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- Most of us will have experienced jealousy in our romantic relationships at some time or another.
- People with multiple partners are called “polyamorous.”
- They purposefully introduce more people into their romantic lives, which could be tricky to do if you’re a jealous person.
- However, according to research, many polyamorous people don’t feel jealousy, or it at least disappears over time.
Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It makes us upset, angry, and irrational.
We often feel the most intense feelings of jealousy when it comes to our romantic partners. Maybe you think your girlfriend is spending an inordinate amount of time with a colleague, or your husband is being secretive about his phone. It’s a sliding scale, but most of us are bound to feel jealous at some point in our love lives.
Why, then, do some people choose to allow their partners to have multiple romantic attachments?
People in polyamorous relationships not only allow it, but they actually enjoy having more than one relationship at once.
Polyamory is defined as the practice of having intimate relationships with more than one partner.
Dr Elisabeth Sheff, expert witness, speaker, and coach of polyamory and author of “The Polyamorists Next Door,” has been studying polyamory for over two decades. She told Business Insider that some people really never experience the jealousy triggers that set the rest of us off.
“Hardly anything triggers them to jealousy – they don’t experience it,” she said. “Some of them go so far as to having a hard time understanding it. Their partners explain it to them, and they’re like ‘Why would I care about what someone else is doing? Why does it bother you what someone else is doing when you’re not there?'”
Some of these people do eventually learn to feel differently, however.
During her longitudinal study, Sheff noted that some people came back after 15 years reporting they finally knew what it was like to feel jealous. However, many have never reported feeling any differently, meaning they may just not be wired that way.
“Maybe they just haven’t experienced that specific moment,” Sheff said. “All kinds of different things are going to make people jealous, and you never really know what it will be. It’s often when something new is introduced – a new partner, a new situation… And someone who really truly never felt it before is like, ‘Oh, so that’s what that is. That sucks.'”
Polyamory has its benefits
Most people who Sheff has studied in happy polyamorous relationships have also reported that their feelings of jealousy decrease over the years. For many people in these relationships, to make it work, the benefits outweigh any costs of feeling envious of your partner’s other romantic involvements.
For example, they get a wider variety of needs met. Polyamory gives people the opportunity to spend time with different people when others are not available. Sheff herself is in a polyamorous relationship with her wife, and says it is ideal for when she travels for up to two months at a time.
“I travel all the time and my wife gets lonely. It’s really hard on her,” she said. “To have someone around for her would be great. She could get company, and I would feel much less guilty.”
Another benefit is a more varied sex life. Just because you find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, doesn’t mean they will enjoy the same things in bed as you.
“If you don’t want to have kinky sex, but your partner wants you to tie them up and spank them, or you do it but you’re kind of grossed out by it, it’s not going to be that fun for anybody,” Sheff explained. “Whereas if your partner can find someone who is totally psyched for that, nobody has to have the kind of sex they don’t want to have, and everybody gets to have the kind of sex they find fun and appealing.”
It’s not all about sleeping with multiple people
Contrary to popular belief, polyamory isn’t all about sex, though. In fact, Sheff argues it’s actually predominantly the friendships and connections outside of the bedroom that make polyamorous relationships work.
Different perspectives on situations and support can help meet people’s emotional needs more easily.
Also, having more people around can be beneficial to parenting. For starters, there are more people to help with babysitting, but Sheff says more ideas to come up with ways to deal with problematic teenagers are also useful.
“One person can be completely flummoxed, and somebody else can go up and talk to him and see what they come up with,” she said. “They may come back with a more reasonable explanation.”
She added that partners don’t tend to take on disciplinary roles, though.
“It really comes down to the parents to discipline and make lasting decisions and things like that. The children are very clear on who their parents are. They’re never confused by that.”
Sheff tends to work with people who are happy in their polyamorous lives, and so admits she is looking through rose-coloured glasses at the situation.
However, through her research she has found that polyamorous people are often more open and better at communicating with each other – so if jealousy was getting the better of someone, they may be more likely to talk to their partners about it, rather than letting it stew.