What polyamorists can teach brides about getting over wedding jealousies

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Feeling jealous?

Recently, I've gotten a rash of advice questions about jealousy…

  • “I'm jealous of my friend's wedding date”
  • “I'm jealous of my sister's wedding budget”
  • “I have dress envy about my bridesmaid's dress for HER wedding”

I'm not sure why the jealousy is coming in such abundant waves right now, but it definitely is, and we definitely need to talk about it.

The best perspectives I've ever read on jealousy are from a book called “The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures.” And believe it or not, the jealousy advice is super relevant to the emotions that are coming up over your sister's wedding date, or your friend's wedding budget.

Here's the thing: jealousy is jealousy. And if any group of folks knows the delicate nuances of jealousy, it's polyamorists: couples who have open relationships. Because you think you're jealous of your friend's wedding date? Think instead about how jealous you could be if your friend was, say, DATING YOUR FIANCE. Because those are the kind of sticky emotions polyamorists work through. (Not always successfully, mind you.)

Rather than reinvent the jealousy discussion wheel, I'm going to offer some choice quotes from both The Ethical Slut, as well as an interview with one of its authors. Then we can connect the dots about how to use polyamorist's jealousy tools to tackle the petty stuff that can come up around other people's weddings.

First, when you think about jealousy, it's helpful to pick it apart and realize that it's not just one emotion. From an interview with Dossie Easton:

When I do workshops on jealousy … I often put this out to an audience, and I say, “What is jealousy for you? How do you experience jealousy?” And I get dozens of different answers; this person feels frightened, this person feels angry, this person feels abandonment, this person … goes into a raging territoriality, another person feels less than and feels like a worm and says, “I'm not worth anything.” It's very different for different people.For me, one of the things I discovered … was that my jealousy had a lot to do with massive insecurity. And so going to work on building that for myself was a great healing journey.

So first, as yourself: how is your jealousy manifesting?

  • Fear: “I'm afraid people will look down on my wedding”
  • Anger: “How dare she schedule her wedding the month before mine? How could she do this to me?”
  • Territoriality: “Bu that's MY geeky theme! How dare they have a Star Wars cake topper?!”
  • Inferiority: “Oh god, I suck. My wedding sucks. Her invitations look like Martha Stewart wet dreams, while mine look like a pre-school craft project. I'm worthless.”

Then, once you've isolated the actual emotion, stop and think about it. If you're afraid, what do you need to be reassured? If you're angry, what can you do to release it? If you're territorial, what can you do to establish your own sense of ownership and get your own turf? If you're feeling insecure or inferior, what can you do to feel more solid and awesome about your plans?

Rather than point all your seething/moping energy toward someone else's wedding and how it's bigger, better timed, and more awesome than yours, put your energy toward finding ways to feel better about yourself and your own wedding.

From the book:

The challenge becomes learning to establish within yourself a strong foundation of internal security … this is part of the larger question of how to grasp your personal power and learn to understand and love yourself.

Yeah, I took it there: we're talking about PERSONAL POWER.

Why to we spend so much time looking at other people trying to figure out how to feel about ourselves? Remember, your wedding is not a contest. Don't waste your time agonizing over other people's weddings and looking for all the ways yours doesn't stand up — focus on finding ways to feel more solid about your plans.

From that Dossie Easton interview:

So this is the other thing I think jealousy is for each of us: First of all, there is no one emotion, it's a whole bunch of different emotions. The thing that is sort of universal about jealousy is that we avoid owning it.We insist that it's not an internal response that we own or can change. We insist that we are helpless about jealousy, but that we have no control over it and that it has caused by [someone else's] actions.

So that righteous indignation, that sense of “How dare they do this me by picking a wedding date near mine”? Or that victimization, that sense of “Woe is me: I have been wrong and am sad and helpless to change it”? OWN THAT SHIT, GIRLS. Sad but true: the world does not revolve around you. Or me. Or any of us. Other people are going to do what they do, and you can't control it; you can only control your response and reaction to it. Unless you live in a bad romcom, chances that bride you're feeling competitive with didn't DO anything to you … she just did something. How you respond to it is up to you. Feeling indignant or victimized is one response. Feeling like you've got an opportunity to learn something about yourself and get stronger in your own confidence and self-awareness is another response.

