Jealousy is a second order emotion

1 Jun

People confronted with the idea of Polyamory often say they could never do it because they are too jealous.  I believe this attitude doesn’t take a critical enough look at the emotion of jealousy.   Jealousy isn’t a first order emotion.  It’s caused by something else and without investigation you can’t solve the root issue.  Generally most people only treat the symptoms.

The classic example is John’s ex-girlfriend is coming into town.  He wants to go have dinner with her and his girlfriend, Jennifer, feels jealous.  Stereotypically the outcome of the situation is an attempt to veto the dinner by Jennifer.  John often feels resentful if he gives up the date or Jennifer does if he doesn’t.  The relationship takes a little damage and gets a little weaker.  Whether he goes on the date or not isn’t really the issue though.  Most of the time it’s one of two other possible things.

It’s possible that what Jennifer really fears is her boyfriend cheating on her.  It might even be justified if John has a history of cheating on girls in the past.  In this case her jealous emotion is an appropriate rational safety response to a dangerous situation and should not be dismissed.  The real solution though isn’t to veto the date.  You can’t just veto everything.  The solution is to learn to trust John if he has changed.  A dinner date with an old ex is fairly benign and doesn’t detract from your relationship.  If John hasn’t changed, Jennifer should figure out whether not being able to trust him around ex-girlfriends, pretty girls or when he is out drinking is a deal breaker.  It would be for me.

Now the flip side of the coin is it’s possible your boyfriend is an angel.  He loves you and has never had a history of cheating.  You, generally speaking, feel totally secure almost all of the time.  In this situation it’s your own insecurities that is causing the problem.  You have no rational reason to feel jealous (which doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel jealous).  It just means the solution is going to come from within.  You need to figure out why you might feel insecure and what might help the issue.  Try and be as honest and upfront with your boyfriend and together hopefully you can learn to worry less in a situation that you need not worry about at all.



One Response to “Jealousy is a second order emotion”


  1. You need one of these three things to survive jealousy… | dear poly - July 2, 2013

    […] Jealousy is a second order emotion ( […]

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