Hi. My name is Martha Kauppi. I’m an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor. I’m here today to talk a little more, following up on my vlog series about jealousy in polyamorous and other forms of open relationships.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the balance between building security between partners and stretching in terms of managing emotions like jealousy and discomfort. I want to draw an enormous distinction right out of the gate.
There’s a huge difference between the kinds of emotions that you experience when someone has broken an agreement—anger, resentment, betrayal: those kinds of emotions are one thing—versus “My partner is out on a date with somebody else and I’m just feeling stirred up. I’m making some comparisons. I’m worried about losing my relationship. I’ve got lots of narrative stuff going on in my head. I’m making up stories, worrying about stuff, and feeling insecure in one way or another.” That’s another whole category of thing and they’re not the same.
Then, there’s rumination. Rumination can happen with these or any other kinds of emotions. Rumination is “I keep going over it, over it, and over it in my mind. It might be the situation, the argument, my partner on a date. It could be anything. I just keep thinking about it, thinking about it, and thinking about it. Replaying it, replaying it, and replaying it,” or “Preplaying it, preplaying it, and preplaying it.” Future playing. That kind of rumination, when I’m all inside my head chewing on something, there’s the kind of internal processing that leads to something else and then there’s just like, “And now we’re stuck.”
What I’d like to suggest is that you can take rumination, the stuck thing, and turn it into a conversation that’s worth having. If somebody’s experiencing a lot of rumination, I would say to them, “What is the conversation that you’re not having, and with whom? You’re ruminating about something. You’re having a conversation with them in your head, you’re having a fight with them in your head, you’re arguing with them, or you’re in a fight with yourself. Who exactly are you in a fight with? Who are you in a struggle with? Who would you be having this conversation with, actually, if you were going to have the conversation straight out? Let’s get it out of your head and in between two people where it belongs.”
Let’s imaginet that I’m ruminating about an argument that I had with my partner this morning, for instance, as an example. Once I get clear on what it is that was distressing to me about it, it would be a much happier and healthier outcome for me to take that information to my partner and say, “So, about that conversation we had this morning. I’d like to revisit a couple things about that. Is now a good time? Let’s talk.” Then say, “This happened for me. This was what I heard. This was what was upsetting for me and I want to share that with you,” or “This is what I’m afraid of. This is what I’m worried about.”
If you’re ruminating about something, see if you can figure out what conversation you could be having with an actual person, not yourself, instead. That will end the ruminating.
If you’re feeling angry, resentful, and pissed off, or any other thing because your partner has broken an agreement, that’s the kind of thing a person might ruminate about. Get that conversation out of your head and into an interaction between the two of you. “It is still quite upsetting to me that you broke this agreement. My perception is that this was an agreement that we had and you broke it. Do we have a shared understanding? Do you remember making that agreement? Would you agree that you broke that agreement? Do we have a shared history here? How are we going to move forward from here?” That’s what I mean when I say to get rumination out of your head and into a real conversation with a real human.
Feelings like envy: “I wish it was me on this date. I wish it was me that you were looking at that way. I wish that we were in the early stages of our relationship. I’m afraid that this or that thing is going to happen to our relationship as a result of this.” Those kinds of things, some of those are conversations that could happen, like, “I have a fear I’d like to check out with you,” or “I find myself comparing myself to other people that you’re with a lot and I’d just like to check in with you about that.”
Your partner probably chose you for a really good reason and probably loves and adores you for really good reasons and they’re probably able to tell you what those reasons are. “These are the irreplaceable aspects of you that I love and will always love. No matter who else I love, like, or interact with in whatever way, this is the ‘you’ that I see, that I relate to, and that I love.”
Now, let’s talk about security and how you build security in a relationship. This kind of thing is building security. “I see you, I know you, I love you, I want you. You’re irreplaceable.” That’s such an important part of a relationship for everybody to understand. Why do I love you? What is it that I love about you? Why is that irreplaceable? Of course it’s irreplaceable! You are you and nobody else is you. Getting clear about that will help clear up some of this other stuff.
I hope this helps as you’re thinking about jealousy and other kinds of difficult emotions, what kind of conversations you might want to have with your partner instead of in your own head and getting all of that cleared up a little bit. I hope that you’re starting to see that there are some real things you can do to create safety and security in a relationship, even if it’s an open relationship. We can talk more about those in future vlog posts as well, so let me know if you have questions. Thank you so much for joining me.