Jealousy is useful

I keep reading about how ever feeling jealousy means you’re terrible and unevolved and real poly people never feel jealous and it’s really starting to bug me.

Jealousy, like any other emotion, is just a signal. It’s not bad or good on its own, it’s how you react to it that matters. I mean, anger is supposedly “bad” and “negative” all the time, but it’s also fuel for fighting injustice and a signal that something going on is not okay. Sometimes that signal means that you need to learn to chill the fuck out and sometimes it means that someone is being an asshole to you.

Same with jealousy. Sometimes it means that you need a little extra reassurance from your partner. Sometimes it means you have some serious work to do on yourself. Sometimes it means you need to have a serious talk with your partner about how their actions affect you. And sometimes it means your partner is an asshole.

None of those things are signals you want to ignore! Even if you just need a little extra reassurance, you need to ask for that before that unmet need kills your relationship. Sure, it sounds little, but the little stuff matters. Grand gestures can be exciting and all, but what really matters is how you treat your partner day to day. If you feel unappreciated, that feeling isn’t going to magically go away because you think people who ever feel jealous are bad. It’s going to snowball if you don’t change things, even just a little.

Of course, sometimes jealousy takes more to fix than asking your partner to tell you you’re pretty. If you can’t stand for your partner to have any friends of the gender(s) they’re attracted to (not sure what bi or pan people are supposed to do), for example, there’s absolutely nothing your partner can do to fix that. You need to do some very serious work on yourself if you ever want to be happy. I don’t expect the people who need to do that to listen to me, but in case any of their partners are reading: it’s not you. You cannot love your partner’s insecurity away. They are the only one who can fix that, all you can do in that situation is decide what kind of treatment is okay with you and what means you need to leave.

However, just because sometimes jealousy is sometimes more about you and your own insecurities more than about your partner’s actions doesn’t mean it’s never about their actions. Sometimes jealousy is totally justified, sometimes it really is them. It would be nice if people’s partners were never assholes, but sometimes they really, really are. Read an advice column (I particularly like Captain Awkward), and see how often people ask how they can stop being such jealous assholes when their partners are out late with flimsy excuses and weird charges show up on their credit card bills or when their partner is openly neglecting them or putting them last in favour of a new hobby/friend/job/whatever.

Having feelings about your partner treating you badly doesn’t magically mean you’re wrong. It’s normal to feel angry when someone hurts you and it’s normal to feel jealous when your partner doesn’t make you a priority. In cases like that, jealousy is a sign that you still have some self-esteem, not some sort of personality flaw.

I don’t see “not feeling jealous” as a worthwhile goal at all. Feeling secure is a worthwhile goal, rarely feeling jealous is just a side-effect of that. Communicating well with your partner so you solve problems before they become a big deal is a worthwhile goal, and rarely feeling jealous is just a side-effect of that.  Go for the real goals, don’t mistake the side-effect for what you really want to accomplish.

And for fuck’s sake, don’t beat yourself up for feeling jealous when your partner is being an asshole.

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