Community v Individual Solutions to Jealousy

This post is inspired by a recent read, Jealous of what? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem.

Basically, the author argues that all modern polyamory resources offer solutions to jealousy based on an individual’s responsibility for taking care of themselves. In my public health program, we often talked about “portrait” versus “landscape” stories: in a portrait, you see one person. In a landscape, though, you see not only the person but their environment. This framing of stories and the problems within them pushes the reader to understand a specific set of solutions. This is my long-winded way of saying: if you see jealousy as an individual problem, you are likely to see the solution as individually specific.

The author offers an alternative: viewing jealousy as a structural and community challenge means we have the opportunity to see structural solutions to managing jealousy.

This article was a complete breath of fresh air to me. And not because I dislike the typical advice offered by poly advice folks, but because it offers a broader lens from which to view jealousy. It reminds me, too, of my brief counseling program experience and learning about the importance of how both people in the dyad shape relationship function. One person can never be 100% responsible for what happens in a relationship; the division of responsibility is inherently divvied up as there are multiple people shaping expectations, communication, “rewards,” and “punishments.” To say that jealousy management is 100% my responsibility has definitely left me feeling overwhelmed, disheartened, and lonely at times. I agree that I am responsible for how I respond to my thoughts and emotions and how I behave, but I appreciate the space this view allows for looking at how and why jealousy manifests in poly relationships.

The author’s thesis that intimate social networks build trust which alleviates jealousy makes a lot of sense to me. The more distance and unknown there is with regards to my partner’s partners breeds doubt, uncertainty, fear (for me, anyway). The more closeness, the more I am able to understand.

Quote of note:

“My hypothesis is that the more shifts that occur within a polyamory network, the more jealousy that occurs, which then requires higher degrees of individualistic emotion management.  In other words, individual freedom in relationships has an evil twin of individual constraint of emotion.

For those for whom individual freedom in relationships is the highest value, it may be worth the individual jealousy management that results from putting love on the free market.   But for those who don’t want to be faced head-on with the green-eyed monster, the advice literature is in denial about which approaches to polyamory lead to a higher or lower probability of jealousy.  There are no tools provided beyond individual emotion work for how to manage jealousy for those who want a communal, less individualistic approach to polyamory. ”

What do you think?

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