I have not, historically, been a jealous person. So when recently I started experiencing actual, noticeable jealousy, I was a little startled. It’s a feeling that I’m unused to, and so it’s one that I don’t have any defenses against. It’s a rather terrible, vertiginous sensation, and it’s been a learning experience.
When I say that I haven’t really experienced jealousy before, I’m separating jealousy from envy. I have been envious before, and still am. I’m often envious of Carrie for having had experiences that I haven’t, which is not limited to her having multiple intimate relationships; she’s much more of a world-traveler than I, and has worked in more places, known more people, and held jobs that were part of her identity rather than merely a paycheck. I’m envious of people that seem to navigate the dating scene more adeptly than I. I’m envious of people whose opportunities seem to have exceeded mine. It’s generally irrational, and always painful. That’s a feeling that I’m used to, though, and while it’s sometimes ugly, it’s also sometimes inspiration to move forward on something that I wouldn’t have the impetus for on my own. It’s usually an unpleasant feeling, but it’s useful.
Recently, though, and gradually, I’ve begun experiencing actual jealousy toward others Carrie has an interest in, or expresses an interest in. I hadn’t really noted the difference between the two sensations previously, partly because I just honestly don’t have much experience with this one. I have not built up a tolerance. A mild reaction strikes me as one of the worst things I’ve ever felt. It hasn’t gotten past mild reactions, but it’s a disturbing trend.
I finally noticed what was happening recently at Waterfire. Carrie and I had been last year, and one of the same performers was there. Carrie expressed an interest in the guy, as she had the last time, but this time I responded jealously. I (think I) wasn’t particularly bad about it, but it was enough that Carrie saw it; we’re finely tuned each-others’-emotions detectors at this point, but for it to be visible at all is very, very new. It’s wasn’t anything dramatic or spectacular, and I did not make a scene or cause a problem, but I was disturbed.
This is related, I’m sure, to the fact that, as time goes by, it gets tougher instead of easier for me to handle a theoretically open relationship. This is what I was looking for and what I wanted, but, as previously discussed, I have difficulty with the abstract in my life; without the openness as a concrete thing on my side, I feel like I’m in an essentially monogamous relationship with a non-monogamous partner.
Shortly after the aforementioned night, Carrie and I had a discussion about the subject. In it she reassured me that, no matter what I might be worrying about, she wasn’t going to be leaving me. But her leaving isn’t my fear. What my anxiety stems from is the potential of being stuck by myself while Carrie goes out with other people, that my inability to date will continue past the point where we two are as focused on each other as we are. That’s difficult to stomach even as trouble borrowed from the future, so I’ve no idea how I’ll handle it when it becomes trouble existing in the present.
That discussion was awful and painful while it was going on, but cathartic. Afterward, and since, I’ve felt much more comfortable, and that nagging sensation is eminently dealable. I’m not even sure what was said that made me feel so much better, and it may have been something as simple as talking about what I was going through. I’ve been running through this cycle where my tension hits a critical mass, and I melt down a little bit, and then I readjust to the new level and am all right, then I gradually get worse until I crack again. This time, I had tried not to have the break and just deal with mounting stress, and so I was at a greater level of tension when I finally let it through.
But there’s more to this newfound copaceticity than catharsis. Carrie expressed some uncertainty about her future, as well, during our discussion, and that suddenly made this feel like a joint venture rather than merely something I had to carry. She’s been trying to get across to me that our positions are more similar in her estimation than I feel they are; I had put this down to an attempt to make me feel better. This time, something in the way she said it made me realize that she legitimately feels that way, and suddenly this became a joint venture rather than just some burden I was carrying.
I hesitate to declare myself better, but I feel at least as if we’ve hit a milestone. Previously, I felt as if it were my responsibility to get my head on straight and just soldier alone through whatever I’m feeling. Now, I’m realizing that just because obstacles exist in my head, that doesn’t make them any less our obstacles to get past. I’m sure we have/had/will have obstacles in Carrie’s head, as well, and in that case I’d want to be involved in the resolution. In fact, it’s a special kind of unfair to insist that problems that affect Carrie are mine and mine alone to deal with. I wouldn’t be happy if our situations were reversed and she said the same.
I’ve been happy since we got together, but I’ve been anxious, too. That anxiety isn’t gone, but it has lessened and I feel like it’s temporary, now. I may actually reach my goal of just being able to relax and enjoy being in love. If nothing else, I’ve finally fully realized that I have a partner in this.