Depending on your uniquely calibrated emotional Richter scale, jealousy can register as a blip or an earthquake. Some people thrill from the fierce possessiveness that jealousy elicits, while others bristle at what they perceive as a lack of trust. Most experts agree that jealousy is a natural reaction that, when exacerbated, can quickly result in irrational, damaging behavior. While people in monogamous relationships grapple with their fair share of insecurity, jealousy in open relationships can assume complex, surprising forms. Many non-monogamous partners feel unnecessarily stigmatized and guilty during bouts of jealousy—there's that saying about heat and a kitchen for a reason, right?
Not quite. Wendy-O Matik, author Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships and spokesperson for non-monogamous couples, says most people feel some jealousy regardless of the structure of their relationships. Phew! With that in mind, here are five steps to keep couples sane and happy during an attack of the green-eyed monster.
1. Lose the Stigma
People living in open relationships often feel guilty and disappointed in themselves for being vulnerable to jealousy. Jealousy can seem like a personal failure or compromising agent because, hey, you signed up for a relationship that allows you both to date other people. "People in non-monogamous relationships can feel pressured to deny or bury their jealousy just because they think it's wrong to feel that way," Matik says. "Instead, we should say, 'Yep, I'm jealous, and it feels really awful.' Denying it, of course, will just make it get worse."
2. Set Down Guidelines
"Open" doesn't necessarily translate to "no rules." Articulate boundaries so that both you and your partner know the limits to each other's permissiveness. Maybe it's okay to spend the weekend with someone else, but the primary pair should be home Sunday night. A couple might insist on always sleeping in the same bed at the end of the night, or being able to meet a partner's new love interest first. If guidelines are laid down in the beginning, there's less opportunity to accidentally snag a jealousy trip wire.
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