That said, this isn't easy stuff. From the book again:

There is no graceful way to unlearn jealousy.

Amen to that. Even the polyamorists know that this is sticky, troubling stuff. Be patient with yourself as you work through it — but try to view it more as an opportunity to learn about yourself and build your confidence.

But I'm guessing some of you have your own great methods for working through jealousy over other people's weddings … now I'd like to ask you: What are your best methods for getting over insecurity about your wedding?

Comments on What polyamorists can teach brides about getting over wedding jealousies

  1. Preach it! I was getting very jealous of a friend who got engaged after me, is getting married a month before me, has a much bigger budget, will look good in any dress, and decided to book her reception at the same site! It was a mixture of anger and fear and insecurity… I was overwhelmed by the green monster!

    But I just had to realize that every wedding is different and mine was going to be unique and special because it was simply mine. Her and her fiance don’t have the same connection my fiance and I have and vice versa. Everyone is going to experience our weddings in a different way because we are different people with different relationships.

    So I guess I get over it by putting some perspective on the situation and seeing that what’s mine is mine and what’s hers is hers and they’ll both be awesome because love and marriage is awesome!

    • Plus she can discover any unexpected issues with the venue and you can have a month’s head start on addressing them. 😉

  2. I run into the jealousy thing most often with academics, but it’s helped me learn to deal with it (although I’m not always successful). I try to honestly look at not just what the other person has, but how they got there. What did they sacrifice for it? What is their trade-off? Then I try to decide whether or not I would be willing to do that (usually, nope!). Or I look at what I have instead. (My friend got X scholarship, but I spent this or that time on a hobby or with my friends or my dude.) I am having a small wedding, but it means I get to spend far more time with each of my guests and my dude and I will be way more comfortable! I am spending more money than I had originally thought (I do see a little green when I think about how much more budget-conscious we could have been), but I also know we chose to have a fantastic venue, the food we want, a semi-pro photog, etc. My friends all had full caterers, but we’re getting awesome food! Yes, we’ll have to do more work setting it up, and cleaning up, but I also wouldn’t give up this food!

    • I try to honestly look at not just what the other person has, but how they got there. What did they sacrifice for it? What is their trade-off? Then I try to decide whether or not I would be willing to do that (usually, nope!).


  3. OK, about to own some Velveeta cheese here.

    When I am not so jealous I can’t see straight, I try to separate myself into two parts and have a little conversation. The Grown Woman self and the 5-yr-old self talk it out because for me, my jealous inner-monologue tantrum-throwing is pretty much my inner 5-yr-old freaking out.

    Treating myself like a child for a minute makes the dots easier to connect emotionally and then I can deal with it and talk myself down into a version of acceptance with a plan.

    “I am so jealous that her sweet parents are walking her down the aisle” becomes “ok, you’re really sad that you don’t get to have that experience, and angry with your parents. That doesn’t mean you suck. You can either ask someone in a parent-ish role to step in and approximate that experience for you, or decide to own the choice of a different experience as a decision rather than ‘what happened because you didn’t get what she gets’ and now you can have a candy and go play.”

    This doesn’t always work the first time. I have little mental tantrums and I can’t always soothe myself like this, but when it works, it’s very satisfying and also gives me a way to own more of what happens “to me” as “I chose to then do this” but hey, your mileage may very.

  4. Not to deflate the point balloon, I advocate self-aware behavior and self-analysis!

    And because this is an excellent article, but I’ve never understood the polygamy/polyamory mindset. To each his own, but if you’re insecure, or prone to jealousy, or even if you’re the most secure, independent creature on the planet…why would you put yourself in a situation where those feelings are tested and really grind your brain down daily? I mean, in my view, we all deserve to be with people who respect us and want to be with us naturally, and not to us and then others and then back to us when they feel like it. Thick and Thin, hence the wedding stuff and making a comitment.

    Weddings aside, I’ve never been clear even with the poly-amorous people I know…Where the trust is? None of them were very happy and in a constant state of flux and drama. Sure you don’t “need” your husband/wife and they’re free to live as they please and sure they’re “dating” your best friend…Relationships that involve commitment and intimacy between two people go the deepest, in my opinion. I’m sure they’re benefits to both types of relationships, and I don’t want to sound like such a traditionalist really. But I can see why a polygamist would write such good advice on how to deal with jealousy. Having to share the person you love and trust the most with other people either on the same level of emotion or physically…That’s an exercise in jealousy exploration not many of us should have to stand let alone explore.

    again, to each their own, but whatever you’re feeling I hope we all have the power/ability to articulate that and exit situations that may not suit our personal needs or personalities. And do not tear others down in the process.

