- People in monogamous relationships often say their own jealousy is the main reason they could never be in a successful polyamorous relationship.
- According to relationships researcher Amy Moors, envy isn’t always the best reason to write off consensual non-monogamous relationship dynamics.
- Jealousy is often considered a sign of love, but it’s really not.
Although research shows most people have fantasized about being in an open relationship at some point in their lives, far fewer have actually tested out having more than one romantic or sexual partner.
What’s holding them back? In addition to the societal taboo that remains around the relationships setups, people in monogamous relationships often say they don’t think they could be in a successful polyamorous relationship because they’d be too jealous.
Underlying that belief is the assumption that they love their partner so much they couldn’t bear to share their love, and that people who polyamorous relationships must love their partners less.
But according to Chapman University psychology professor and relationships researcher Amy Moors, while there are good reasons non-monogamy may not be for you, envy isn’t one of them.
Rather, people’s misinterpretations of what jealousy means could lead to relationship problems, regardless of whether that relationship is monogamous or polyamorous.
“In our society we’ve really conflated jealousy with love and it’s problematic,” Moors told Insider at the annual meeting for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. “We often interpret jealousy as that person cares about you and really likes you, and that is so incredibly harmful to want to possess someone like that.”
Jealousy is a sign of control, not love
In monogamous relationships, a person typically views their partner as their biggest confidante, friend, and emotional support system, but that idea can sometimes manifest in jealous behaviours that negatively impact the relationship.
According to Moors, jealousy is “really stemming from a fear of insecurity that someone might be better than us or offer something better.”
If a person constantly checks their partner’s emails, texts, or whereabouts, they may believe they’re doing so out of love or protection for their partner, but it’s really a way to maintain control over their partner out of fear they will use all of their love, support, or attention on other people, Moors said.
Not everyone who feels jealous will use manipulative behaviours to keep their partner close, but jealousy can be considered a warning sign of domestic violence, according to the National Domestic Violence hotline. Knowing what to look out for and which behaviours cross a line can keep your relationships healthy and safe.
There are healthier ways to show love, even in monogamous relationships
Rather than normalize jealous behaviours as hallmarks of a loving relationship, Moors wants people to illustrate their love in positive ways.
“These positive things seem much easier to show someone that you care about them, than, you know, trying to control their behaviour or wanting to get a big reaction out of someone,” Moors said.
Instead of keeping tabs on a partner’s every move, consider telling them why you’re proud of them, picking up extra chores around the house when they’re stressed, or bringing them a souvenir from a recent trip to show how much you missed them.
These gestures are true acts of love that can benefit people in all kinds of relationships, including polyamorous and monogamous ones.