Episode 99: Long Distance Jealousy

Your partner comes home from a date and needs reassurance, but you can’t give it in that moment. Is this something to overcome?

It’s hard when you’re in a long distance relationship and someone else gets to be with your partner when you can’t.

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

Discussion Topic:

What is your anchor?

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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 (both males) are in a long-distance open relationship where we are the only committed partner, but have the freedom for intimate exploration; from friendships to friends with benefits.

However, I am grappling with feelings of insecurity and/or jealousy when my partner and an individual sexual partner frequently meet in multiple and different contexts of their life. For example, my partner and his friend have almost daily communication, frequent the gym together (where they are sometimes intimate), meet for sex, have similar careers and sometimes see each other at work, or plan to work together at home on nights when sex/intimacy does not occur.

I am really happy that my boyfriend is able to connect so well with someone else, but having just one person involved at so many levels of my partner's weekly life makes me feel uncomfortable, as we are in a long distance, and I have no way to connect at the same level with my boyfriend. I don't think I would feel uncomfortable if all these activities involved different people, as the amount of partners or frequency of seeing people is not an issue for me as long as we have virtual quality time throughout the week.

I wanted to hear your perspective on this or whether you or anyone you know has dealt with similar feelings. Whether me feeling uncomfortable is valid and something needs to be modified, or whether I should work on my end with my feelings without modifying their levels and frequency of interaction.


Of course your feelings are valid. Of course they are and I don't even know if this is fully like jealousy or just the fact that long distance relationships are freaking hard. And if you had like another frequent partner, it might be a little bit easier for you because you wouldn't necessarily be dwelling on it as much but it makes total freakin sense that you would feel scared and sad about this.

And I don't even think that it's about the person and it seems like you have recognised that. You're saying it's not the frequency of the partners, it’s the fact that this person gets to share so much of my partner's life and that makes you sad. And that makes total and complete and utter sense. Of course — of course you're sad about that. And I think that you should just allow yourself to feel a little sad, and understand that that's not a bad thing.

I mean, it is a bad thing to feel because it doesn't feel great but it's very, very understandable for you to feel sad in this situation. So allow yourself to feel that. I think that what might be really helpful when it comes to this— A certain part of this is inevitable and kind of unavoidable. Right? This is one of the reasons why some people really can't do long distance. Being apart from your partner sucks. And there isn't really anything that you can really do unless you win the lottery and can suddenly take a bunch of flights every week to see your partner.

I'm not sure how far away your partner is. But there's a certain part of this that is kind of just completely unavoidable. That's just going to suck but I do think that some things — like you said, the virtual quality time you have is really important. It's really, really good that you have that. I also think that it might help if you haven't already to talk about how non-monogamy and polyamory fits within your lives together. Because it's very understandable for you to be also afraid == not just the fact that this person has the access to your partner that you very, very much wish you had — Totally makes sense.

But it also makes sense to be a little bit afraid because even if this person isn't trying to steal your partner away, and even if we don't think of it in that way. It's just an obvious thing that like this person is getting to share so much, and you aren't and there's a certain aspect of that that is going to make you afraid. And that makes total sense. So I think another thing that would help with this is if you actually talk to each other about how non-monogamy or polyamory fits within your life.

What are your plans together for the future? Do you have plans together? Are you going to transition from being in a long distance relationship into moving in together? Maybe you can talk a little bit more about that. Maybe you can think about that. That can be your anchor in a way when dealing with some of these unavoidable, very hard and difficult and sad things to feel. If you have those kinds of plans that can really help you and make you feel a little bit calmer, when it comes to just the fact that this person is able to share so much time with your partner.

And there's also a practical aspect of — is this person aware that yeah, they may have all of this time with your partner now but if you do plan on moving in together, that's going to change? And it's kind of important that that discussion be had in some kind of way. I mean, maybe this other person is just enjoying what they have right now and isn't necessarily expecting that to continue. But there is kind of an understandable anxiety there of the fact that like, “Hey, you're sitting in my seat. When I come back, I'm gonna need that seat”.