    • I’m not sure if you’re asking for clarification on your point re: the polyamory mindset. I’m happy to add my 2 cents if that’s what you’re looking for! Respectfully, of course.

      • There is not always jealousy with poly relationships. That comes and goes. The key to poly, as with any relationship is trust. That trust in yourself that you are a great and wonderful person and the trust that your partner loves you and honors you. The fact that they love and honor someone else too does not lessen that. Poly recognizes that love is not diminished by sharing it.

    • Replying to some of Diana’s questions/assertions:

      My partners and I don’t consider ourselves “polyamorous”, we don’t like labels in general or some of what that one has come to mean specifically and we prefer to describe our behavior: we are consensually non-monogamous. For us, this “lifestyle” is what works best, and I’m pretty certain that we’d experience a lot more “flux and drama” if we tried to be monogamous. That’s a situation that would test my feelings and “grind my brain down daily”.

      At the risk of making this “me me me,” and only because you seem curious, I’ll describe a little how my relationships work. My husband and I have been married for six years and were together for about three before that. Throughout our relationship we have been open with each other about not being “good at” monogamy. Both of us agreed from the beginning that drawing arbitrary lines between “friend” and “more than friend” are counterproductive to us getting our physical and emotional needs met. We have had other short- and long-term partners, both together and separately. Currently, we each have another serious partner whom we’ve been involved with for a long time (4-5 years) – he has a girlfriend and I have a boyfriend – along with some others who we see more casually. For us, who we kiss or sleep with doesn’t diminish our feelings for or commitment to each other. We don’t _have_ to share each other, we CHOOSE to.

      HOWEVER, and this is a REALLY BIG however, that does NOT mean that it’s a free-for-all relationship/contact-wise; and I don’t know any CNM or “poly” or “open relationship” couples for whom that’s the case. As Dossie says over and over again in Ethical Slut, _communication_ is THE key to making a relationship like this work (and yes, probably to making any relationship work). My husband/primary partner and I have some strict/standard rules and discuss everything else extensively. Some of the rules are to mitigate physical risks and others to mitigate emotional risks. We’re honest about what risks we’re taking both physically and emotionally. We often find it useful to imagine a “worst case,” particularly with emotional risks, and then to discuss that. For instance, having serious relationships with other partners opens up the prospect that we’ll meet someone with whom we’re more compatible, who feels more like our “soulmate” or whatever than each other. That’s a risk we’re comfortable with, even more because of the marriage vows we’ve made to each other.

      As Diana says, trust is crucial, and none of my relationships would work without very high levels of trust on all sides. Consensual non-monogamy and polyamory are NOT about doing whatever you want with whoever you want (at least I’ve never seen them practiced that way).

      For us, consensual non-monogamy is not about constant change or threats and certainly not about tearing anyone down. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel like it frees me and my partners to experience more love and happiness rather than less. Seeing what some of my monogamous friends have gone through jealousy-wise, I’m afraid that “exercises in jealousy exploration” are not at all limited to non-monogamous folk. I’ve certainly experienced jealousy, but as Dossie (and Ariel) say, it’s OWNING it and TALKING ABOUT it that are important. As Dossie and Ariel and other commenters have noted, jealousy can be a lot of different things. In the relationships I’m involved in/connected to, jealousy is more often about time than about feelings or committment. I really have very little fear that my partner will leave me for one of his other partners, but I’m pissed if he doesn’t spend time with me he says he will. For us, being in this kind of relationship helps us to really know what’s important to us about each other, what we want to be “special just between us” and what we don’t care so much about.

      I very much agree that relationships that involve commitment and intimacy between two people are very deep and crucial relationships. They’re certainly the most important relationships in my life. I simply chose to have more than one one-on-one relationship.

      Thanks Ariel, for bringing this up and including what’s also one of my favorite books 😉

    • I’m in an open relationship, and it is such a relief. The thing that is most harmful about affairs is the lying and the thinking your relationship was one way only to find out its not.

