The Healthy Purpose of Jealousy

The Potential for Jealousy is Doubled for Bisexualsman-looking-window-is

Bisexuality is often invisible because the problems bisexual people face are often identical to those faced by everyone, regardless of sexual orientation.

Bisexuals are, before anything else, people and they each have their own quirks and things that make them unique from other people and other bisexuals.

One of the things that many people have to deal with regardless of sexual orientation or relationship status is jealousy.

This is one of those universally troubling issues that I see often in my office. However, while many couples try to eliminate the chance of jealousy by restricting their partners from having opposite-gender friends, for a bisexual, anyone of either/any gender is a potential target of attraction.

So let’s dive into an understanding of jealousy and how to deal with it.

Popular Understanding of Jealousy

Jealousy is often portrayed as a negative, albeit understandable, emotion. Popular culture portrays the jealous spouse as someone to either be supported or pitied, depending on whether the viewing audience is supposed to sympathize with the jealous spouse or the cheating one.

The common understanding of jealousy in this monogamous culture is that one’s spouse “belongs” to them and only them. This is a vestige of the feudal days in which women were viewed more as property than as fully capable human beings in their own right.

Those living in ethically non-monogamous arrangements, as many bisexuals and others choose to do, also struggle with jealousy. And for them, it can be even more difficult since there is a widespread belief in those communities that jealousy is inappropriate and a sign of underdevelopment or immaturity.

The Actual Purpose of Jealousy

Regardless of your relational orientation, however, jealousy actually does have a legitimate purpose and you can learn to work with it in a healthy way, as a tool, to improve your relationship.

Jealousy usually indicates one of two things:

1) Either a boundary has been crossed, or

2) There’s a need not being met.

Picture, for example, a scenario in which your partner starts going out with the same friend from work every week. The original agreement between you was that groups of friends are okay to hang out with, but one on one friendships need to be approved in advance. Once you find out about this, you may begin to feel those tendrils of negativity that we often label “jealousy.” This is for two reasons in this scenario: for one thing your partner crossed a boundary when they broke the relationship rule you had both previously agreed on. And secondarily, they hid it from you so you had to “find out about it.” What else are they hiding? And what other boundaries might be being crossed?

Another example might be if the two of you didn’t have any such rule; instead it is totally okay for either of you to have friends in any number and with any gender, provided you get to meet them at some point and everything is out in the open. Then you happen to be out together and your partner has their arm draped over the shoulders of one of their friends, laughing and joking with this other person in a way that they haven’t with you much lately. And in fact, that’s something that used to define your relationship and you really loved and have been missing. Now you see your partner sharing that with someone else, and those tendrils start to creep through your psyche, and you wonder what else they’re sharing (or want to be sharing) with this other person.

So what can you do about jealousy?

First – Remember to Breathe

How do we take those negative feelings and turn them into something useful? First, stop and breathe.

This will allow you to think and to take a step back from the impulse to do something you may later regret and which will almost certainly be more damaging to your relationship. Now you can choose how you will respond. You can’t always choose how you will emotionally react to something, but you do have the power to choose how you will express those feelings.

And remember, too, that the only thing you have control over in this situation IS your reaction. Much as we may sometimes wish to, we cannot ever really control another person, and because of that reality, we can’t really control situations, either. But we can be personally responsible for our own reactions.

Next – Self-Reflect

After you’ve taken a calming breath or two and remembered that you get to choose how you react to the situation, then think through the next couple items:

First, what is actually happening here? It’s important to observe the facts of the situation and be very careful about interpreting what you’re seeing or making assumptions about what certain actions “must” mean. When you see your partner draping their arm over someone else’s shoulder, you can see them being physically close…this does not necessarily signify that they have shared any other physical intimacy with one another. What it does mean, perhaps, is that this other person is getting some of the touch from your partner that you’ve been craving.

Second, remember that your partner usually is not trying to hurt you. Yes, some relationships devolve to the point where each party is trying to harm the other – this is not a healthy or functional relationship anymore and is past the point where the suggestions in this article might help. That couple who are out to hurt each other need much more help than I can offer with just a few typed words. But back to you, hopefully…remember that you actually love each other. Try to start with an assumption of ignorance rather than malice. What I mean is, try not to let your first thought about your partner’s behavior be that they are doing whatever they are doing just to hurt you. Most people, when they do something that hurts another, honestly don’t realize at the time that it will hurt the other as much as it winds up doing. It’s a function of ignorance or neglect, rather than malice or active abuse. This can often be remedied through awareness and future mindfulness.

Finally – Communicate!

Now that you’ve spent a few minutes in quiet self-reflection, you can move on to the conversation you need to have with your partner. These situations should always be discussed openly, rather than sat on. If you try to suppress the feelings of jealousy, they will only continue to worsen, poisoning your own mind and wellbeing, as well as the relationship itself. It’s important in any difficult discussion like this one, to maintain personal responsibility and remember what you’re trying to achieve. Are you trying to win an argument…or get your needs for understanding and intimacy met? The answer is likely the latter, so try not to attack or point fingers to begin this conversation. Instead, start more softly and come from a place of needing to share your feelings and needs, and less of a place of telling the other person what they’re doing wrong. Here’s an example:

“Dearest, I need to talk to you about how I felt last night at the party. When I saw you talking with Jody and you had your arm draped over her shoulder and the two of you were joking so easily, part of me was elated to hear your laughter. But another part of me felt sad. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get that joy back in our relationship for some time. I felt lonely because I’ve been wanting to laugh and be silly with you again, like we used to be able to do. I wonder if we could talk about how to get back to that place with each other?”

This states the observed behavior without any accusations, it shares the speaker’s feelings without a guilt trip, and it asks, directly, for what the speaker wants, without any other games or manipulation tactics or attacks. It also doesn’t directly label the feelings the speaker was experiencing as “jealousy,” per se, because that word is such an emotionally charged buzz word that could generate an unnecessary defensive response.

So the next time you begin to feel jealousy creep into your relationship, take a breath and a step back and look at whether those feelings could be pointing to an issue regarding crossed boundaries or unmet needs. Then talk about those feelings with your partner. Don’t let them bottle up until they spill over as a volcanic eruption. No matter who or how many you love, communication is always going to the best tool in your relationship skills toolbox!

About Inara de Luna

Inara de Luna is a bisexual, polyamorous, kinky pagan who is also a Relationship Coach and a Sexuality Educator. She is a Gender, Sexuality & Relationship Diversity Specialist, with training and experience as a Marriage & Family Therapist. Inara is a sex positive activist, a published author, and a national presenter. She prefers to support those whose identities fall outside the mainstream norms. For more information, you can find her online at or on FacebookK/a>.