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Dear Naked Truth –
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 9 years [we’ll name them Peanutbutter & Wonderbread] and dote on me in all the best ways. Before I met Peanutbutter & 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, briney pickle called Jealousy on the side of this otherwise scrumptious sandwich you’ve built with Peanutbutter & Wonderbread. Don’t go stuffing your formerly-cucumber foe down your throat and swallowing it just yet (there’s a time and place for that and this ain’t it, amirite?). Explore what the green-eyed monster is telling you, Jelly, instead of cramming it into a jar where it’ll surely ferment into resentment.
Your ex showed you that jealousy is not a frivolous feeling as the green-eyed monster spent 5 years trying to draw your attention to some bullshit. 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 Peanutbutter & 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 briney-ass 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 MIIIINNNE!) 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 cuz 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? Are you feeling insecure in your relationship with Wonderbread? What is it about Mr. Grabby that’s got you green? Do you wish Wonderbread would grab your grapes the way he does his? Is this actually about the Cookie Monster or is Wonderbread truly untrustworthy?
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 Peanutbutter 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 & 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 the Cookie Monster taught you. And if all else fails, remember that Jelly doesn’t need Peanutbutter & Wonderbread to be delicious. It’s just as awesome on its own or piped into a hot, fresh doughnut.
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Yana Tallon-Hicks is Unicorn Booty’s sex and relationship advice columnist. Yana currently studies Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University in the hopes of becoming the best damn queer sex therapist in the land. She received her undergrad in sexuality studies and sex education and has worked as a sex educator at sex toy shops Good Vibrations and She Bop. Her columns on sex and sexual culture have appeared in the Valley Advocate, Curve, Bitch, Autostraddle.com, and The Toast. Find her at Facebook and on Instagram @the_vspot.