Episode 122: Jealousy vs Envy

Sometimes long distance is difficult and the emotions it makes you feel aren’t always jealousy.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: How do you deal with long distance?

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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

My partner and I we started an open relationship two years ago when we started to date, mutual agreement because we have a long distance relationship. We are getting married next year. At the beginning I was the one who dated people and he wasn't doing it because he was always busy because of his job. 

Now he has a new job and more free time so he wanted to try to date other people, he did and it was so triggering for me because I'm anxious, I went back to therapy and found help on books and podcasts, I'm dealing pretty well with everything now and my [fiancé]. He's an awesome person, he's honest,  patient, emphatic and we have a strong communication. 

The advice I need is about what can I do about that I'm feeling jealousy. I'm not afraid of losing him, I feel kind of envy because someone else is receiving what I can't receive because of the distance; physical touch, sex, etc. And when we reconnect on video call after his dates I see his body and on my mind there's this thought of "someone else touched him" and it’s uncomfortable. 

My overthink[ing] mind run with this thoughts of him being with someone else, thinking of him with someone else makes me feel maybe sad and uncomfortable. At the moment I'm not dating anyone, because I'm still working on my trauma in therapy and also trying to understand my feelings about my open relationship and dealing with it because I want to have agency and be emphatic with my partner, my metamour and myself, so many stuff to work on, that's why I don't want to involve someone else until I feel confident about it.


Firstly, I think you need to give yourself some permission to feel like shit. And I think you need to be realistic that you're going to feel like shit. Because there is essentially an unsolvable problem before you. You know, it's kind of like if you for example, if you lost a parent if you were dealing with a situation of grief, you're going to feel like shit. And it's not avoidable.

It's not something that you can fix or solve. There is an aspect of this that is perfectly understandable, which is someone else is experiencing something that you want, which you can't have and this is why I kind of talk a lot about jealousy being like not this evil, horrible thing that's always about like someone having a bad self esteem or not believing in themselves.

Sometimes you're going to just have jealousy because it's a situation that can't be resolved. And this is one of those situations I think. Just accept the fact that you're going to feel like a little bit shit. I think that that kind of thought of like, “Oh, someone else has touched him”. I think there's a part of that that's kind of cultural because we do kind of have that encouragement within our society.

I mean, you may have been in a different society. It's hard for me to know, and maybe this doesn't apply to you but I do think that we have that kind of encouragement to feel that sort of jealousy of like, “Oh, there's this contaminant” almost when someone else has touched something or so, you know, I think we have a little bit of that hangs on but part of your feelings of like, “I want to receive all these things that someone else is getting”.

I mean, that's totally understandable. I think that you need to allow yourself to have those feelings and try to find coping strategies for dealing with them. I think another aspect of this that can also help with the coping strategies is — I’m not sure if you have a plan to actually get back together. I think that you know, you're getting married next year, and he's busy because he has a job.

But he now has more free time, but I feel like you're long distance now. What is the plan for the future? What — are you planning on living together at some point, is this long distance permanent or is this going to be resolved at some point? Because I think that is a big part of dealing with the crappy side of any situation. You can sit through discomfort and unhappiness if you know that it's going to end. 

It's a lot easier to sit through discomfort and happiness if you know that it's going to end. If you know what's going to happen at the end. If you know that it's for a good reason. But I don't know — You haven't put anything in your letter about why you’re long distance, about if it's going to be resolved. If when you're getting married next year, you're going to start living together.

Because if you are— if you have talked about like your future, your plans, what you want to do with it, how open relationships fit in with your relationship in the future. Have you talked about the time that you're going to spend? Are you going to have set date nights with other people?

Are you interested in having you know, just dating and just hooking up with other people? Are you actually interested in having other relationships? Are you ever interested in those other partners living with you? There's so many questions and so many different ways of doing polyamory that maybe you need to have some of these these discussions and maybe you will feel and have something to ground yourself a little bit more when you have these shitty feelings. 

Because yeah, when you have these shitty feelings, you can say “Okay, yeah, right now it sucks that I don't get to spend time with him in person, but I will get to spend time with him on this time. I will get to this, you know, this week, it's going to end on this date”. And I think that's a big part of it.

If it's just never ending going to be long distance, then maybe this isn't something — you know, it depends. I think it's unrealistic for people to — and I think some people end up being more miserable because they expect themselves to be happy, like in a state of constant euphoria 24/7. And I don't think that's actually very realistic.

And I think, you know, we have a lot of things presented to us in media and in social media of what looks like people who are like, constantly happy and never have any problems. And I think that it’s kind of an unrealistic thing. Sometimes we have this kind of unrealistic expectation to be constantly happy, when maybe sometimes like, we're super happy 10% of the time, mostly, we're just chill and then we have some really crappy times 30% of the time.

