Envy is Real
Envy, or FOMO (fear of missing out), or a subset of what we generally call jealousy, is undeniably real in polyamory. But it’s undeniably real in monogamy too. What person doesn’t sometimes feel a little upset that they’re the one at home taking care of the kids and pets when their partner is out on plans with friends because a sitter was nowhere to be found on a given day?
The technique of practicing dealing with envy or FOMO in a dyad format if you come into polyamory in a couple - of practicing being more independent and spending time apart to feel negative things and handle them - is helpful to many people with applying this to polyamory. Once you’re generally comfortable with processing your envy, envy over time your partner spends away with a partner rather than a friend or a hobby isn’t so different. It’s generally the time and energy being directed away rather than at a person in specific that is the issue when it’s FOMO or envy at the root of your jealousy. Fear of being left needs other techniques - we’ll talk about them another day. FOMO and envy of time spent “doing fun things” or “of fun itself” is best handled just through practice - whether coupled or not.
Honestly, my biggest technique for handling not having fun when other people are is to add fun to what I’m doing if I can. Am I stuck home with the kids? It’s mom’s night to choose the movie and we’re watching one that’s a nostalgic fun trip for me- I can sing along and they’ll have fun too, but I’ll be treating that envy while having fun with them instead of sitting in bad feelings about not being out right now. It sounds super simple and maybe kind of dumb? But being able to sing along with my kids to a Muppet movie I liked when I was a kid instead of tolerating a movie they like from the last couple years that I don’t enjoy the same way makes me feel WAY better about the same activity - being home and in charge of getting them fed, entertained and to bed on a weekend night while my partner(s) are out. (Also, it improves their taste, in my opinion. Maybe not in yours. You might think the over-the-top song and dance 1980s drama of The Great Muppet Caper is a horrible thing to expose children to, but I think it’s an amazing example of my taste in child-friendly entertainment.) Then, after they’re off to bed, I do something that’s either also fun or a form of self-care that’s less fun but I’ve been putting off, and that way I carry the positive vibe or feel proud of myself, both of which help with distracting from the FOMO.
Am I just home alone? Same idea - make my time fun. Do a hobby I haven’t been making time for. Take care of myself. If I’m specifically not out with folks because I had to work, make the time after or around the work shift good for me or fun in some way and get some reassurance or make sure I’ve got other plans made soon to look forward to. I say these things like they’re simple - and I know because they’re emotions they aren’t. It’s hard to get enough practice to make emotional shifts faster, and simpler. But it happens over time. I sincerely promise that over time implementing this becomes habit and it goes to “oh I’m feeling this I should…” and you start to do one of the things that help rather than spiraling into your feelings. How long it takes varies by person, but it’s all a matter of practice, and that’s why I suggest implementing it in not-partner scenarios as well. It’s worth making sure you don’t do everything *but* date together, so that you’re only feeling this in the context of your polyamory. Because envy and FOMO are real everywhere, and practice makes perfect in dealing with them.