      I don’t experience any jealousy so far … but that’s because my husband is fantastic at showing me how primary and important I am to him. I also like Dossie’s idea of agreements not rules, you can change the agreements if they stop working for you. And being open doesn’t mean being indiscriminate.

      I think I don’t struggle with jealousy because it is possessiveness of my partner that encourages me to be suspicious, so when I let go of the possessiveness I also have less reasons to be jealous if he enjoys an experience with someone else that I’m not interested in giving him myself (whether that be bungee jumping [because I’m scared of heights] or something more intimate).

    • Speaking as a poly person (currently planning a 10-year vow renewal/anniversary party for my triad, since we never really got to do a “wedding”), one of the things that is really important about jealousy — and I think Ariel pointed out well — was that different things cause jealousy, both in terms of triggers and underlying causes.

      Speaking only for myself, of course, but seeing my partner with another partner doesn’t make me jealous, and sex doesn’t make me jealous. But going to my favorite beach without me when I’m free, and it’s our special thing? That causes hurt and jealous feelings. If one partner is getting to do all the “fun” stuff while another is always left at home to do housework, that causes jealousy. And that tells us what we need to talk about, and find a different way to handle.

      Bringing it back to weddings, I work in the wedding industry, and see lots and lot of truly spectacular high-end weddings. And my ceremony…. is not going to be anything like that, which is mostly just fine, but a few things I do get jealous of; my budget does not extend to that kickin’ band or exceptional florist or elegant venue. But I take those jealous feelings as a sign that I need to do *something* to accommodate that loss that I’m feeling — allotting more time to an amazing iPod mix, making DIY alternatives inspired by that florist; the jealousy helps show me where some of my priorities are that I might not have realized otherwise.

    • my fiance and I are in an open relationship. (I have read the book also btw) and frankly I don’t ask people to understand us and our relationship, I ask them to respect it. We have lost countless “friends” because they thought that doing what were doing isn’t “right”. We kindly tell them “maybe its not right for you, or most other people, but its right for us”.

      A little background, I’ve basically grown up with him, he is my best friend we’ve known eachother for nearly 10 years and been best friends for that entire time, we’ve cried on eachothers shoulders through the breakups, my divorce, etc. We’ve been dating eachother for almost 3 years. Since we’ve known eachother for so long when we deciced that we other people just wernt doing it for us and that we couldn’t live without eachother, we both knew we wouldn’t be a traditional couple.

      As I stated some people didn’t take this too well, for the first time in my life I told everyone to shove it. I was happy, he was happy, neither of us jelous, and it was kinda the same as it was before. We of course had “rules” but that’s kinda a dirty word, more like common sense things with a bit of veto power. See he gets emotionally attached really easily when he likes someone, I’m the same way, but one of his endearing qualities is taking that like over the top, he makes girls feel special, I’ve NEVER been a jealous person so this never seems to bother me, what bothers me? When the girls latch on and won’t let the hell go. Lol. Girls that are convinced they have found THE ONE, we are all clear at the beginning and someone evrytime these girls want to make it muddy. I get to then play the best friend role as I call it and polietly remind her that it doesn’t work that way. She will usually leave in a kicking and screaming manner but oh well. Thus veto rights.

      When a chick calls me names or puts me down its time to go. We’ve hadgirls that originally wanted me and then both of us, then finally was intimate with him, and we would have to go through that same scenerio. I think its immaturity mostly, we are in our mid 20’s (I’m 25 he’s 24) most of the girls are 18-22.

      One last thing is that, not only does any relationship take the same amount of trust as well as respect that a polyamourous one does, we just find more ways of perfecting iit.

      We are all rushing towards the same place, whom am I to judge you or you to judge I for getting there with one or many people?

    • If you’re monogamous and happy, that is your choice. Why are you so bothered about other people’s choices? Who made you the judge over their lives?

  5. Yaaaaaay! We can all stand to learn so much from poly folks in regards to emotional responses and maturity. Not only am I thrilled to see y’all addressing jealousy re:weddings, but I’m so happy to see The Ethical Slut getting a bit of recognition from OBB. Whether or not polyamory is for you, the book teaches some great lessons and dispells a lot of myths about poly folks and varying types of non-monogamous lifestyles. So refreshing. Good job!