I think that you need to ask yourself like — okay, part of this situation — if you're always going to be long distance — part of the situation is always going to be a little bit shit because of the way that it is. You're always going to feel a little bit sad, even if he's not dating someone, but maybe it's super obvious when he has been on a date like that kind of brings it more to the forefront because someone else is able to spend time with him and you're not, but you're always going to be a little bit sad in this situation.

But maybe the time that you do spend together especially if you have like, set time with each other. I think that's so important. I think a lot of people forget about that, but like set scheduled time with one another. Sometimes just shows, like even if it feels hokey, it just shows that someone else like actually is wanting to spend time with you and they're actually wanting to set that with you.

And so I think that you can accept a little bit of the lumps even if this is permanently long distance if you can also deal with you know, have that happiness, like does the happiness overwhelm? I think somebody said something like it's a 70/30% in terms of relationship satisfaction, like you're never going to be perfectly happy all the time.

You're going to have conflict, you're going to have shitty times you're going to have an unhappy time, but if you can be pretty happy most of the time, then that's also good. So I think that's one thing. The other thing I want to address is that you're kind of putting this unrealistic expectation on yourself. Because you're saying you're not dating because you're still working on yourself.

And whilst I do understand that aspect I do understand like, “Look, I want to handle this”. And it's one thing to like, “Look, I want to spend time alone so that I can like focus on getting things right”. But I do want to encourage you to not think that there's ever going to be a perfect time because sometimes problems that we have in relationships can only be solved within the relationship. 

Because when you're on your own, those problems actually won't come to the surface. It's only when you're in a relationship, that those problems actually come to the surface. And you have to be able to deal with those problems. It's one of the reasons why I don't suggest people like you know, when they're struggling in polyamory don't like all of a sudden stop and go back to monogamy to like cool down or fix the problems is because sometimes the problems that come up in polyamory come up when you're polyamorous and then when you're monogamous, they don't come up in the same way. 

So if you think that you're going to fix it by closing it, you're not actually addressing the problem because it's not actually happening. It's sort of like trying to learn how to swim. I don't know if this is an adequate metaphor, but I'm trying to find metaphors, so that I can explain myself but it's sort of like  moving your hand and in a bucket of water.

Like yeah, you can learn some stuff from that. But like, sometimes you have to be in situ, to solve the issue and to actually address the issue. So I would really encourage you like I'm not saying it's never appropriate to take some time off. Especially because when you are in another relationship, you do have to consider another person.

There are more problems that you have to think about. There are more challenges, and maybe you're not up for that and that's fine. But don't think that there's going to be some perfect moment. I don't want you to set yourself up for failure essentially, and thinking that “Okay, I've got everything solved. I'm totally fine. I'm going to go into relationship there's going to be no issue and that's just not how it works like there will be problems that will only come up when you're actually in relationship with somebody— an in person relationship with somebody”.

There are going to be problems that you may have never dealt with when it comes to polyamory that won't come up until you're actually in that situation. So make sure you're not setting yourself up for failure or thinking that you you failed somehow if you do all this hard work on yourself and then you go into a relationship and things don't work out the way that you know, they don't work out perfectly or you have problems.

Yeah, to sum up, I think… Understand that there's an aspect of this situation that is always going to be shitty because you aren't getting the things that you want. You guys are separated. That is sucky and there isn't anything that you can necessarily do to fix that. It's just kind of be part of the whole situation.

So forgive yourself for thinking some of these thoughts and maybe you know, in your therapy pick apart some of this idea of like someone else touched him in that whole contaminant thing because I do think part of that is a little bit from society, but you are going to feel a little bit shit and I think you need to talk more with your partner about like what your future plans are, if this long distance thing is going to end when it's going to end. 

Have some set time together.If you don't already like you know maybe Tuesday night is your night. You have a call planned you do something. You have a little date you make dinner together on the phone, like you can still do stuff. But make sure that set time together because sometimes that can really help you kind of cope with some of the shitty feelings and it can also make you feel a lot better. 

And I think last but not least, like I said, it's fine if you want to work on yourself but don't think that you're going to be at this perfect sort of level of totally balanced psychologically. And it's, you know, all your relationships are going to be smooth and easy because you may work on yourself. You may get to a point where you're like, “Yeah, I've got it” .

You may enter a relationship and then you can have like a major significant family death and that can completely throw you off psychologically, or you may lose your job or like there's all kinds of things that come up in life that you will never be able to predict and you'll never be able to account for and plan for. That can totally fuck you up psychologically that you will have to cope with and there will be lots of demands on you, but you can deal with that.

But you can't always plan for it. So don't set yourself up for failure by thinking that working on yourself is going to fix everything because it won't. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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