One of the most frequent questions I hear is: Should I be jealous if my partner fantasizes about someone else when we are in bed?
Sure, go ahead and be jealous.
Honor this very natural feeling surging through your system. Then take a deep breath and remember that fantasy, even about someone other than your partner, can be one of the essential ingredients to sustaining a satisfying sex life. Society’s best-kept secret is that most of us fantasize about someone other than our partner — and that’s OK. Fantasy and reality are entirely different paradigms. Some couples even report feeling closer when they can comfortably share their fantasies with one another. These couples recognize that there is nothing to be jealous of when there is enough permission and room to express those things that live only in the world of fantasy.
That said, there isn’t a single relationship that hasn’t been touched by the seething green tide of jealousy. And if you think you are the exception, you haven’t been together long enough. In relationships, jealousy often bears its hideous head when the sanctity of sexual intimacy is threatened.
The girl pulling daisy petals as she softly hums down the hallway thinking of the boy from physics: “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me… Crap, he’s walking toward me with that cute cheerleader from Spanish class! Guess he loves me not.”
The recently divorced man who sees his wife’s new profile on Match.com, irate because lots of unknown men have already sent her “winks.”
The woman who stalks Facebook every day just to keep tabs on how many female co-workers are messaging her husband.
The guy who pouts in the corner of the party, upset that his boyfriend is being showered with compliments.
Jealousy is one of the most common and natural emotions we can experience. But jealousy is often only a perception that we are unlovable and that our partners wish to be with someone else. It’s the body’s somatic reaction to the perceived threat that we will be abandoned or that we are not good enough. Even the most compassionate polyamorist with exceedingly high levels of compersion has done his/her time treading water in the deep end of jealousy.
(Side note, Sex-Ed 101: Polyamory stems from Greek (poly) and Latin (amor) and means “many loves.” Basically, it is consensual non-monogamy, or the practice and acceptance of having loving, intimate relationships with more than one person — based upon the knowledge, consent and communication of everyone involved.
Compersion, in this context, is a feeling of authentic and empathetic happiness when one’s romantic partner experiences pleasure and joy with another romantic interest.)
What about when the jealousy is founded? What if this so-called irrational envy of another person manifests as an affair that was tangible, real and raw? This proves to be a more difficult journey to heal from the abandonment and betrayal. But it doesn’t change the fact that you are still the lovable, wonderful human being that deserves so much more.
Regardless of relationship status, the story boils down to the same point. Am I lovable enough? Am I good enough? The answer is still yes, but now the individual has to find that within him/ herself. We can free ourselves from the anguish of jealousy by learning to be confident in ourselves rather than focus on others. Having faith in ourselves that we are loveable and good enough is one of life’s hardest tasks. We are so accustomed to getting this validation from outside, from others, from a loving relationship.
The relationships that are strongest and least susceptible to jealousy are those where both partners have done the hard work to develop internal validation. When both partners have consciously identified triggers that make them anxious and envious. When both partners can calmly hold ground to invite this conversation with empathy, allowing the other to vent and express uncomfortable feelings.
The best way to expel jealousy from our sex lives is to believe that we are lovable simply for who we are.
Jenni Skyler, PhD, is a sex therapist and board-certified sexologist. She runs The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, www. theintimacyinstitute.org.