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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jealousy vs. control


Recently I've had a few conversations and written a bit about the topic of jealousy. I'm pretty confident in saying that most people experience jealousy at least once in a while. I can also confidently say that while most people don't enjoy the feeling, many believe it is a natural part of human psychology.

What I want to try and do here is explore a fine distinction between jealousy and control. And yes, this is the disclaimer where I let you know I'm not a psychologist although I play one in my mind. I enjoy casually reading and studying psychology and social behavior. In actuality this probably makes me the worst person to talk about psychology, someone who knows just enough to be dangerous. Wanna come lay on my couch?

Ok, back on point please. As I said, I want to "try" to explore a distinction. I'm not sure I can pull it off in a blog post but, let's find out.

A simple conversation about jealousy probably won't reveal the detail I'm talking about. We need to look a bit deeper. As a start lets say you have a problem with your SO's OSO. Not something simple like their hair color or direction they stir their tea. Maybe jealousy of them physically since they are hot looking. Or maybe jealousy of them mentally since they are a rocket scientist and you're not. Something with a bit of depth.

Is it really jealousy?

Have you ever questioned your jealousy? By that I mean, you know you shouldn't be jealous. You aren't even sure why you are jealous. But you know, without a doubt, you are ripping your hair out setting the dog on fire tornado in a trailer park jealous.

Are you really jealous? What if it isn't jealousy. What if you are experiencing a lack of control in your life and/or relationship and don't know how to get things back under control. And because you can't have control you exhibit jealousy instead. Is this making sense? Think of it this way; Should you reward the child for good behavior, or punish the child for bad behavior? You can choose only one or the other.

Are jealousy and control like the example with the child? In other words; I will try to control you and our relationship positively to a specific outcome and if I can't, I will try to obtain that same outcome negatively with jealousy.

Now, I'm not saying this is always a conscious choice. I honestly think it is a subconscious thing at times. But how can you tell the difference? How can you tell when you are being "jealous" for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes I can't. I admit it. Sometimes I need my partner to look me in the eye and say, "You are being ridiculous". For me that is a big red flag that I need to take a look at my feelings.
When I really think about things, and drill down deep, trying to get past the superficial feelings to what is driving them I sometimes realize there is something else going on. Maybe I'm afraid of something, or maybe it is just some twisted moral value or norm I had forgotten about. But once in a while I can see it isn't jealousy I'm feeling, it is the lack of control. Or stated differently, the inability to govern all aspects of a relationship. That's the time when I try and take a step back and realize differences are what make partners interesting to each other. The thought that one of my loves may not do the same thing I would do in a given situation is what challenges me and keeps them interesting in my mind.

The result of the introspection is usually some intense conversation with my love that includes me admitting I'm not jealous, I just don't like something that is happening. If I can I will explain why, and what I might do differently. It also includes me letting them know that I support them doing what they need to do for themselves and I have no right to expect anything less.

So what are your thoughts? Is there really a difference between jealousy and control as I've described here? Is it possible one is naturally a component of the other? Have you ever been in a situation where you realized your feelings weren't jealousy but something else?

And a bigger question that I haven't even attempted to discuss here is; How do you deal with a partner when you believe their jealousy is actually an attempt at control?

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