You know, that's a really shitty way of putting it but there's a very understandable feeling there of this person is kind of in your role in the way you want to be with your partner. And that is a role that will hopefully at some point be occupied by you. So you just need to have a discussion about that with your partner and see if your partner's you know, speaking to somebody else. I mean, even if we put labels on things, and even if we supposedly have this kind of hierarchy, right? Where you're considered the anchor partner, and this other person isn't or however you want to put it.

Whenever the actions don't necessarily match up to that label, it's going to make sense for you to have a little bit of anxiety about it without it necessarily being like anything that is personal towards this person because it's not personal. I think it doesn't matter who the person in this situation would be.

And as you again pointed out before, it could be multiple people. It wouldn't bother you, but it's not necessarily about the person. It's this very real, very understandable sadness that you have that this person is able to access your partner in a way that you can't, and I think that that —  part of that again, can't be remedied because that's just the way that long distance sometimes is the part of it can. I think that you also might want to think about —are there other ways that you and your partner can work on reassurance with one another, right?

Because I think that there's a little bit of a balance here. You don't want to modify — and I don't think you should try to modify — your partner's behaviour or how frequently they meet up, but there might be things that you can do to make things a little bit easier for you. What I am suggesting is not a kind of Don't Ask Don't Tell thing. But I do wonder how it is you know all of this information. Maybe it's that your partner is just kind of sharing, “Oh I met up with so and so and we did such and such”.

You know, the general day to day things going on in his life, which is fine. But there might be some benefit to considering how much detail to pass on to you. And whether or not that detail is helpful, and this isn't about lying. And this isn't about hiding things. But sometimes I just feel like you know that this person exists. And you know that this person spends a lot of time with your partner. And I wonder what the benefit is of you being constantly reminded of that.

And if there's not, maybe a better way of figuring out things to talk about with one another, that don't circle around you being constantly reminded that there's this other person who they're spending a lot of time with. And again, not about lying, not about pretending like this person doesn't exist because you do know they exist, but it doesn't have to be so frequent that you're reminded of this. So maybe that might be something that you can all work on. Like when you do have your virtual meet-ups.

Maybe instead of talking about what he's done with such and such, maybe he can talk about you know, specific things at work or you can start a book club together or watch something together that you can talk about. Again, I don't know— it's a very thin line, perhaps between like, Don't Ask, Don't Tell and like lying, because I'm not saying that you should— that he should lie or feel like he has to hide that he's with another person.

Because I don't know what conversations are going on in between you two and because I don't know the level of detail that you're constantly being exposed to — I do know that sometimes people when they do open their relationships or they start off in non-monogamous relationships for the first time, feel like they need to tell their partner a lot of detail about what's going on with them and other people because they're afraid of being accused of cheating.

And so the way that they deal with the anxiety about being accused of cheating or somehow cheating by mistake, is by giving their partner a lot of detail. And sometimes people think when they go into non-monogamy, that the best way to deal with their anxiety about their partner dating someone else is to see all the detail and that isn't as necessary as people might think it is. And it's not lying to you know, in the same way that I don't know. It's hard to compare it to friendships in a monogamous relationship, because there isn't really an exact comparison there.

But, you know, it just it doesn't have to be so detailed if it is. So let's think about how you’re having introductions to this information, how we can limit your access to the information but not in a way that encourages deceit. And think about why it is that your partner is sharing what he is sharing and what he’s trying to get out of that. And if there’s something else that you might be able to talk about or if there’s a way you can ask for reassurance after you’re told some of this information. I think there’s a little bit of leeway there to work through a balance between you knowing what’s happening because obviously you don’t want to be lied to but you not necessarily needing to know every single detail.

Because I feel like, even in my relationships, there’s a reason to disclose to a partner — If I have a partner who I live with or want to live with or who is a long term partner and I sleep with someone else, there is a reason for sexual health to disclose that I’ve slept with someone else, right? However, I wouldn't necessarily feel like I needed to tell them that I slept with someone else in the gym.

Or that once I've slept with someone, I wouldn't feel the need to tell them about every time I've slept with that person. Do you know what I mean? Like I wouldn't — I feel like once they know “Okay, I am sleeping with this person. There's a sexual health thing there. We can negotiate that but this is you know, I'm letting you know that this is happening”. I wouldn't feel the need to be like, “Yeah, we went to the gym and had sex”.

