Jealousy, Insecurity, and Nesting
2020 has been a really weird year. Things that barely registered in the background prior to March and local shelter-in-place/lockdown orders read really prominent on video calls now - family photos, etsy-store-generated star charts of significant moments in other relationships, souvenirs from trips both day and longer made by nesting partners sitting together on shelves - dozens of little reminders that this is a shared home on walls, shelves, and tables. I thought - I would have told you a hundred times in the year and months before this whole situation made me so acutely aware of the fact that I don’t have one of those nesting partners, and my partner has two - that none of that bothers me, that all those kinds of art are incredibly cute (they are, actually, and not just because my partner and metamours are adorable), and that I miss having someone to sleep next to some nights but otherwise could take my time on finding a nesting partner.
I don’t know for sure (although I’ve spent some therapy hours talking about it) whether this is just a “it’s a pandemic and I lack romantic contact at the intensity and frequency I’m used to and that plus my underlying hope of finding a nesting partner is manifesting in intense awareness of my partner having that when I don’t,” thing, or a “I’m a lady of a certain age who is living alone and is having odd biological clock feelings that are manifesting in frustration that I can’t nest with my partner because the positions have been filled” thing, or a “Maybe I’m codependent and haven’t learned to love my own company so I want a new nesting partner too hard and COVID is stymying that” thing, or something else altogether. I do, completely and totally, know that it sucks. I’m tired of it. It makes me a resentful, negative, jealous version of myself I have to do active work to turn off. I have to reframe pretty much every thought I get when I’m in that mode - the ones about myself, which are invariably me trying to tell myself that the reason I didn’t meet a nesting partner pre-COVID is that I am awful and don’t deserve one for one reason or another; the ones about my jealousy or envy, which tend to be that I’m not “evolved” enough, compersive enough, or that jealousy makes me a bad partner, even if I do nothing about it; and the ones about my relationship with my partner, which are the worst because they’re outright lies, my anxiety trying to trick me into thinking I’m less loved because other people are loved, zero sum thinking getting the better of me.
So, what do I do? In the moment, I reframe those thoughts. Sometimes I literally do it on paper, in writing, and then repeat the affirmative thoughts in a journal like mantras after. Sometimes I tell my partner I’m having an “insecure day and the brain weasels are driving the bus - could I have a reminder that I’m lovable and after all this is over I’ll meet more people who want to be with me too?” and he happily provides some reassurance, some Words of Affirmation, one of my two big love languages, and the most readily available one, since Physical Touch is harder these days. I wish I could say that those things are a panacea and I always feel way better after, and that this isn’t an ongoing issue. I can’t, if I’m going to be honest with you, readers. They tend to help, these techniques. And some days, they help a lot. Journaling can really clear my head and sometimes laughing at just how ridiculous my initial thought was can help me throw it away emotionally, not just logically. I can stop feeling “No one would ever want to spend enough time with me to be my nesting partner,” because taking the statement apart to reframe it makes me examine that my fear of “I drive away everyone who spends significant time with me” is actually pretty illogical and silly, so I can actually dismiss the worry, instead of saying a positive sentence but still thinking the negative one. Sometimes, what my partner says sticks, it feels true, it’s got the right kind of detail to be real - and some days it falls on deaf ears, it sounds fake, I think it’s all platitudes and only because I’ve asked for it. The bad days are really bad, I get super down on myself and sure that I won’t ever meet anyone because this pandemic will take ages to end and I’m inadequate in <insert list of ways>.
The worst part is that my old feeling of “failure at polyamory because of failure at compersion” comes roaring back to the forefront, and I only have a partial reframe for that. As I’ve said before, compersion isn’t mandatory, it’s just a nice bonus. But that only reframes the failure at polyamory half of that big negative thought. I don’t have an answer for my failure of compersion lately, because I do have one. Neutral is as good as I feel lately, and jealous is more common than I want it to be.
I want to be able to tell you that all of this gets easier; that compersion is not only not mandatory, but is a muscle that if you work it out enough, you’ll hit an easy stride where even though you don’t feel it all the time, you feel it pretty regularly. A pace where the definitions that place compersion in opposition to jealousy don’t feel like an attack that’s a little too accurate. I can’t. I work on my own jealousy issues all of the time, but this year, especially around what we can get semantically picky about and identify as envy that I don’t have a nesting partner and my partner has not one, but two. I’m doing the work, in therapy and outside of it, to try to reduce that jealousy load I’m carrying because it’s heavy and 2020 is heavy enough without emotionally adding to my own burdens. Whether I’ll make it to compersion or only to neutral; whether I just dig myself out of these insecurity doldrums so when we start getting back to normal and I can meet people I can be my best self in meeting them and not be a self-fulfilling prophecy, I hope my efforts pay off - and I hope, whatever your struggles are in this time, you find success in digging yourself out of them, too.
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