Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month six bloggers - Amanda Jones, An Open Book, One Sub's Mission, Polyamorous Parenting, Post Modern Sleaze, and Rarely Wears Lipstick - will write about their views on one of them. This month: jealousy.
Jealousy. It's the black sheep of the "relationship emotions" family. Being labelled as a "jealous person" creates all kinds of dreadful associations. It's often viewed as the antithesis of being open, in the binary that has jealousy bad and openness good - often without really having any kind of framework for what kind of jealousy might be bad and what kind of openness might be good. Therein lies the rub.
I'm going to wave the controversy flag and say that jealousy can sometimes be a good thing, here's how, bear with me. Jealousy is the flip-side of caring. If I didn't care about you, about being with you, about the time we spend together or touching you - then I don't get jealous when you touch someone else. You are not relevant to my feelings. Give jealousy a little tweak and you get protectiveness, guardianship, control, even. All, in the right hands and in the right way positive dominant feelings. I feel a lot of those things about the submissives I have had the honour and pleasure of offering my patronage to - a little flash of jealousy every now and then is an expression of my passion, my drive, my ownership of them.
It's what I do about it that measures me as a dominant and as a person..
I can feel a bit of jealousy and not act on it, or even say anything. I have self-control, after all. If it goes on for a while or if it is getting to me, I can talk to you about my jealousy (and it is my jealousy after all, it lives in my head, my heart - I am jealous about my jealousy), we can discuss why and work around it. The jealousy is a reaction, a response to a stimulus. It highlights something that needs addressing. It is a warning and should not be ignored. Acknowledging jealousy and choosing how to deal with the cause, whether internal or external - together - is a way forward. Ignoring the jealousy, blaming the jealousy, getting angry or upset about it is no way at all.
When you have a relationship with someone you come to have expectations of each other. Often within D/s these are codified, there are things that one partner does for another, rules to be followed, a structure. Most relationships will have levels of expectations, although they might not be overtly stated. Social convention is often a big, unconscious, influence on these expectations - that there are certain things which are and which are not "right" within a relationship. Cheating is one of them, and the assumption of monogamy is problematic for people who are not. The fact that jealousy exists within multiple-relationships is often used as an indicator that those relationships are bad or unproductive. But that's a very reductive way of viewing some extremely complex feelings.
For me, this video hits the nail on the head when thinking about jealousy, as well as being very funny. It's actually about sibling rivalry, but the ideas hold true for multiple-partner relationships and highlights many things that can be done to counter jealousy - expectation management, proper conversations, empathy.
The D/s jealousy connection gets especially interesting and when we deliberately create jealousy. Dominants and submissives love playing with powerful feelings: we create scenes that embroil us in worlds of headfucks, intense psychological connections. Our games of power and control revel in and relish the strange fruits of supposed "negative" feelings like shame, guilt, hate, anger, humiliation, abandonment... So many to pick from!
Cuckolding is a great example. Here, the point is about inspiring lust using jealousy as an emotional vehicle for submission. It's nice to layer your scenes. In a cuckolding scene the bottom (cuckold) is forced to view their partner being attended to - often in a replica of a way they either really want to do or are unable to accomplish themselves. This can be wrapped up in humiliation play by throwing in references to how the bull (the guest star, brought in as the replacement lover) is better in some way or another. All of this combines to give the cuckold that sense of emotional "smallness" and subservience. A bit of voyeurism and physical restraint are often thrown in for good measure: perhaps the cuckold is tied to the bed and forced to watch, or only included for certain service purposes such as oral sex before and after. The bull eventually departs and the cuckold returns to their partner, meek, aroused and very grateful to be back. One of my idealised fantasy relationships is an mFm partnership with a cuckold/bull pairing - a toppier switch and more submissive one. It's currently high on my masturbation imagery list.
Cuckolding, aside from being fun in and of itself, can also be cathartic where genuine fears and concerns of infidelity or insecurity exist. Crucially it only works if jealousy exists, even in potentia, otherwise it's plain ol' voyeurism, which is wonderful, but not the same thing. I don't think it's possible to actually cuckold a non-jealous partner. The physical longing might be there, but the emotional edge, that crunchy insider knowledge where you feel you have really "got" someone hook, line and sinker, would be missing.
When we play with jealousy - or any emotion, for that matter - we have to be even more careful how we handle aspects of genuine jealousy within our relationships. It's like the difference between slapping someone in the face because it's something you both enjoy and it's hot, and slapping someone in the face because you just lost your temper and lashed out. The two can look exactly the same, but they are poles apart. So it is with feelings.
Our green-eyed games must be ordered in such a way that we feel safe to explore, rather than considering our relationship at risk. If done well, you can experience extraordinary levels of intimacy and thrill. If you don't think you can do it well, don't do it at all, this is not a game to dabble in. It cuts to the core of many of our most private feelings and sense of self-worth. I had a very challenging time when a partner was playing games of jealousy at the same time as I was experiencing genuine jealousy and the two became very confused in my mind because we never really handled the real jealousy in any sensible fashion - it was always my jealousy therefore my fault and my problem, I was wrong-headed and needed to change my world-view. I was made to feel bad and guilty both within scenes and without.
For me, this is where the hurt / comfort aspect of domination comes into play. If you both choose to play a jealousy based theme you must ensure that the emotional after-care you give to your partner brings them back from those dark and difficult mental spaces. They must be re-enveloped in the safety and security of your relationship, to be able to clearly distinguish the play from the reality. Consent, as ever, is king.