Like I don't feel the need to tell them. There are some people who have relationships where you know, they enjoy hearing about that. That doesn't seem like the case here. Maybe it's kind of a mixture of how you feel but again, like let's just think about like how we can have discussions about this without you needing to know details because I kind of feel like you know a lot of details that aren't really that necessary for you to know.

And there are things that your partner can — you know, if you were having a long distance, monogamous relationship, and your partner, let's say went out with a bunch of friends and  went to that — let's say your partner went to the theme park and the theme park is like your favourite thing to do. And maybe your partner wanted to say like, “Oh, yeah, I went to the theme park with so and so”. That's fine.

Your partner's telling you about their day, but maybe they don't go into detail like “Yeah, we ride this ride and we bid this and we got cotton candy” and like, because they know that this is something you really love and they know it would hurt you and make you feel sad to miss out on that with you. They can tell you and not go into huge amount of detail, not for the purposes of hiding things, but for the purposes of understanding that you're going to feel a little sad and it's not. You know, it doesn't have to be about someone hiding something or not being able to share something with you.

So yeah, there's a little bit of a balance there. But overall, I would say to sum up, of course you're sad. Of course you feel this way. Please allow yourself to have these feelings. Maybe consider getting a therapist to talk through some of these things because there is an inevitable part of this that is just long distance that is really hard. It's very, very difficult. And maybe you can join groups of people in long distance relationships. or seek out friends who are in long distance relationships.

Even if your friends are monogamous, you still might be able to share some of that, “Oh, I'm sad that I'm missing out on my partner's life because we're not reachable with each other”. You can still have those kind of — have someone who understands what you're going through, even if they don't necessarily understand the whole aspect of like, someone else gets to have fun with my partner, which they might feel like would be horrible.

But for you it is manageable. It's just about, at least on the first step, accepting that you feel like shit and that that's fine. And that that's very understandable. And even if you were monogamous I still think you would have a hard time with you know that like the example that I gave of maybe your partner going to a theme park and you loving theme parks, you would still struggle it would just be with different things. The second thing that is like, just keep reminding yourself that it's not about this specific person. And I think you kind of already know that.

And then also have a conversation with your partner about where non-monogamy or polyamory fits within both of your lives. What are your plans for the future? Has your partner talked to this other person about the fact that maybe this person has a lot of their timeshare right now, but won't have a lot of their time in the future? And maybe that will make you feel a little bit more settled. Think about your anchor. What is the reason why you're interested in non-monogamy and how can you bring it back?

Both the anchor within your long term relationship of the promise of getting back together in physical proximity is a big anchor but also your overall anchor of what you're interested in in non-monogamy and why you're interested in it. Also, really think about how you can negotiate both reassurance with your partner — because I think that your partner, even if it's not necessarily their fault, his fault that he's found someone who he can have all this fun with and you don't necessarily have that.

And it's not that you want him to change his behaviour and not meet up with this person as frequently. But I think that he could be a little bit more reassuring or maybe feel an understandable kind o —, if he shares stuff to also give you kind of reassurance a little bit more or like can you work on an agreement where you know you have a code word even to say like “I’m feeling a little sad. Feeling like I'm missing out”. And then last but not least, again, this is not about lying.

This is not moving to a Don't Ask Don't Tell us type of setup. But can you work on a balance between how much you know about this other relationship and how much you don't know? Because part of me feels like you know a lot more detail than is necessary for you to know and it might benefit you to trust each other. You know about this person, nobody's cheating, if that's a fear or reason why you know so much detail and have a little bit more of a balance there.

And maybe think about other like ways you can have quality time together things you can talk about that don't involve necessarily him going into detail about the things he's doing with this other person because it's really not necessary. And if you trust each other on a basic level, then it's just it's just not necessary for you to know all of this because it doesn't do you any good. And not knowing it wouldn't make you — it wouldn't threaten you in any way as long as you know, you have your sexual health agreements and things like that. So yeah, I hope that helps and good luck.

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