How to Manage Jealousy and Insecurity in Open Relationships
Written by Dr Rhoda Lipscomb on Jun 9th, 2020
Jealousy and insecurity are huge issues for people in romantic relationships, whether they have established a monogamous or open relationship. So, it is not surprising that when people are in the early phases of transitioning from strict monogamy to some type of open relationship, they are concerned with how they will manage these issues.
Jealousy is the fear of being replaced.
Insecurity is the deep feeling of not being good enough.
The strong emotions of jealousy and insecurity often leave us feeling out of control. It is one of the biggest reasons people fear about transitioning into an open relationship. If you’ve ever had the experience of a new baby enter the family, or a best friend choosing someone else over you, you understand the feeling of jealousy.
When we open our relationship, it can be confusing to feel jealously, even though we know the rules have changed and that choices to have sex with others is consensual. Emotions travel through the part of our brain that helps us make “shortcuts” in how we process information. So, when you feel jealousy, it takes you back to an old memory of feeling replaced, and not good enough. And, we can sometimes believe that feeling. Instead, we can bring that emotion into the logical part of our brain and ask questions, such as: “Is my partner really replacing me or are they following the new rules we’ve created?” Sometimes just getting away from your feelings for a moment can help them pass.
While jealousy can be a reasonable emotion, insecurity is more deeply rooted. The belief of: I’m not good enough” is deeply embedded in people and is what creates insecurity. This often comes from childhood. If your partner is keeping all their agreements with you, then it’s not really them, it’s a matter of you taking care of yourself and owning what is really yours emotionally. This may require some deep work and it may be bigger than what you can deal with on your own.
Strategies for Overcoming Jealousy and Insecurity
- Watch your self talk. Remind yourself that it is OK to have feelings and then identify if the emotion is a stuck one based on the past, or if it is relevant now. Talk to yourself about the differences and remind yourself about the stability and strength of your relationship and the reasons you had to explore an open relationship. In time, this gets easier.
- Get resources. Find books, blogs, podcasts and like-minded friends who understand and have been on this same journey, to share your thoughts and get some clarity. Meet with a sex therapist if needed for support.
- Check your expectations. Our society often teaches us that if someone truly loves and cares for us, they will be upset and jealous if there is interest in other partners. This may work to a degree in monogamy, yet in open relationships the rules are different. When people feel secure in the foundation of their open relationship, they are not threatened if their partner has other romantic or sexual partners. However, if the other partner is far less secure, this lack of a strong reaction is perceived as ‘not caring’ rather than feeling secure in the relationship.
Be careful what you tell yourself it means.
In the early stages of exploring open relationships we often struggle with how to deal with the powerful emotions of jealousy and insecurity. And while these emotions are often seen in all relationship styles, open relationships require us to face these emotions head on for the relationships to flourish.
It can be challenging to talk with our friends or family, who may not understand our reasons to have an open relationship. So, we turn to other resources, which can often give us too much, too little, or confusing, contradictory information. If you struggle with certain parts of your open relationship such as:
- Understanding what type of open relationship is right for you
- Learning to better manage jealousy or insecurity
- Creating rules/agreements/expectations that everyone in your relationship can manage
Let’s have a 30-minute call and talk about how we can make your relationship better.
Schedule a call now.