, that you must practise. It's not easy - it can be quite scary. But just like lifting weights or going for a run, the more you do, it the easier it gets. And the more you don't do it, the easier it is to hold onto little things and eventually, bigger things. We work hard to remain honest with one another. Not in any cruel way, but when it comes to attraction, reluctance, frustration, fears, concerns and boundaries, we speak up. We try to always ensure that we communicate these things in a kind way that moves us forward towards our goals, rather than in a combative way.
Of course, it's much easier to practise such honesty when you trust your partner won't respond like a total dick when you open up. When you know you're talking to your trusted friend, rather than a paranoid man-child trapped in a cage by their fears, you will feel more able to open up and get things moving.
Sometimes it's a bit scary to open up about something, but when you know your partner will respond with love and curiosity, you end up feeling a bit braver every time. And that love and curiosity leads us forward.
It lets you discuss boundaries for play, such as "if I hit the bathroom, please wait till I come back in the room before you continue playing with our guest," or "everything we do with this person we do together or not at all, from texting to fooling around." To read more about this particular aspect, you can read Dani's blog on how we approach threesomes, and it's also touched upon in her blog on unicorns, the seemingly elusive bisexual girl who's happy to play with a couple.
You also need to like yourself enough. If you don't think that you're really worth loving or liking, then it's going to be incredibly easy for you to give in to your fears about losing your partner. You may need to process some of your old crap before you move into a fun new future. This may be with a therapist, or with friends, or with your partner. Or all three. Treat an analysis of your feelings as a learning opportunity. "I feel x. Why do I feel x? What set me off? Is this reasonable? Is this constructive? What's the right response?" Doing this will let you thoughtfully own your feelings, rather than be ruled by them.
You're dating someone you're compatible with. You're very honest with one another. You don't ever forget that you are fundamentally friends who wish the very best for one another. You want your lover to be absolutely happy and liberated. You realise your instincts will sometimes try to sway your responses to situations but you recognise that and have mental strategies to overcome this swaying effect.
Step three: compersion itself.
You've arrived at a play party, or perhaps you've invited a new friend over to get naked with you both. Maybe you're just out on the town and you see your beloved talking to someone who's attractive and interesting. Maybe things have progressed and your partner in crime is kissing, hugging or has gotten totally naked with another. There are two mindsets available to you, and you can choose which one you want in your head. Have you talked about this ;previously with your loved one? Have you told them that you still find other people attractive and would like to feel another person naked beside you, inside you? Do you both know what will leave each of you feeling unwanted and neglected, and what will make you feel included and alive? Have you discussed ways to interact with new people you find attractive, ways to ensure nobody is left out? ( Sometimes just something as simple as "Have you met my wife?")
The first mindset is the jealous one. Your fears take over your mind and tell you that your love will never be the same again once that man has put his dick inside her, or once your man looks upon that woman with desire. Those fears tell you that dicks are magic and someone else's will fundamentally change your woman, or that once your man has had his dick in another pussy that he'll forget all of the hundreds of values, memories and experiences you both share. You worry that you will lose them. You worry that you're not good enough or that you aren't as attractive as this new person, that their very newness will cause your partner to move on from you.
Some people even manage to be jealous of a vibrator as they see only an insult to their ability to satisfy their woman!
The other mindset you can choose is compersion. Secure in your self worth, secure in your loving relationship with your partner in crime and best friend, you take joy in their joy. When we have had play parties and Dani has watched me railing a gorgeous girl next to her, or I have shared Dani with one of our friends, I take joy in knowing that she is happy, that she feels fulfilled as a highly sexual woman, that she is feeling pleasure and she takes joy in watching me have a great time. She loves to see me happy, primal, animalistic. I trust her so much, I know I can't lose her to another. Our love is so fierce and strong and unique that nobody could threaten that. Nobody could offer anything like that! We know one another's needs. Variety, fun, rawness, ferocity, pleasure, desire. Because we know what we both need, we are able to take lovers and have all of the fun, and as a result, our relationship is fulfilling and exciting and healthy. This makes the relationship even better and something we want to be in even more.
One of the very simple ways we manage any feelings of neglect or of being a third wheel is that everything we do is together. We flirt together, we chat together, we arrange together and we play together. This way neither of us thinks that it's just a ploy to get some new flesh - it's a way to get a whole stack of awesome stories and memories to smirk about when we are older, reflecting of what a fun and awesome life we have had together.
And those people threatened by mere masturbation or a vibrator? If they simply took joy in their partner getting off, they'd both be a whole lot happier. If they're getting their rocks off, they're happier! They're more orgasmic! They're thinking about sex more often, their blood is flowing, sex featuring you both becomes much more likely. An orgasm without you doesn't subtract from your potential orgasms together!
The lack of jealousy sets us free! In taking joy in one another's joy, we are both freed to be truly ourselves without fear.
As a caveat though, it must be said that we all have good days and bad days. We all have days where we are tired and frustrated or needy or nervous, and it's up to us all to speak up and to listen when it's our turn. Sometimes just giving voice to your fears will let you see that they were ridiculous, or perhaps they will lead you to exactly the reassurance you needed. And sometimes you just gotta say "I don't think I'm in the right headspace for any shenanigans tonight. Can we just watch a dvd tonight, maybe order in some yummy food?"
And it is very possible to get all of this wrong. People make mistakes. People get feelings, or feel infatuation, and don't talk about it with their partner. Sometimes they keep just one little intimate thing secret and it makes it easier to keep just one more little thing secret.
Talk with one another. Talk without fear, and listen with love and curiosity. Play with a sense of fun, and own all of your feelings. Always bear in mind that you are doing this with your best friend, and take joy in seeing them happy.