It seems to be the subject of conversation I've had with many people lately.
At Kinkfest, the subject came up after my date and I parted company as he had a scene planned with another play partner. I had people come up to me the rest of the night asking quietly, "where is he?" It was an open dungeon - they all knew where he was and knew who he was with. When I replied, "oh, he's scening with so-and-so", their response was shocked. My casualness. My off-the-cuff remark. When a particular person mentioned it to me, I actually went as far as pointing out that we had talked about it beforehand, and he was coming home with me - so I don't care.
I do care, but not in the way they expected. They seemed to expect drama. They seemed to expect fireworks. They seemed to expect someone on the edge of being upset that their date had left them for another play mate. I cared that he had a good time. I cared that he was treated well. I cared that he got out of the scene what he had hoped. I did not care that the scene was not with me.
I can feel jealousy. But, I have learned that jealousy is a response - a reaction to something that is really at the root of the issue. Jealousy is like the smoke off the fire. Something in the fire is the issue; the smoke is just the side effect of the fire.
Knowing this, when I feel those pangs of jealousy creeping up, I do not fret about the jealousy itself, I try to figure out how I got there. How did that emotional response get triggered.
Because jealousy is an emotional response to something. People often, especially in open relationships, respond immediately and swiftly to the word without understanding the issue that is behind that word. When G had his jealous response a year ago to a date I had with TL, I knew there was more to the situation than just the response, but could not get him to see it. Once he did, he realized he owned the issue.....he owned the emotion....and only he could solve it. And he realized his jealous response to me was not fair to me.
Ownership of the issue is key. No one can make you feel jealous. The situation may be one thing, but the response is your own. If you keep on top of the issues to begin with, jealousy is not an issue. You let issues go, then jealousy can get in the way.
Take my own recent bout with the word.
In talking to a play partner, I commented that I wanted more play time, damn it! We were joking around - and he liked the comment and the determination. Because I'm me and direct, I commented that I am determined because "I do get a little jealous and insecure when I don't feel like I can get play time. But, that's my issue that I own."
The word jealous triggered a whole other response from him. I realized quite quickly that I had used "the word". Later, I talked to him about it again. One thing that never occurred during out initial conversation was an understanding of why I felt that way. There were no questions - just containment. He reacted to the word and went into full containment mode.
I pointed this out to him. I commented that had he asked me why I felt that way, he may have been surprised at the answer. My jealous response was not a result of me wanting only him to myself - or wanting some sort of say in terms of who and when he plays with. Ironically, my response came from the fact that I wanted him to want me less for my mind sometimes and more for my body. My issue - the fire behind the jealous feeling- had nothing to do with others. My issue was just a situation between him and me.
I use this personal example, but I have found it is the case in almost ever other jealous situation. When you are "open" in swinging or even in BDSM, jealousy is perceived as a huge red flag. And while it should be seen as a sign something is wrong, the only time jealousy is a problem is if the person feeling it starts ACTING on it.
Just like any feelings, how you personally respond to the emotion is the true test. If you get jealous and respond with possessiveness and with control, then the downward spiral begins. The other person will respond accordingly, thus setting off a domino effect that is hard to stop once started.
If you understand the emotions are just that - a response to something else - you can ride them instead of fight them. Work through them instead of use them to justify a reaction that could cause more damage. Use it a signal to yourself that you need to figure out what is causing the smoke. Then you will find that it will pass.
And if you are on the receiving end of jealousy, you too have the decision as to how you are going to react to the jealous response. In some cases, 'run away' is an appropriate response. I mean, crazy is crazy. I've seen it and advised it. But, in many cases, it is setting aside your own response to the word to try to sort out what may be behind the response you are getting from that person. Because sometimes the person you are dealing with cannot figure it out. Sometimes working through it with them is of greater value than being freaked out by their use of the word.
Jealousy happens. To pretend it does not or to label it as good or bad prevents people from actually dealing with the fire behind it. I wish more people would embrace it for what it is - a smoke signal.
Because at the end of the day, I rarely find the jealousy is about other people. I find it is about insecurity - not feeling valued in other ways - or not getting something they need from their partner. Targeting other people as the cause of the jealousy is a cop out - it takes a bigger person and strength to recognize that and deal with the real issue.