Connection & Communication

How to Deal with Jealousy in a Polyamorous Relationship

how-to-deal-with-jealousy-in-a-polyamory-relationship
Grace Bryant
Written by Grace Bryant

If you practice nonmonogamy, you might have already been through the new and shiny phenomenon, where you or a partner meets someone new and it awakens the fun, unpredictable New Relationship Energy (NRE).

This could go a number of ways. Two of the most common are:

  1. It kicks up a new appreciation and desire in your existing relationship
  2. You find yourself comparing your new love to your current relationship

Obviously, option one is preferred. Without awareness, option two can easily happen…but it doesn’t have to. Let’s see how to deal with jealousy in a polyamorous relationship and examine the habits that can lead to a comparison of new love with existing and how to create patterns that help NRE fuel your existing love, not necessarily create a desire to replace.

The Mind’s Task of Comparison

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A comparison is one of the fastest paths to disaster in poly relationships.

Even if we think we don’t compare partners or past relationships, our mind and ego are constantly on the lookout for better or worse. That’s our mind’s job, to put things in order (*note: hierarchy) so it can have linear thoughts. While we don’t need to despise our mind for its instinctual task, we can recognize that it creates a lot of suffering.

In fact, most suffering comes from this desire of the mind to separate, identify and compare.

When this sets one relationship against another, we get just that: a fight. Who’s the better lover? Better partner? Better listener? This is what the mind will ask you and desperately try to get you to answer.

Instead of falling into the trap of comparison or jealousy, there is another way that allows everyone to be acknowledged for what they bring into your life. And it comes from your other mind: the heart-mind.

The heart can actually experience things with a continuity and complexity that allows for everything to be okay just as it is. Living from the heart means that one person can bring something that complements certain parts of us, while another person can highlight something completely different.

We are complex beings, so it seems somewhat obvious that different parts of our complexities can come alive with different friends, lovers or partners.

During a recent connection with my partner’s partner, we started to look at many of the ways we are different and how that allows our mutual partner to thrive in unique ways with each of us.

Heal Sexual and Emotional Wounds

In the past, we had spent a lot of time sharing how similar we were. But as we went through a little rough patch, we noticed that we were both falling into the game of comparison (i.e. “how is she better than me?”) which by default leads to the jealousy.

Not only was this bringing each of us self-doubt, it was poisoning our ability to communicate clearly because we were holding onto things and feeling shame. When we finally expressed these feelings and thoughts, we both felt a huge relief that reinstated our more transparent communication.

You can start to discern if you’re experiencing life from your heart or mind by being on the lookout for 3 kinds of thoughts. These are sure signs that your comparison mind thinks it’s in control:

  1. Right or wrong/black or white thoughts – trying to find what’s “better”
  2. Self-doubt or a need for personal validation
  3. Critical or defensive thoughts about your partner or their new lover

Practice: Staying in the Heart

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These thought patterns that come from the ego’s need to separate and compare are diminishing thoughts, which means depress our energy, our mood and our ability to be open to what is. When you notice them, take a few breaths into the area of the heart, find a little compassion for yourself and step your awareness back a few notches. Ask, “Who is making this comparison? What would happen if I stay open in this moment?”

When we experience life with our heart, instead of our mind, this allows space for what is, instead of grasping at experiences or pushing them away. This, in turn, allows for spaciousness and appreciation for NRE (New Relationship Energy), whether yours or your partner’s, instead of becoming a victim of comparison.

As David Deida says, “In every moment, you are either opening or closing.”

Begin to be aware of those moments you want to close, that your mind tries too hard to convince you to be defensive, offended or victimized. You have a choice to stay open, to breathe into the heart when you notice you want to close and to soften your posture. Of course, this doesn’t mean to stay in dangerous or abusive situations.

Coming back to the heart will give you the inner guidance to make choices based on your intuition and your desire to be whole and happy.

Bringing NRE into Your Bedroom

NRE can be very exciting and stimulating. Being with a new partner and feeling that newness of sensation, surprise and exploration is very stimulating to the brain, energy, and nervous system. It can wash up a whole new wave of sexual energy which might have felt dormant in your existing relationship, especially if it’s a long term relationship.

However, instead of using this as a weapon of comparison, you can bring it into your existing relationship, and even your bedroom. You and your partner can communicate to decide how much you each want to explicitly share your new experiences and thus share this new energy.

A former partner and I had a ritual that when we were with another lover, we would always come home, shower, and then meet as soon as possible in lovemaking. We would use the excitement with our other lovers to appreciate our relationship and sexual connection, to celebrate the things that make us unique and find some new fuel of passion for one another.

While my new partner and I do not practice this specific ritual, we often feel drawn into a similar pattern when we’ve been with another lover recently or away from each other for more than a few days.

In this way, your existing relationship can benefit from the love you share with others simply by coming back together with intention, which stops the new connection from putting space between you. If you notice a pattern of separation or lack of sexual connection after being with other lovers, look into that with some care and compassion.

If you are still a newbie to the concept of polyamorous relationships and feel like you need some more general guidelines, feel free to check out the ways on how conscious non-monogamy could work for you!

Where did it come from? How can you shift it to honor all of your relationships?

This pattern can also be seen in monogamous relationships when a partner cheats. It can sometimes be a giveaway that, after being with someone else, they return to their existing relationship with new sexual energy and desire for their partner.

Why not use this instinctual energy to offer renewed connection? A simple shift of intention and connection can bring these patterns to light and break unnamed cycles of unconscious motivations.

How Much to Share?

