Happy Wednesday everyone!
Hope the weather is as well as can be expected wherever you are. Here at Kentswold Studios it’s very very spring. Which means yesterday I was outside at lunch in a t-shirt working on a rock wall around my herb garden.. and today it’s 50 and raining. But hey, spring! When love is in the air.
If you follow my body of work, you MAY have noticed that I do a fair amount of romance. (If not, that’s cool… those SciFi and Urban fantasies are DA BOMB, and those are some really interesting non fiction pieces, just sayin)
ANYWAY. Something that comes up fairly often in Romance books is the notion of jealousy. Jealousy over flirtations or intimacies emotional or physical. Jealousy over time.
Jealousy always gives me pause, because there’s jealousy that tells you something about yourself, and there’s jealousy that tells you something about your partner. Sometimes the message is “I am scared, and I need to communicate better to feel that I am valued” and sometimes the message is “this person is a controlling psycho and I need to exit stage left IMMEDIATELY.”
I do a LOT of poking at jealousy, and thinking about jealousy. I have a somewhat unusual (not THAT unusual these days) relationship with jealousy, because I am and have been polyamorous for the past 2 decades. My spouse and I are still very happily married, still intimate, but their partner J lives with us and is absolutely delightful, and my partner E alas does not live here because E has a life in another city… but is here often and is a part of the family. (To answer a common question, my offspring has always known about the other partners and they’ve always simply been presented as “my other partner.” I know that throws a lot of people for a loop, but it’s not like I explain the details of my sex life to my child regardless of WHOM or how many I’m taking to bed… so… is it really that hard to explain loving someone?)
There is a going myth that Poly people have somehow either no jealousy, or pretend not to have jealousy… which is of course nonsense. Everyone feels both jealousy and envy from time to time, but it’s how you handle jealousy that really makes the difference. The thing I find really disturbing and worth taking a second to poke a bit is the notion that external jealousy is a sign of love. Especially violent jealousy.
“Wow, he just beat that guy up for hitting on me… he really DOES love me!”
… this is a simplification of a thought that pervades a lot of our entertainment narrative. Whether in a monogamous, polyamorous, or aromantic context, there is often a thread of that notion that slips in here and there. It’s almost always the man, tho not exclusively, and it’s present in heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual stories alike. It’s tied to the notion of “I feel special because someone wants to protect me.”
Well sure! Being protected and cared for makes us all feel like we matter.
But there’s a problem there. That level of violent jealousy? Beating up a dude cuz he tried to buy you a drink? That my friends is CONTROL, not protection. Beating up a guy because he roofied you and tried to rape you in the alley? THAT is protection. (Better still to maybe intervene BEFORE the drugging and toss the dude to the cops, yeah?) Beating up someone for hitting on/looking at/flirting with/cuddling with a person? That translates to “This is my property, and you are a poacher”
Two issues with this:
- Congratulations, you are now an owned object. (OK, leaving kink out of this where you want to do that, and it’s voluntary)
- It’s a very short progression from “I just beat that dude up for hitting on you, you’re mine.” to “I’m going to beat you up because dudes keep hitting on you, you need to remember that you’re mine.”
… see what I’m saying?
We ALL have moments of jealousy. I still have moments of both jealousy (Hey, you’re taking from me) and envy (Hey, I want that too) to deal with in relationships; even we who are poly maybe especially us because we wander paths that are likely to make us face it more frequently. Jealousy is a reminder to poke WHY you feel that way. If you feel like “He’s out with Jake tonight. I know he and Jake aren’t together, but maybe he wants to be? Maybe that’s why he’s with Jake tonight instead of me?” … poke that shit. What does it really mean? Is it that you don’t believe your partner for some reason? Is it that you feel like you’re not desirable? How do you short-circuit those thoughts, and heal, and grow? NOT ignore them, but heal them.
Envy likewise. “Wait, Beth is out with Kevin tonight and I can’t go out with Beth tonight because I have to work. I wish *I* got to go out tonight with Beth.” OK… first it’s completely reasonable to be bummed about missing out. So assess self-care and how you’re doing with that. Are you ALWAYS missing out? Or is it just, yeah tonight sucks and that’s what it is?
If you find yourself feeling violent toward someone because of the way they look at your partner? If you want to become physically intimidating or verbally abusive toward someone? You should really think that through. Frankly, you should seek help.
If your partner IS that person? Get out. You are not safe, and you deserve better.
One of my questions to new Romance authors now is simply “Tell me your thoughts about jealousy as an expression of love, specifically territoriality.” Because I just don’t think we need to fertilize this weed whose fruit is so inevitably abuse and control.
If you write characters who go through their jealousy cycle… ask yourself why that person feels that way. It will give you a lot of insight I think, and it could make the story deeper and more vibrant if you explore that and let the character work on growing and healing instead of lashing out.
All my love to you and any and all partners, in the flesh… or on the page! (book loves, amirite?!)
Keep reading, keep writing, keep listening… keep sharing your stories.
Cheers, and Bisous!