I really admire such a public figure in the personal development world as Steve Pavlina coming-out and saying that he and his wife, Erin, are going to try an open relationship – specifically one within the realm of polyamory. They haven’t done it yet, but they are looking and researching and moving forward slowly.
I was reading his post regarding jealousy last night. In it he says that during the 15 or so years of his marriage he and Erin have never felt jealousy, and he asks:
“Can anyone teach us how to become jealous of each other? What are the steps? What do you have to think, say, or do in order to whip yourself into a jealous frenzy?”
He goes on to say:
“The reason we can’t create jealousy is that we can’t escape unconditional love. We can’t run or hide from it. Love is a constant in our lives. The only way for us to become jealous would be to turn our backs on unconditional love or to pretend it doesn’t exist, and that seems like a pretty lame idea.”
My first reaction is to say “Ummm… Yah. Just wait.” But I won’t. Okay, I did. Regardless, opening-up your relationship brings feelings and insecurities floating to the surface that you had no idea you harbored.
Steve. Erin. Guaranteed one of you, if not both of you, will experience jealousy when one of you actually does take a lover. It doesn’t matter how much you unconditionally love each other. Having your partner receive happiness, joy, sexual satisfaction and companionship (things that up to this point only you’ve provided) will expose insecurities you didn’t even know you had.
When Lucretia MacEvil and I first opened-up our relationship I didn’t think I would have any problem with it. I am a very secure person 99% of the time. However, after our first experience swinging I felt jealousy. I rationalized it with all sorts of excuses like “My ex-wife cheated on me and that is making me feel this way now” and others. Now, I didn’t have any problem with Lucretia having good sex with someone else. What I had issues with was her developing a relationship in any form with this other couple (particularily the male) outside of the foursome swinging scenario.
It was stupid that I felt that way because I knew that Lucretia loved me unconditionally and she wasn’t going to leave me, but that feeling was still there. I couldn’t rationalize it away. What it came down to was me, myself. Whether I was unconditionally loved or not made no difference. I didn’t believe in the deepest recesses of my soul that I was everything my rational self thought I was. This new step in our relationship exposed these feelings and brought them up from the depths of where I had repressed them for 30-plus years.
How’d I get past it? I didn’t like myself that way. It wasn’t how I saw myself or who I wanted to be. So I worked on me and my insecurities to get past these feelings.
Does that mean I am completely over it? No. Trying new things as a couple exposes new feelings and issues and insecurities I didn’t know I had. Call them “triggers” if you will. And the same goes for Lucretia. Although she wants me to be happy and enjoy as much of other people as I can, sometimes certain situations or people arise that set-off her triggers.
What makes the difference between a couple who makes it in any kind of open relationship and one that doesn’t is the people in the relationship and how they communicate with each other and how brutally honest they are with themselves. So many blame their insecurities and feelings of jealousy on their partner, the idea of “If they didn’t do this or that I’d be okay.” But it’s almost never your partner’s fault unless they are truly stepping over boundaries set-out in your relationship. Such as cheating. The real issue lies within yourself, your insecurities and your attempts to control your partner so they won’t do something that makes you feel uncomfortable. The couples that thrive in an open relationship environment are those that recognize that as long as both people are playing within the boundaries of the playing field, the real issue is not what your partner is doing but your reaction to it. And that is what needs to be worked-on.
That doesn’t mean that the boundaries are hard-set though, and not movable. Open relationships are nothing if not fluid; they are changing all the time. What makes them work is the ability of the people in the relationship to recognize this, be flexible, owning their feelings, communicating their feelings without attacking their partner, and be willing to redraw the white lines on the playing field should they need to be adjusted.
Remember, if something doesn’t benefit the relationship, it hurts it. Always make every situation turn into a benefit.
~ Lucius Scribbens