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I love hearing my partners’ juicy sex stories with other people. Sometimes. When I’m in the right space, it can inspire me or ignite a new curiosity. If I’m feeling emotional or raw, however, it might make me feel jealous, small, boring or less desirable than the new lover.

Have some conversations with your partner to find out how much about your bedroom business they want to know on an average day. Where is their edge? Does it move when you are in intimate setting versus when you’re in the car or taking a walk together?

My current partner’s preferences and boundaries are different than mine, and a few times I’ve forgotten that and mentioned something intimate with another lover in a space that they preferred to be “ours.”

In other words, I’ve trodden on an intimate space and kind of killed the mood. A few times, I’ve also asked for more information than I really wanted, and I heard something that I really didn’t want to know.

Decide before you start sharing what you want to hear. You could test this from time to time and ask for a little more, but dabble in your edge, don’t abandon your boundary entirely.

Even after you’ve established what’s okay, still ask, “Is this a good time to share?” or “Would you be open to hearing about my new lover now?” Sometimes we don’t know what’s up with another person, no matter how well we know them. This also allows you to be empathetic instead of assuming they’re always just waiting around to hear how good (or otherwise) your new partner makes you feel.

In a very recent episode of New Sexual Energy in my relationship, after the initial sharing about the experience, my little triggers, and my partner’s holding space, I was able to experience a reframe and a lot of excitement and joy for their new experience. And that night and next morning we had some of the most powerful, connecting love making we had had in a few weeks. Even though we didn’t explicitly say that the new energy was coming into our connection, it just happened and fueled a beautiful reconnection and passion for our relationship.

Homework: Share Your Fantasies

Before you start talking about real experiences with other lovers, share your fantasies about engaging with new sexual escapades! My partner and I were on a long plane ride recently and started a spontaneous game of fantasy sharing. It turned into a great conversation about how much we liked hearing about each other with other lovers – hypothetically. And how ready we were to play with other people, either together or separately.

Don’t know your fantasies?

Try reading erotic novels or stories. Over a decade ago I was given a book with about 20 short sexual stories, varying in their explicitness. That book, as well as erotic movies, sexy articles, stories from friends, and fantasies my partners share, have all fueled my fantasy Rolodex for years and still influence new sexy situations I’m ready to explore.

Get your creative juices flowing (figuratively and literally) with a little outside stimulation. Or head into your neighborhood sex shop and have a look at what’s out there!

Taking Responsibility for How We Show Up

Regardless of whether your partner wants to know the juicy details or not, you can still take your NRE (New Relationship Energy) into your bedroom.

When my former partner and I reconnected with each other after being with other lovers, we would let that new excitement ignite our passion for each other. This way, we never got to develop stories that we wanted anyone more than each other.

We also created an agreement that if we had been away from each other for a while, we wouldn’t be with anyone else within 24 hours of seeing each other, as to come home “fresh.” This isn’t necessary for everyone, but it was what worked in that relationship to honor each other and keep the feeling of specialness.

One very important detail:

talk about whether it’s okay to have people in your shared bed! One of my lovers has an agreement with his partner that they’d rather not have another lover in same bed. Others have an agreement about washing the sheets between partners. This is pretty common and respectful, and may or may not be necessary for you. When my current partner and I met, he had another partner in Seattle and ended up washing his sheets nearly every day between our visits.

I finally told him I didn’t mind, and even enjoyed knowing he had been with someone else in the same place we were making love. He was surprised and it took some getting used to, but eventually, the three of us opened to this new pattern.

Personal Practice to Move Through Triggers

How do you deal with things that come up? Feelings of insecurity that arise in everyday life?

Having a personal practice that includes meditation, exercise or yoga, and journaling and witnessing your thoughts is imperative to being able to move through triggers as they arise. The biggest disaster we can create when we feel threatened by a new partner is thinking our partner needs to fix our own feelings of discomfort.

Much can be done in the way of opening lines of communication, feeling safe to share your discomfort, and being heard with an empathetic ear. But, inevitably, your work is your own. If you choose to engage in relationships where your fundamental beliefs are questioned and possibly challenged, I can’t suggest strongly enough how necessary it is to have a personal daily practice and be responsible for your own process of self-discovery.

Hold Sacred, Not Secret

Whatever the boundaries you establish, remember to hold each relationship sacred. But don’t confuse that with being secretive.

It’s one thing if your partner doesn’t want to hear details but something altogether different if you feel you have secrets or things you can’t say out loud. It’s a great idea to have a close friend or two who are willing to be your confidants, so you know you can share what comes up for you.

That it doesn’t have to be with your existing partner though if they’d prefer not to hear certain things. I just stumbled on the necessity for outside confidants in one of my relationships recently.

That shift is taking some pressure off of each of us, as we can more consciously choose what we want to hear without feeling responsible for sorting out someone else’s feelings.

Each person, relationship, and connection have a unique sacredness. Give them all the significance and specialness they deserve. And recognize that your heart, your human complexities, and your beauty have attracted all this love into your life.

This is surely something to celebrate.

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About the author

Grace Bryant

Grace Bryant

For the past 8 years, Grace has taught Yoga, meditation and Tantra and helped to create communities steeped in truthful connection and conscious living wherever she happened to be on the globe. Her favorite offerings focus on the Revalation of the Heart, finding our authentic voices and living with intentional and fearless connection, especially through the lens of Sacred Femininity and conscious sexuality. She has led many discussion groups, workshops, womens groups, and classes with a focus on bringing a Yogic approach into every area of our life. Through Yoga, Grace has found a deep sense of peace and trust, and hopes to share this in her teachings. She is currently based out of Seattle.
Check out Grace's website