I’ve never used Botox, but I think jealousy can be likened to the neurotoxin. In very small carefully placed and managed doses, it helps us. I mean it feels good to be wanted. We want our paramour to see us as desirable, to know that other bachelors/bachelorettes find us desirable, and to give some general fucks about having us to themselves. Even if we have a healthy self esteem and sense of personal worth and we score a perfect ten on the latest EQ assessment tool and the descendants of Ghandi are dialing us up for pro tips on peaceful revolution, sexual desirability is a THING. It’s not unenlightened to enjoy it. It’s part of the mystery of romantic love, which if you want to get all spiritual and philosophical about you’ll have to slide into my DM’s and buy me a glass of wine first. So yes, toxic jealousy is arguably redundant. Yep we know it’s toxic but a small dose of that tension makes us feel a little prettier and if we’re lucky cures a migraine. So I am saying that it’s okay to relax your forehead wrinkles, or to tell them about the hot bartender half your age who thinks you’re a god/dess. But too much of that youth juice and no one’s smiling anymore. Literally. For months.
The truth is, I don’t want you to hurt. Not one tiny little bit because I love you. I don’t want you feel excluded, or unimportant to me. I don’t want you to feel disrespected or uncomfortable. You are the object of my affection and my sexual desire and I want you to feel fucking great about that. I don’t want you to sincerely question your importance to me, or how my stomach does that flippy thing when you do that Tom Cruise jaw muscle flex, or toss your Julia Roberts tresses behind your back with a sparkly laugh. Hurting you hurts me.
Provoking jealousy as a weapon is manipulative and passive aggressive. You see it most often when someone feels hurt, or isn’t getting their needs met, and doesn’t feel emotionally invested in by their partner. It doesn’t solve anything and just creates patterns on patterns on patterns that no seamstress is going to get the pins out of.
Toxic jealousy (which I will now differentiate from Botoxic Jealousy) is born of deep insecurity but more importantly it is a form of possession and control. I need you to feed my bottomless pit of insecurity and need for worth and self love, neither of which can ever be fed by another person, and you are therefore constantly emotionally drained by this process, which usually plays out somewhere along a spectrum of constant reassurance to high drama conflict fights and aggression, and always escalates and erodes emotional safety. If this is your dynamic, your relationship lacks a solid foundation. Your partner needs help from a professional. Hands down.
So what about all of those in between situations? What are the relationship best practices for navigating the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY areas of what it means to be faithful, and create emotional security in your relationship? Well let me start with an easy ‘slide-rule’ guideline.
WHEN IN DOUBT PROTECT THE RELATIONSHIP
You’re going to tell me that it’s okay to have friends, and that you have no intention of crossing any lines. Maybe you are not attracted to said ‘friend’ at all, sexually. Maybe it fits the bill for generic safe friendship. There is nothing wrong with going for coffee everyday at break time, or texting about a common interest. And maybe you are right. Maybe you know, deep down in your innermost place of deep secret thoughts, that there is no way you would EVER feel or think flirty thoughts about this person, and therefore you are in the clear, right? And your partner should be okay with it right? And so any discomfort is his/her problem, right? A sign of MISTRUST, or toxic jealousy. You stand to lose something and your fight response is rightly provoked.
And I am going to say WAIT A HOT MINUTE.
The problem with this thinking, is that even the Nicholas Sparks worthy love stories, even the Romeos and Juliettes are not going to have access to your innermost place of deep secret thoughts. So, the chances of them feeling discomfort or pain, even if they trust your motives or your commitment, are high. Maybe not every time, or in every circumstance. But they are high. AND if you make it about trust, then they are effectively not allowed to feel, validate, express or work through their discomfort because it is seen as an attack on your integrity and motives. And this creates fissures in the relationship dynamic.
Our own trustworthiness is not the measuring stick for taking really good care of our relationship. It’s a gift to really like or even LOVE someone and have them feel all of those things back for us. It’s a gift to have fucks given about who we spend time with and give our attention to. So how do we take care of that and protect that?
