5 Painless Ways To Manage Jealousy In An Open Relationship

Jealousy and open relationships go hand in hand.

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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 an open relationship 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 of 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.

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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 guidelines — and stick to them.

"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.

3. Take care of yourself.



Matik emphasizes the necessity of personal responsibility and self-soothing activities in open relationships.

"We can't expect our partners to take care of all our needs — everyone needs a way to calm themselves down. Maybe your plan is to call your best friend, or take a hot bath, or rent a funny movie; but you have to know how to deal with jealousy without leaning on your partner all the time."

As in all healthy individuals, the ability to cope with jealousy in an open relationship demands a personal wellspring of confidence that doesn't hinge on your partner's love.

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4. Reassure each other.



Declarations of jealousy should always be met with respect and understanding — ignoring or belittling someone else's fears will only magnify them. And while soothing words might blunt jealousy's edges during face-to-face time, verbal promises can fall flat when during a period of separation.

Couples who make frequent gestures to express their commitment — doing small favors, staying sexually active and creative, sticking to date nights, honoring boundaries — will be better equipped to date other people and still feel secure in their primary relationship.

5. Understand that there is an upside to jealousy. 



Matik views jealousy as a "guidepost emotion"—where an exploration of its causes can yield deeper self-awareness.

"Someone who gets jealous when their partner leaves for a date might discover it's because of an abandonment issue they had as a child, which is a situation that happened long before they met their partner. As soon as someone knows why they feel jealous, they're less likely to feel afraid."

Pinpointing the rational roots of a frequently irrational emotion can often squelch the worst elements of jealousy — paranoia, lack of perspective, alienation, and co-dependency. Set aside time for personal reflection, schedule an appointment with a therapist, or simply bring it up with your partner.


All relationships — but especially open relationships — might do well to expect jealousy as inevitable but surmountable, human but certainly not invincible. Matik, one of the most prominent members of the non-monogamous community, writes off the idea of a perfect, jealousy-free union.

"Jealousy will probably happen at some point. It doesn't mean there's something wrong or flawed with the relationship. What matters is that we love each other more than we dislike the things that make us jealous."

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Wendy-O Matik offers classes and counseling on radical love. Visit her website for touring information.