Beneath the fear, rage, and insecurity lies your pure animal hunger for you lover. Why not use it?
In a cursory Google search on the topic of jealousy, I discovered something interesting. There are a ton of articles and classes out there created to inform you of one indisputable fact: Jealousy is the number-one relationship and libido killer, and if you’re being afflicted by it, you have a serious problem on your hands.
I beg to differ. In fact, I think jealousy gets an unduly bad rap.
I’m a self-professed sensation junkie and tantrika. I use everything—a bad hair day, encounters with Internet trolls, a shitty conversation, rage, shame, fear, guilt, and self-defeating internal dialogue—as raw fuel for deepening my connection to my lover, to myself, and to God. Basically, I believe that uncomfortable feelings can be utilized in service of my power, my peace, and ultimately, my enlightenment.
Jealousy is a “hot” emotion. That doesn’t mean you have to like or condone it. But, if you took away all value judgments and allowed yourself to settle into the pure sensations of jealousy, you’d see they’re really not that different from the experience of turn-on. Your heart palpitates, your pulse races, heat prickles the surface of your skin, and your internal organs contort in a spiral dance of heightened emotion.
In short, jealousy—when skillfully engaged—is a wondrous aphrodisiac. It can result in the type of passionate, headboard-banging sex that, let’s face it, most of us in long-term relationships would kill to have.
But intentionally playing with jealousy is an advanced practice—akin to swallowing daggers, handling venomous snakes, or dancing with fire. When you do it with adroitness and care, it can be beautiful; when you approach it without the appropriate cautionary measures, it can be disastrous.
Sugarcoating jealousy is just as foolish as demonizing it. I’m not one of those people who simplistically views a lover’s jealousy as a sign that, Awww, he really does care about me. Nor do I see unmitigated, jealousy-induced rage in the form of physical or emotional violence as anything more than a giant red flag. One who approaches jealousy as an advanced practice will not be moved to do so out of morbid curiosity or the self-righteous need to blame and shame a lover. She will do so because she accepts that on the other side of what we fear and demonize is the exquisite animal of our desire.
Desire is a primal energy that often gets tamped down by well-meaning but wrong-headed notions about what’s appropriate or acceptable. But the fulfillment of our desire—which is what we all want at the end of the day, right?—only becomes possible when we stop resisting our own discomfort with the truth. A truth that includes our experience of jealousy.
You can take on the advanced practice of transforming your jealousy into passionate sex and real intimacy by following a few simple steps.
1. Feel Your Jealousy
Jealousy is one of the most intense emotions we will ever experience. One thing we know when we are jealous is that we are not numb; indeed, our ability to feel is quite pronounced.
We tend to be chary of jealousy because it emerges from the visceral, involuntary parts of our brain. Accepting it can feel dangerous, scary, like we’re going to lose control. Many of us shut it down because we’ve been conditioned to view it as the relationship killer that so many pundits say it is. On the other end of the spectrum, we might respond by overreacting—usually in the form of shaming, blaming, and sometimes getting even with our partners. This is never a good idea. I’ll spare you the moral diatribe and focus on the fact that it’s simply an inefficient use of your fuel.
In admitting to jealousy rather than clamping down on it, we can access it in its undiluted form. We can see it for what it is: hunger—a raw, animalistic longing to devour our partner, body and soul.
In long-term relationships, hunger can feel like a scarce commodity. This is because, by the time commitment has entered the picture, the oxytocin-induced roller-coaster ride of courtship has come to an abrupt halt.
But jealousy forces us to admit that the security we took for granted is, in fact, not a foregone conclusion. We run the risk of losing control, and losing the one we love. This danger, when we are willing to dance with it, is simply an indication that we’re playing outside of our known boundaries. The experience of erotic surrender happens in the gap between what we know and what we do not know. In the face of uncertainty, danger, and mystery, we don’t turn tail and run—instead, we breathe, move into it with fascinated curiosity, and thank our stars that things just got more interesting.
2. Exercise Radical Honesty
Radical honesty is direct, vulnerable communication that operates on a deep respect for our own internal states. We take responsibility for who we are and what we are feeling—which means we don’t hide behind pretenses, stonewall our partner, or expect to be placated out of our misery.
When we let our partner see our rawness, our tenderness, and even our jealousy—without blaming them for having caused it—we agree to a relationship that is capable of withstanding the most powerful and devastating intimacy of all: the truth. We let ourselves move into this truth, whether it’s admitting to having a crush on someone else, or expressing that we feel threatened by our lover’s attractive, touchy-feely coworker.
We’re always seeking safe ground in our relationships, but here’s the thing: It is only truth that creates genuine safety. If you want security you can count on, then instead of trying to control your own or your partner’s actions or feelings, focus your energy instead on creating a safe container where you both have the freedom to voice your most taboo thoughts and feelings. That’s safety.
3. Get Off With Compersion
There’s a wonderful term the polyamorous community uses: compersion. It refers to the sensation of vicarious joy and pleasure you feel when your partner is in another sexual or romantic relationship. In other words, you love your partner so much that your experience of their happiness actually pleases you.
Compersion isn’t about denying jealousy—it’s about pushing straight through it until you eventually get to the blissed-out, peaceful eye of the storm. In fact, in moving into jealousy and desire, you eventually discover that just a bit further down the road is love. Talk about an advanced practice!
Being in a monogamous relationship myself, I think we monogamists could learn a lesson or two from people navigating a landscape of multiple lovers. For starters: developing curiosity about our partner’s internal world, the thoughts and feelings they experience quite independently of us. When we respect and nurture the sovereignty of the one we are with, we discover that we have the capacity to fall in love with them over and over again.
Entertaining the notion that our partner is the proud owner of fantasies, desires, and dreams that we have not yet penetrated is enough to polish them with the luster of mystery—and it doesn’t even require them to change for us! We can continually allow ourselves to be moved, even ennobled, by the deep mystery of this complex human being with whom we share our bed and dreams.
Compersion also makes the act of partners sharing fantasies with each other more fun and fascinating. Try it, if you’re game.
4. Embrace Uncertainty
Some people who are aware of my philosophy around jealousy think I’m reckless. A common question I get is, “In ‘playing with’ jealousy, what if you encourage your partner to cheat on you?” I won’t get into the faulty logic of such a question, which presumes that repressing our emotions will help maintain the status quo (as if that were desirable in the first place), but I will say this: Over the years, I’ve observed something that has informed my own attitude toward intimate relationships: The worst commitments are the ones in which an endless litany of conditions keep us stuck in fixed roles rather than giving us room to grow. In contrast, the best commitments never lose the vitality and excitement we experience in the dating stages of a relationship.
Openness and the refusal to imprison another person in our relationship demands actually encourages our lover to come back, over and over. We learn to approve of whatever desires we and our partners might have, even the ones that break our hearts. We also acknowledge our humanity as essentially good, meaning that we choose to say “yes” to our feelings in all their complexity—including jealousy.
Viewing jealousy as a way to amp up your chemistry and intimacy rather than as a relationship death knell can infuse your life with continual newness. By soaking up every moment you have with your lover as if it were the first, or the last, you magnify your chances of having a solid, seaworthy relationship—not to mention toe-curling passion.
Nirmala Nataraj is an award-winning writer, editor, desire coach, and self-described taboo slayer living in New York.