My ex-boyfriend of five years cheated on me the whole time we were together. My low self-esteem let him convince me he still loved me despite the cheating. By the end we had opened our relationship to outside sexual partners, but it was mostly him going out to get sex.
Now I’m in a triad, with two amazing men who’ve been together nine years [we’ll name them Peanut butter and Wonderbread] and dote on me in all the best ways. Before I met Peanut butter and Wonderbread I used to see Wonderbread around town with another man who he was very grabby with. He says they’re just friends. We ran into Mr. Grabby last night and I panicked. I stormed off, told Wonderbread I didn’t believe that he and Mr. Grabby are “just friends” and a spat ensued between the three of us. My jealousy in these kind of situations is inappropriate. Advice?
Sounds like you’ve got yourself quite a green, briny pickle called Jealousy on the side of this otherwise scrumptious sandwich you’ve built with Peanut butter and Wonderbread. Explore what the green-eyed monster is telling you, Jelly, instead of cramming it into a jar where it’ll surely ferment into resentment.
But first, an open relationship born of cheating isn’t consensual or healthy. In your former relationship, jealousy was ignored and shouldn’t have been so now when it pops up, you listen up. Understandable. With Peanut butter and Wonderbread, you’ve clearly already done some personal work around any jealousy that surely crops up between the three of you regarding love, affection, and resources. Kudos!
Then there’s Ol’ Mr. Grabby, sticking his pickle in everything. Whether open or monogamous, I find that my jealousy is usually 80 percent about my own shit and 20 percent about my partner’s actions. Tristan Taormino, author of my favorite non-monogamy book Opening Up, lists four specific emotional components of jealousy: Envy (I want that person/attribute/attention), insecurity (Oh hey, low-self esteem history), possessiveness (Wonderbread is mine!) and exclusion (But what about me?). All four of these are more about you than they are about Wonderbread and connect to the biggest jealously-feeder: fear. Fear of abandonment, fear that you’re not good enough or won’t get enough — all of these socially-reinforced fears that tell us to pop that question and slap a ring on it because if you don’t you’ll die alone. (You won’t.)
Fear is a tough cookie to crumble, especially when these fears have been confirmed by your ex dipping his cookie in everyone else’s milk all the while claiming lactose intolerance.
After punching some pillows and choking down too much ice cream in a jealous rage, dig a little deeper. What’s feeding your jealousy?
Address Wonderbread using “I” statements that express your feelings instead of blaming him for them (“I felt scared when I saw Mr. Grabby out with you last night because it reminded me of my ex’s infidelity.”) Ask for what you need from Wonderbread to help you process your jealous feelings — ask him to slather you in reassurance, take you on a hot date, or sit down with Peanut butter and rehash your triad’s commitments.
As you’ve learned, Jelly, persistent and nagging jealousy can be a real indicator that something just isn’t right. You’re in the unique position to be able to observe the trust and care between Peanutbutter and Wonderbread and use this as a helpful gauge in Wonderbread’s trustworthiness. If you decide you trust Wonderbread, then dive into self-work and unlearning what your ex taught you. And if all else fails, remember that Jelly doesn’t need Peanut butter and Wonderbread to be delicious. It’s just as awesome on its own or piped into a hot, fresh doughnut.•