- Firstly, we pay attention. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a friend or an interaction with someone. But we can do it in a way that is loving and protective of our partner. We can take care to assure our partner without them having to ask us about the nature of the connection or the interaction. We can take an extra measure or two to keep it above board. Meet in neutral environments. Conscious and intentional sensitivity will go a long way, and when we see and understand it as a way to kindly and lovingly protect our gift and the person we love, it feels pretty damn good to make those choices. We aren’t buying into the narrative that we are losing out, or losing ourselves. Strings and blurry lines with exes and friends don’t keep us from losing ourselves, they keep us from investing and from true intimacy.
- Ask, is this appropriate? When I was engaged to be married my husband-to-be chimed into an otherwise innocuous conversation that he was planning a camping trip with his ex-common law girlfriend of six years. Just the two of them, tenting in the woods, for several overnights. Now before you ROFLYAO, I knew the history of their relationship, and I knew that any attraction to her had long since faded, and I knew that he felt some sense of compassion, wanting to make right his departure from the relationship by being a supportive friend. I didn’t actually feel worried that he would cross a line, or stray, or anything of the sort. But it was not okay with me. Not one tiny bit. Because it was inappropriate.
- Does it look, smell or taste like behaviour we engage in as a couple? Does it look, smell or taste romantic? Then it’s probably not doing your relationship any favours. Because it’s stepping into the intimacy that is reserved for our primary partnership. Because even with best intentions those types of engagements DO open us up to unexpected romantic connections, so even if this time is an exception and nothing comes out of it, it’s not a best practice.It’s not going to feel comfortable or safe or prioritize the relationship. And if you look for your partner to “okay it” because they should trust you, you are creating a potential for disconnect and strain.
- Does it disparage your partner? We all need to vent and talk through our challenges but we can do this in a way that doesn’t paint them in a disrespectful light or cross a line in terms of privacy, or intimacy.
- Does it create romantic intimacy with someone else? Don’t talk shit about Susie to Linda, unless you and Linda are lifetime platonic friends and she knows the love and respect you intend behind your rant of the day. Definitely don’t talk shit about Bob to Gary if Gary kinda maybe has a bit of a crush on you, even just a wee emotional one because that creates intimacy with Gary that is romantic territory, even if you don’t plan on bedding the guy.
- Is it serving the greater good of your relationship, your emotional health and your life? If it’s a really important friendship then it’s worth navigating sensitive areas together. But do you really need to flirt with Bob at the company party? Do you need to make friends with the cute office admin? Are you really giving up by taking lavishly great care of your primary relationship? And sometimes we ARE in fact crossing a line, self deceiving, and the best thing we can do is be honest with ourselves first and figure out what we are needing and why, so that we don’t get into a hot mess, or break something precious. Divorce courts are full of good good people who got lonely or were afraid to ask, or never healed that old betrayal.
And if we can acknowledge sexual desirability is desirable for most of us, then we can allow for that Botoxic Jealousy that makes us all a bit crazy at times, and cut our partner some slack. Let them be a little crazy for us once in a while, give them a veto card that let’s them say no you can’t do that perfectly innocent thing just this once because I feel a bit crazy about you.
Finally, we are all grown ass adults here and we can make up our own relationship rules and practices. I do suggest involving your actual partner in the rule making if you’re taking some creative liberties. It’s never fun when one person is in an open relationship and the other is not #shedugherkeysintothesideofhisdirtylittlesoupedupfourwheeldrive. I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong or that you can’t make it up yourself. I’m just here to make sure you don’t go in for a little zhush and come out with another face.
“Now I’m falling asleep And she’s calling a cab While he’s having a smoke And she’s taking a drag Now they’re going to bed And my stomach is sick And it’s all in my head But she’s touching his chest now He takes off her dress now Let me go And I just can’t look, it’s killing me And taking control”
from Mr. Brightside by The Killers
— Love, Erin
P.S. You’ve been asking me how to get your friends and loved ones the help I’ve been able to give you. We can do that. Contact me and we’ll talk details.
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