I think we can agree I was a strange kid. I have had a fascination with jealousy since a young age. When I was eight years old I had a book of Protestant sermons on the seven deadly sins, which I dog eared and underlined, particularly the one regarding envy (jealousy’s equally challenging cousin.) I was not raised Protestant, I just liked the concept of things which destroy us from the inside out.
When I was ten, my two favorite Shakespearean plays were Othello (I’m sure you could have predicted that, since it’s the origin of “the green eyed monster” in literature) and Much Ado About Nothing (essentially the happy ending version of Othello in which nobody dies at the end). Misunderstandings and projections flourish in these plays, all driven by jealousy.
The fact that humans have the capacity for such an irrational emotional mechanism – in which we grasp with our reptilian brains at the things we love, often lashing out in pain or anger – is captivating to me. Particularly because the effect of unchecked jealousy is that we lose exactly what we are fighting to keep, most often a romantic relationship. Jealousy wakes up the most primitive parts of us, causing panic, desperation and even violence. Because jealousy is scary and difficult to wrap our rational brains around, shame and denial often accompany jealousy and make it even harder to address.
In my adult life I spend my days with clients who are equally taken by this irrational part of themselves and seek to keep it from ruling their lives. I work with open relationships of all kinds: some focused on sex and some on love, with hierarchy and without, with complex rules and contracts or no rules at all. Every relationship has to flounder its own way through a sea of jealousies. The one sure thing I see in opening up relationships is that jealousy will be there, it will surprise you no matter how prepared you think you are for it, and you cannot wish it away with rationality.
Below is a resource list for those curious to explore their own jealousies more. Some are specific to open relationships and others are for anyone struggling to address this complex emotion.
Polyamory and Jealousy: A More Than Two Essentials Guide by Eve Rickert and Franklin Veaux
The Jealousy Cure: Learn to Trust, Overcome Possessiveness, and Save Your Relationship by Robert L. Leahy PhD
Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino