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?