‘Will you come over for coffee?’ I said. ‘My boyfriend is in London. The kids can play together.’
‘Why is he in London?’ said my friend.
‘Oh he’s gone for work’ I said. ‘But of course it is the ideal situation for him to date other women.’
‘I so admire you for being able to be so open and accepting. I am so far from that.’ My friend said.
I looked at him and said.
‘It’s a constant work.’
Whilst I may be in an open relationship, I am not some enlightened being immune from jealousy. I am not above jealousy. Because I, like the rest of the planet, used jealousy to get what I wanted and needed as a child. Jealousy is a highly successful tactic the mind has for seeking security outside ourselves. A survival mechanism.
But as an adult, jealousy no longer serves a purpose because I don’t ‘need’ in the same way as I did when I was a child. I am perfectly capable of surviving on my own. As an adult I am (usually) secure in myself. I have worked for years to heal my insecurities and become an independent, self actualized woman. Ahem. I know this… but it’s still only theoretical. Yet the mind – once it recognises successful tactics for survival – will cling to them. And ‘jealousy’ is a strategy used by most of the western world to keep us in monogamous arrangements.
It is used to keep what we think we need to survive.
But here’s the other thing about jealousy. If you do not feel it, you cannot identify and solve the problems that lie behind it. It’s a symptom of an underlying issue. A secondary emotion. And here’s the difference between me and monogamous people. I do not try to limit the triggers that cause my jealousy. In fact being in an open relationship, you might say I actively invite them. But then I look behind them to see why I feel bad. Because I believe that doing so will present more growth for my character. A better and healthier me.
‘How far did you get with her?’ I said.
He said ‘All the way, although it was supposed to be only for drinks. She’s very like you. Well, like you five years ago. She’s an analyst. She even loves excel.’
I felt fear settle a cold grip upon me and paralyse my vocal cords for 5 seconds. Very like me. Was I being replaced? Luckily we were on skype (and my fingers certainly were not paralysed).
‘Was she with you when I sent you the text of me and the kids this morning?’
‘Yes, she thinks they’re adorable.’
I closed my eyes and felt the adrenalin kick in. Fight or Flight. I wanted to shut the chat window right there and howl. But only for 30 seconds. Because I knew that getting angry was useless, hiding was useless; selfish and immature. It would be an attempt to take the power from the situation by making myself into the victim.
So I chose not to be.
He did nothing wrong in accordance with how we conduct our relationship. Everything that happened had been discussed and okayed. The girl in question was aware of the situation and I knew that there was a distinct likelihood of a romantic encounter beforehand. Like that would stop my instinctive reaction.
She’s like me. Or at least like I was, before I stopped working to have kids. No doubt slim…with no stretch marks, no post breast feed tits and still achieving success in her profession.
I said, ‘Honestly I feel half okay and half not okay. I mean it’s great to know that you had fun and talked about the kids and me and stuff. How did she feel about it?’
‘As far as I could tell she felt fine. But if you are wobbly we need to talk more. I welcome that. Part of growth and us developing together. I love you, ‘ he said.
‘I love you too,’ I said.’Let’s talk when you get back.’
After my seconds of wanting to hide had passed, I sat back and examined my emotions. Jealousy is my signpost. It indicates that I am still struggling with my insecurity following the birth of our children which has resulted these past months in a fear of intimacy which in turn is due to my old demon, the fear of abandonment.
Deep, deep down, I still fear abandonment which will reinforce the lie that rings like truth in my ears that I am inherently, and personally, shameful and unlovable.
Since having kids, I no longer match up to the successful slim business woman I once was. My priorities, life and values have changed. But society’s has not and try as I might, it is difficult not to care. A stay-at-home Mum with a wobbly belly is not a good look for me. Our shame ridden society has driven our need for monogamy; much of it due to our inability to measure up to the youth-worshipping, linear-achievement standards glorified by much of the western world.
I don’t need or want monogamy to know that I am lovable and loved – despite my (quite cute) stretch marks. And I don’t need or want monogamy as a cage which encloses us in the same prison, simply because I have some insecurity issues which have nothing to do with him. But of course an open relationship doesn’t mean you are immune (or that you stay immune) to jealousy. Some people are. I hope one day that will be me.
Right now, it means that I confront the issues behind the triggers. Because I like to work on and heal the issues themselves, not ignore the wound and stick a monogamous and ultimately ineffectual plaster on it.