Q: If you care about someone, aren’t you jealous if she (or he) cares about someone else, too?
A: Jealousy. It’s trained into us.
There is an innate sense of wanting to be assured that the love you’re receiving isn’t going to go away. But our culture fans that into a bonfire of rage and anxiety.
I have found that jealousy is based primarily on the notion that love is a limited resource. Once you get over or through that, you don’t really feel anxious.
But how do you get over or through it?
You have to talk openly with the person you’re worried about losing a connection with. If you find that (of course) they still love and care about you, and are just (also) attracted to someone else – you will be amazed to discover that you can deal with that. Because you aren’t losing love.
Besides, you love the person who you’re worried about losing. You are interested in his or her happiness. You begin to be a better friend – interested in their interests, their way of being, and free again to be more yourself. You still love your person, you may even find your sex life reinvigorated by the openness in communication.
At that point, jealousy dissipates and it becomes a matter of making sure you have enough time with your person. At the same time, this gives you a chance to check in with you other important relationships, which you’ve probably been neglecting for being too wrapped up in whatever you’ve been doing.
The difficulty for us is that we’ve been programmed to believe that we can only technically, legally, morally CARE about one person at a time. Which we know is insane – but that’s what we’re told to believe.
We live in a culture that instructs us from infancy in fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty that you Can and MUST only love one person (for it to be “TRUE LOVE”), that you MUST vanquish all competition, you MUST fit into the glass slipper. That love, in all its messy sexiness, must also be “virginal” and “pure” and “true.” * Thank you, Walt Disney. (And the herding culture ‘morality’ of Leviticus and the disturbing, anti-woman, anti-affection, anti-love, anti-gay (ie, rather hateful) Old Testament/Torah.)
It’s about men controlling women as property. That’s where the edict comes from. If you’re concerned about raising children in a community in which adults are able to have multiple affections, then take note that in tribal societies, the children are raised by EVERYONE, breast-fed by any lactating mother, and that the plight of a child does not rest on the shoulders of any one or two people.
Beyond that, partner-changes tended to occur after the weening period – at 3, 4 or 5 years. Women in tribes don’t tend to have more than one child per four year period. Breastfeeding suppresses ovulation, and many medicinal herbs often impede new pregnancy. So, mothers aren’t struggling to keep up with two or even three young children.
But we, in our fertility assisted culture, now have single mothers raising triplets (or more) while the husband is gone all day trying to make enough money to support this isolated, nuclear family.
When the stress of all of that begins to fray one or both partners, instead of giving each other a break, we’re told to suicide our relationships, given the slightest provocation. We frame relationships as violent, possession-laded contracts.
We are clearly instructed that if you “lose” your partner because he or she fancies someone else for a moment, you must “fight” to get him or her back. And if that other attraction does not go away you must make an ultimatum and suicide your entire relationship by break-up or divorce to do the “right” and honorable thing in our culture, and then mourn, and be re-victimized by your own self-doubts, and finally one day, date again.
So, which system is more barbaric? That of allowing your partner to care about other people (as long as you’re both keeping up all your duties in a partnership or communicating as friends and not cutting each other off). Or, in cutting each other off, and destroying your relationship, because “jealousy” – just another word for OWNERSHIP – tells you so?
It’s all a bunch of Biblically-programmed unnecessary, anxious terror. And once you get free of it, you’re suddenly a thousand pounds lighter.
But, this path requires openness, introspection, good communication skills, and a willingness to be honest, vulnerable and generous.
So, you can see why it’s not popular in a capitalist, people-as-commodities culture.
Try something different in your relationship. Try talking about all of your thoughts and feelings, desires and attractions, and do so without losing the real meaning of your relationship: that you have someone to talk to, to listen to, and to grow with.
Liam Scheff is author of Official Stories and is working on his new book about relationships (and making them better)