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The Ethical Slut Read-along: Jealousy (Part 2)

Posted in Polyamory, and The Ethical Slut Read Along

I am leading a read-through of The Ethical Slut, 2nd editionIf you’d like to catch up on past installments, check the list at the bottom of the series introduction. Comments on the topics in this discussion are welcome anytime, even from people who aren’t following along in the book.

This is the second installment covering Chapter 13, “Roadmaps Through Jealousy”. You can also read Part 1.

The last installment of this read-along provoked a lively discussion on FetLife, the social network for BDSM practitioners and other kinksters. A lot of people chimed in with their feelings about jealousy or what causes it for them. Many thanks to those who shared their experiences with me.

The Ethical Slut, Second Edition by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

There seems to be a great deal of variation in how much jealousy a person feels — for some it’s an ugly, painful struggle but for others it is something rarely felt if at all. One recurring trigger for jealousy that came up many times is when a lover feels “out of the loop” — that is they don’t feel like their other lover(s) have communicated openly about their feelings, activities, or intentions involving a third-party. Sometimes it occurs when a person or event reminds one of a past loss, or suggests an impending breakup or problem. Jealousy might be caused by feeling neglected or abandoned.

One woman wrote to me to tell me about jealousy caused in part by a feeling of sexual inadequacy when another woman was able to orgasm much more easily. Though this is not always possible when it comes to sexual differences, another FetLifer talked about how feeling jealous over someone’s skills sometimes pushes him to learn more or better himself. For others, it is hard to tell what the cause of the jealousy is without a lot of sometimes difficult self-analysis.

Like others who wrote in the thread, I try to work on any feelings of jealousy privately first but then go to my loved ones or friends for help. Techniques which thread participants said help with jealousy include journaling, exercise, some types of meditation, and of course lots of communication. One participant said he felt that jealousy was just too painful to be useful, comparing it to the agony caused by a healing wound. But another said she feels a wonderful sense of victory when she overcomes jealousy through self-improvement. Many people agreed with my assertion that all of this gets easier as one becomes more experienced at polyamory, and more confident in one’s relationships.

In the second half of this chapter of The Ethical Slut, the authors share some of their own techniques. A great suggestion they make is to pamper yourself — it has helped me many times if I was feeling lonely or envious of others activities just to take time to be good to myself — to do something sensual, fun or decadent.

Easton and Hardy suggest that it is good to make agreements with friends who will be a sympathetic ear when you need it. It’s important to choose friends you trust not to use your venting to cause drama, and who are able to hear your words as expressing frustration, not necessarily condemning a lover. The authors also point out that sometimes it’s important to just feel your jealousy and try to understand it, and not hiding from the lessons it might teach.

This chapter has some great exercises for overcoming or understanding feelings of jealousy — I think it is the first chapter where these exercises made a significant difference in which edition you read.  It would be great if my readers wanted to take part in simplified versions of these exercises in the comments, by sharing the following:

  • What are some concrete ways your lovers can reassure you when you’re feeling jealous or otherwise need a boost?
  • What are some simple things you can do for yourself to feel pampered?
  • If you’re feeling nervous or insecure about a relationship, does it help to remember experiences you’ve shared? Or do you think about special qualities you and your lover have in common? Share a few of these.

I’ll join in myself in the comments.

This read-along will continue Thursday, May 12. We’ll discuss the Interlude, “Clean Love,” along with a summary of any interesting ways of handling jealousy which people share.