By Tom Bruett, MFT
Tom is a psychotherapist and couples counselor at the Gay Therapy Center San Francisco.
Feeling jealous in an open LGBTQ relationship is perfectly natural. It is perfectly natural to feel all sorts of things in any type of relationship.
The trick is not to limit the range of emotions we feel, but rather decide what we want to do with the emotions when they come up. Because they will come up. For example, you may feel jealous if your partner sleeps with another person, but feeling jealous in and of itself is not the end of the world.
We’re in an age when we can decide what type of relationship structure works for us. For some, a monogamous relationship is crucial to feeling safe and secure. For others, there are various non-monogamous arrangements that can allow for safety, security, increased intimacy and not to mention fun.
Open or Non-monogamous Relationships
There are a number of resources for couples looking to open up or change the structure of their relationship. I won’t be covering all the types of relationship structures available in this article. However, when I refer to non-monogamy or open relationships, I’m referring to a consensual and mutually agreed upon relationship where either or both parties are able to have sex or date more than one person.
The book The Ethical Slut is a fantastic primer for those interested in learning more about non-monogamous relationships.
Below are some tools to begin understanding complex emotions like jealousy that may pop up from time to time, especially in open or non-monogamous relationships. Feeling jealous in an open relationship is not necessarily a crisis. Though painful, it can be a positive experience.
What To Do When Feeling Jealous in an Open Relationship
Sit with the feeling. Try and understand your feelings without judgment. Are you scared that you may lose your partner? Are there ways your partner could make you feel more secure? The first step is understanding what’s going on inside you and then you’ll be better able to better communicate that to someone else.
Take a moment before you react. In primary attachment relationships, small actions can sometimes cause big reactions. Take a moment to calm and soothe yourself before beginning a tough conversation with you partner about your needs or fears.
Give yourself a pat on the back. Open relationships take a lot of work! They require trust, honesty and communication on a level that can be pretty intense. Take a moment to validate the progress that you have made so far.
Communicate with your partner. Make a pact to only communicate about sensitive topics when you’re both feeling calm and grounded. Make sure you know what you are feeling or needing before you begin making requests from your partner.
Turn toward each other. This is a technique often spoken about by John and Julie Gottman, leaders in couples therapy research. When your partner does reach out to begin processing or looking at tough emotions, make space for them. They’re more than likely making a bid for connection and putting themselves out there in a vulnerable way. Turn toward them, instead of turning away and making the situation worse.