One of the more surreal aspects of blogging to a wide audience is reading other people’s takes on the personal experiences you’ve shared with them. You get used to it quickly, or you don’t last. I find that even more challenging perspectives can be helpful if I can resist the urge to get defensive. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. But either way, I think.
A while back, I wrote a post called “Please Be Jealous.” In the piece, I share a time that I got jealous and talk about how being ashamed of jealousy is arguably worse than feeling jealous in the first place. Because feeling bad about feeling bad causes a secondary trauma loop, where you’re beating yourself up over and over again. Punishing yourself for feeling (pretty normal) negative feelings.
The piece has been making the rounds again some on social media. Its message resonates with a lot of folks.
And through the discussion that ensued, a different interpretation emerged: That I seemed miserable and shouldn’t be in polyamorous relationships.
My own response to this took me by surprise: I laughed.
“I think I just got jealousy shamed,” I mused.
It was like I’d authored a piece on fat acceptance and had someone comment on how fat I am, saying I shouldn’t wear a bikini.
Expected. Predictable. But still a bit disappointing.
If I Gave up on Everything That Was Hard at the Beginning, I Wouldn’t Do Anything
Goodness knows that monogamous people never get jealous (actually, a recent study found folks in monogamous relationships to experience more jealousy than those in consensually nonmonogamous ones). And that I never got jealous as a monogamous person (psych! I was a hosebeast). Not doing poly would totally fix everything. Clearly.
Besides, when something is hard at the beginning, you should totally just give up and realize it’s not for you even if you love some aspects of it, right? Right?
Looking at the original post, I suppose I could have been clearer that I’m not jealous all the time nor was I eight years ago, when the event that I wrote about took place. But that’s really not the focus of the piece.
And by qualifying my jealousy like that, I think it would undermine the spirit of the essay: That feeling jealousy is okay and nothing to judge ourselves for.
A Touch of Adjustment Stress Is Expected
The vast majority of people in polyamorous relationships grew up in a culture that normalizes monogamy. Now, I do personally know a person who grew up with polyamory as the normal relationship standard. Skyspook dated a girl for a hot second who grew up in a free love commune with poly parents. But that’s not terribly common. Given this, it’s understandable (even expected) that it takes a while to adapt to a new way of thinking about relationships.
Saying “If you feel insecure sometimes, you shouldn’t be poly” isn’t helping anyone. It’s just gatekeeping.
Poly Honor Students Can Be the Worst
A lot of poly folks are uncomfortable with admitting that it ever gets tough. And turn into poly honor students, maintaining a façade of perfection. Ease. Effortlessness.
The taboo surrounding nonmonogamy marginalizes poly people. Living in a mononormative culture, we have a natural defensiveness. It’s not difficult to develop when you’re constantly being pelted with accusations and microaggressions that it could never work. Or polyamorous relationships are less loving. Or less stable.
In this atmosphere, it’s no wonder why we don’t like to talk about when it gets difficult, how, and what to do about it.
It’s an understandable reaction. I get it.
But the trouble with honor students is that they invalidate the experiences of those who do struggle. And in doing so, they inadvertently make it more difficult for folks to admit their insecurities (a vital step in overcoming them) and view them not as personal weaknesses but as an opportunity to grow.