  6. I’m getting a little competitive after seeing a friend’s wedding. I feel especially competitive after hearing repeatedly about how great it was, especially especially any comments about how lavish or costly it was.

    I try to alleviate the jealousy bug by asking myself “Am I having the wedding that *I* want? The wedding that’s right for me and my fiance?” And when I say “yes” to myself, I feel validated. If I say “no” to myself, I see what I can do to get me closer to my goal.

  7. Sometimes I look at things that I would love to have for my wedding and I feel a little niggling of the green-eyed monster. When that happens, however, I go through a little process of self-questioning:

    1. Do you want it because you love it and it would make you happy, or do you just want it because someone else has it and it looks cool?

    2. If you truly love it, what would you need to do/sacrifice/purchase/work for in order to get it?

    3. Are you willing to do that?

    4. If not, is there an alternative that you might love just as much that is feasibly within your grasp?

    5. If no, then let it go. It’s just one thing, and there are so many things in life, beautiful things, heartfelt things, things that are your own. Just because you let this one thing go doesn’t mean that there isn’t a whole world of other possibilities out there for you.

    That goes for wedding decor, items, ceremony details, words, dates, etc.. etc… Let it go. When it comes down to it, there are probably only a small handful of things in relation to your wedding that your heart will completely break if you don’t have. Focus your energy there, and let the rest go.

    And when it comes to people, I have to heartily agree with the article. It is rare that anyone is doing something *to* you. More than likely they haven’t given a single thought about you or anything relating to your wedding. They’re just doing their thing. Own your reaction to it. The sometimes uncomfortable truth is that very little revolves around us, and very few people think about what things mean to us as much as we do. Sometimes it’s necessary to look at the situation from a more objective perspective.

  8. I went to two weddings in the last week, one for a good friend of mine and one for a good friend of my FH’s. I was kinda worried before each one that I would turn into a green-eyed wedding monster. And each wedding DID have a couple elements that I thought, “Wow, I wish I had thought of that or could do that!” But it was more of a wistful reflection than jealousy, because I prepared myself beforehand to stave off any jealousy. When I feel jealous about anything, or worry that I might fall victim to jealousy, I bolster my opinion of my own choices by reminding myself why I made those choices, what makes those choices uniquely reflective of me and (in this case) our upcoming wedding, and what makes those choices AWESOME.

    If I feel a bit jealous of an aspect of someone’s wedding, I try to think of ways I could change that aspect to fit into our wedding, to make it “ours” in a way that allows me to feel like I’ve been inspired instead of trapped by jealousy. Sometimes there isn’t a way to realistically fit an aspect of another wedding into ours, in which case I just sit back and enjoy the wedding porn!

  9. Respectfully, Maiden, I don’t think it’s quite accurate to assume jealousy is connected to immaturity. Jealousy is an expression of insecurity, and everyone, regardless of their self-confidence, is insecure about *something.*

    When you see someone who excels in or has easy access to something you’re immature about, envy and increased insecurity (manifesting as anger, fear, depression, etc.) is a pretty normal reaction, I think. It’s something that’s not specifically about traditional vs. non-traditional or budget vs. expensive weddings… but those situations can trigger the same kind of insecurities very frequently.

    And I consider myself an offbeat lady, but Martha totally has some cool DIY ideas. 😉

    • Good points, Sarah.
      And I do agree that Martha Stewart has some kick-butt ideas, offbeat or otherwise.

  10. I’m having some problems with this but as always it’s a little complicated….

    A friend of my FH’s is getting married a month before we are. He is very into having a ‘big wedding’ and putting a ton of money into it and ‘doing it right’ by WIC standards. So they are having a large hotel wedding with an ice sculptures etc and many many things I would never ever want but the kicker is…. his bride isn’t into it at all.

    She has all this money at her disposal and a groom that is very interested and she would just rather elope while I would love to have a huge wedding, much more offbeat but whatevs, and my FH and I are scraping together our budget ourselves….


    But when I get to this point I always remember that I have it better than most, an amazing relationship a family that loves me, a bridal party that is helping out more than I ever dreamed and a Fiancee who actually cares about having a wedding that is ‘ours’ not just a wedding.

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