Last week I responded to a viewer question whose boyfriend wanted to open up their relationship and that left him feeling like, “Why am I not enough?” Today I want to tackle the idea that an open relationship, or polyamory, exacerbates feelings of insecurity or jealousy, because in my experience and in the experience of a lot of my friends and clients who are in open or polyamorous relationships, I’ve actually seen the opposite.
We’re more secure, more confident, and less jealous in open relationships or in polyamorous relationships.
Today I’m going to explain why I think that’s the case and give you some practical things that you can do in your relationship to make you feel more secure, whether you’re already in an open relationship or polyamorous relationship, or you’re considering one, or whether you want to stay monogamous.
Whenever I talk about open relationships, a common refrain from folks not yet in one are,
“I don’t know if I could do that, I’m just too jealous,”
or “I’m just too insecure.” And when I work with clients who are considering an open relationship, sometimes one of the feelings that comes up is just a feeling of insufficiency, of why am I not enough?
I think it’s important to point out that these are all people in monogamous relationships. How many people do you know or maybe you’ve experienced yourself in a monogamous relationship where you feel insecure, you feel anxious, you feel like you’re not enough, you feel maybe even jealous? Monogamy doesn’t actually make any of those feelings go away. It doesn’t protect us from those things.
Underneath all those uncomfortable feelings, there’s usually at least one of two underlying fears.
There is a fear of inherent unworthiness.
You might tell yourself that there is something about me that just isn’t good enough.
And/or a fear of being left or abandoned by your partner.
Perhaps because you’re not enough, your partner will leave you for someone else. That there’s someone sexier, richer, funnier, better in bed, whatever it might be, that your partner is eventually going to leave you for.
These fears tap into some deep, primal evolutionary parts of our brains.
So if you’re feeling that way, no shame, no blame. Just acknowledge that that’s where you are and be gentle with yourself for how you’re feeling. Those are uncomfortable feelings and big fears.
The question then becomes: what do we do about that?
Monogamy offers this myth that it will protect us from all of those uncomfortable feelings and the results, that it will keep us protected and safe and stable and secure. But we can know by our experiences in relationships that even in monogamous relationships we still sometimes feel jealous or insecure or insufficient and sometimes monogamous relationships just end.
What a healthy open or polyamorous relationship offers is a framework to look those fears dead in the eye and confront them.
You don’t have to wonder is your partner with you out of obligation or because they feel sorry for you or because they’re stuck. They could be with anyone and they’re choosing right now to be with you. And furthermore, you don’t have to wonder…
“Is my boyfriend attracted to someone else?”
“Does he have a crush on that coworker?”
“What’s going on with the new guy in his choir?”
Because there’s a place for open communication about that.
I don’t have to wonder if my boyfriend has a crush on someone, I know he does!
That doesn’t have to be scary or take away from what we have, because I can still feel secure in our relationship. When we talk about those crushes, when I know that he’s on a date with someone, it takes all of the sort of negative power away from it and it becomes a place where we can connect instead.
So if you feel jealous or insecure in your relationship and you don’t like the way that that feels, an open relationship or polyamorous relationship might actually be a way for you to confront those feelings and allow those feelings to dissipate, to release the power that I have over you.
And if you want to be monogamous, that’s a-okay, too.
One thing that you can learn from folks in open relationships or polyamorous relationships is to do that work of confronting your feelings and looking at them head on and talking about them.
Why do you feel jealous?
Why do you feel insecure?
What’s underneath those feelings?
And how can you do the work within yourself to address that rather than relying on this structure to protect you from it?
Because the structure of monogamy can ultimately fail in protecting you from those things. However, if you have got a solid core in yourself and a solid foundation in your relationship, the exact structure of your relationship (monogamous, open, polyamorous, etc) is less important because you’re not gonna feel as jealous or insecure. And when you do have those feelings come up, you’ll have healthy tools to deal with them.
How to put all of this into practice
This is obviously just scratching the surface, and the work of feeling secure in a relationship or the work of opening up a relationship can be complicated. If you want some personalized support and guidance as you move through that process, I’m here to help. You can apply for a free discovery call to see how I can support you in your relationship.