Jealousy needs to be distinguished from envy as the fear of losing a person viewed as a possession. Envy springs from desire for things or people possessed by others. The tendency to view people as objects or means seems clear in both cases.
Some who find great joy with sexually open lovers attempt to arrest the freedom that made the sex possible. Those who seek robust men or women for partners, and insist on monogamy when they are not physically compatible are more difficult to understand. Some cruelly neglect their partners for days and even years.
“The good life cannot be lived without self-control, but it is better to control a restrictive and hostile emotion such as jealousy, rather than a generous and expansive emotion such as love”
Bertrand Russell – Marriage and Morals
Possessive violence we can address later and focus on other common forms of coercion. Power takes the form of ultimatums, deceit, emotional freak-outs, withholding affection and, of course, the indulgence in sexually denigrating epithets. In open relationships, jealousy comes out in other ways too. Lovers impose control over others and here are just a few of the ways.
A partner may insist, overtly or covertly, the following…
- They also must take part in any sex with others.
- When, where or how sex happens for others, this they might call “boundaries.”
- They must approve the partner.
- They must have a different lover(s) too, otherwise it seems “unfair.”
- They demand that only they can have other lovers.
- They assume other lovers to have bad intentions and they must protect their naive mate
- They will suffer if any partner will not meet any of the spoken or unspoken demands, and when they are miserable, others share in it by proximity.
The last example emerges insidiously. When an individual conceives a fictional or distorted narrative about the events, seeing himself or herself as a victim, they manufacture righteousness; the feelings seem to be proof of something “true.” The tantrums of children demonstrate similar coercive power. Their faces show real misery and they protest violently. Parents are not abusing children by not accommodating demands for candy or sharing the bed. In a child of three emotional browbeating goes with the territory. An adult using such emotional manipulation can bring about the destruction of intimacy.
We know the power of nonverbal emotional demands recalling childhood. An adult’s non-verbal glance could freeze us in out tracks. A parent may use anger, disgust, guilt or whatever serves as means for control of a child. People use coercive influence on adults too and rarely do they wish to yield the power if it might accomplish their ends. People subjected to such behavior have little recourse to proof when the mechanisms of coercion are internal. We can refer to the facts and show if they do not square with the narrative if the details are clear. In an environment of emotional threats, endurance with the hope for change or ending the relationship will likely arise as possible solutions. We can respond by saying the emotions of a lover should not be a governing power for others. A suffering mate will be difficult to confront, criticism may seem selfish, and identifying anguish as a tool of power is very difficult.
A jealous lover who cannot subtly gain control often escalates into anger and shaming. We should notice the vitriol in the labels used for slut shaming women. Men with exactly the same behavior receive names that are mild by comparison i.e. womanizer, philanderer, Casanova, Don Juan, skirt chaser, playboy, and rake. Women endure this horrible ritual of shaming in the worst form. Female participation in the backward custom suggests that Mumbo Jumbo still works to subject the feminine.
I journeyed to the Rajneesh ashram in India, a responsible free love commune, in the early 90’s. A lover I met there told me she wanted to date an old boyfriend. I knew there would probably be lovemaking. I did not object but confess I felt vulnerable. She and I met for breakfast the next morning. She told me she got laid and felt quite happy. Everything seemed all right even amidst feeling emotionally exposed. I then told her of my sexual experience the night before… and she lost her fucking mind, the fight lasted for two days. I felt astonished at the double standard. Many people trust their own ability to love multiple people but fear others cannot do the same. The issue resolved once she acknowledged the joy we shared regardless of other lovers.
A new love interest of mine mentioned a man who recently killed himself, leaving behind a wife and two children. I only guess at the connection with jealousy. The wife strayed in a traditional marriage. Stories such as this suggest a danger in generalizing from any particular success of more open sexuality.
I remember a talk about open relationships with an older man that elicited a terrible response. He said, “I don’t share the cunt.” Then he told this story. He and a girlfriend started having threesomes back in the seventies. The sex happened twice without incident. He got very aroused on the third occasion watching her orgasm with the other man and he immediacy fucked her fast until he came. As soon as the other man left, he then viciously beat this woman, calling her every epithet in the book. After his violent outburst, he got on a train, (Europe) and never went back again. The story chilled my very blood. Not everyone possesses the disposition for open sexuality. Women experience abuse within monogamy all too often but I am focusing here on the jealousy outside of custom. The man above did not see his own violent reaction coming and he wanted to avoid it ever after. His experience stands as a warning. We need to be extremely honest when breaking taboos and if emotions start getting destructive protecting people becomes the most important thing.
I have not experienced the extremes of reactivity some of my lovers have. Jealousy ceased to haunt me twenty years ago. For me those feelings stemmed from two things I can label, vanity or being concerned what others would think knowing my lovers slept with others. Also selfishness over concern that my sexual access would be limited by the time my partners time spent elsewhere.
In part four Jealousy – Go Beyond Jealousy (People Are Not Possessions) – I discuss my journey outside the false security of custom and letting go of outcomes and how the creation of our identity sets us up for jealousy.
Edit: for grammar.