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Polyamory, Jealousy, and the Eight Walls of Intimacy

Note: This post will be a sort of a part of a 2-part follow-up to my post on Understanding and Managing Jealousy:

If you have not read the other two articles then please take a look.

Jealousy, nurse that horrible Green-Eyed Monster that can tear apart relationships, can rear its ugly head enough in monogamous relationships, but in an open or polyamorous relationships there are a tremendous amount of opportunities where jealousy can surface and cause problems if you are not prepared. The more we understand jealousy the better we will be able to tame this destructive beast. Please also take a look at my other articles on Jealousy to explore this further.

The Eight Walls of Intimacy

I envision there are 8 basic walls (categories of intimacy) that a person may encounter when jealousy, fear, and insecurities can really rear its ugly head. For some of you, depending on where you are at in your journey, these walls can be made of teddy bears and rainbows bringing us joy and candy, but for others, though, a wall can be made of a thousand pounds of tetanus-laden spiked bricks and wounded badgers which rise up to tear you and your loved ones apart.

Each person and each relationship is going to be different, but below are the eight walls I have identified that we may run into when our partners desire intimacy, are intimate, or show intimacy with others. Six of the walls are general categories of actions, and two are specific significant actions whose potential emotional response may be large enough to warrant its own listing. You might arrange them different for you, but I tried to put the walls in the order of least likely to most likely to trigger a jealous reaction. Some specific actions may be categorized differently for you than it is for others, or might be categorized under several of the walls for different reasons, but this should be good enough to start the conversation.

  1. Interest in Another – showing or expressing interest in another person
  2. Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy – holding hands, hugging, kissing, cuddling, petting
  3. Intellectual Intimacy – having deep conversations, sharing a hobby or other interest in common, have aligned philosophical, political, or religious views, etc…
  4. Emotional Intimacy – the way that your partner looks at another, desiring and being excited to see another person, having or desiring a deep emotional connection with another
  5. The “L” Bomb – saying that you love someone else too
  6. Sexual Intimacy – sexual thoughts or having sex with another
  7. Commitment – entangling finances or living conditions, etc; bringing the partner over to family events,
  8. Children – wanting to have children with another, having their children play together, spending time or taking care of the other’s children

Jealousy Severity Rating (JSR)

In the table below I have the 8 Walls listed with a rating scale (0-5) for the Jealousy Severity Rating, and a section for Partner Notes. You could even create subcategories to show that certain aspects are better or worse for you like: non-sexual physical intimacy does not phase you, with the exception of kissing which is something that you may consider very intimate, and seeing your partner kiss another brings out a fresh batch of negative emotions.

Here is a PDF version of this: Jealousy Severity Rating Worksheet

Walls of Intimacy Jealousy Severity Rating (JSR) Partner Notes
0 1 2 3 4 5
1 Interest in Another
2 Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy
3 Intellectual Intimacy
4 Emotional Intimacy
5 The “L” Bomb
6 Sexual Intimacy
7 Commitment
8 Children

Jealousy Severity Rating

JSR name description notes
 0  no reaction no negative emotions are brought up, sunshine and rainbows good for you – compersive feelings are what it is all about
 1 light jealous reaction wibbling, you notice it and may be able to tell it to go away; you may be aware of what is happening and why perhaps some more self reflection is in order and perhaps consider a future talk with your partner about this
 2 mild jealous reaction some negative emotions arise are creating stress and some conflict with you and/or your partners this is a good time to start a conversation with you partner as well as healthy dose of self reflection time
 3 definite jealous reaction definite negative emotions arise: anger, sadness, feelings of loss or neglect and create definite conflict therapist most likely needed, partner conversation needed
 4 strong jealous reaction crying, rabid fears run amok, feeling despondent, questioning relationships and partner choices therapist definitely needed
 5 overwhelming jealousy hysterical crying, serious thoughts of divorce or breaking up, potential thoughts of suicide therapist definitely needed

Exploratory Exercises:

  • assign a Jealousy Severity Rating (JSR) to each Wall with 5 being the most severe reaction
  • create sub-categories or list specific triggers that are significant for you and list their JSR
  • rearrange these in the order from least to most likely to induce an attack of a negative emotion
  • share this with your partners along with notes of their triggers and for ways they can provide reassurance and support to help you combat or deal with it
  • your partners can do these exercises for themselves too
  • each partner can fill this out for how they believe these areas may affect their individual partners as a sort of a check. We may not think a specific or category or trigger affects us, but others may see that it does and this can start a conversation

The Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement (IMRA)

Note: This post will be a sort of a part of a 2-part follow-up to my post on Understanding and Managing Jealousy:

  • Part 1 – The Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement (IMRA)
  • Part 2 – Polyamory, surgeon Jealousy, approved and the Eight Walls of Intimacy

If you have not read the other two articles then please take a look.

Introduction

To get the most out of this article you will have to closely examine your past and present monogamous relationships as well as your thoughts, buy assumptions, and expectations in relationships to see the truth in what I am presenting. This process may be challenging for some. Keep in mind, also, that this is written in broad and sweeping terms.

This article is written from the stand point of an American in a westernized culture where monogamy is the norm and other relationships are not allowed and/or are punished. The only acceptable or even acknowledged relationship structure here is monogamy.

All relationships have a relationship agreement which governs what actions are acceptable or not – monogamy is no exception, although most do not even know that it exists or that this is a thing. The first rule of monogamy, like the Fight Club, is to not talk about the Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement (IMRA) or even acknowledge its existence.

The IMRA is something that we are taught from birth. It is ingrained and indoctrinated into us as children. It is a fact of life and no other relationship formations can even be contemplated or considered, because the rules for all relationships are already set in stone for you before you were even born, and they are to be a visceral and intrinsic part of your worldview, understanding of life, and the way you interact with people. Its rules and your acceptance of them is implied and expected by everyone as a matter of course. To violate these rules is to court disaster from society at large.

Our culture supports, enforces, and perpetuates the existence of monogamy and its relationship agreement through books, movies, music, religion, laws, and our societal expectations of relationships. Understanding that the IMRA exists can help us to understand our thoughts, emotions and desires, to manage and understand jealousy better, and to better understand relationships dynamics.

As a note – a lot of this is perpetuated and reinforced by 2 harmful ideas: the Starvation Model of Love and the One True Love Myth. If you have not heard of these then please look them up. Perhaps I will write up a short post on this as well.

Contents of the Implied Monogamous Relationship Agreement

The IMRA manifests as a series of Exclusivity Clauses (EC) which effectively state that your partner will have exclusive access to you in the following major areas of life:

  1. Social
  2. Intellectual
  3. Emotional
  4. Sexual
  5. Financial
  6. Parental

I will talk about the individual EC’s a bit more below. In my forthcoming article that talks about the ‘Eight Walls of Intimacy’ you will see how these EC’s map to the Eight Walls – hint: they map pretty closely. Certain specific life moments may have significant overlap in several areas. Flirting is a good example of this, since it could hit on sexual, social, and intellectual or emotional areas, depending on the person or the situation.

For the following discussions I am going to assume that we are talking about a person who is in some form of a committed monogamous relationship (i.e. married or dating exclusively).

Before we dive in we have to create/define one word here as it will be used for our purposes so I do not have to repeat a large phrase each time:

person-gender:  a person of a gender that is appropriate for you as a potential romantic interest (i.e if you are a heterosexual woman then that gender would be male). This is typically applies to situations outside the work environment, but could apply there – each person, relationship, and situation is different.

Social Exclusivity

Social Exclusivity points to only spending time with your partner and no other person-gender – not for lunch (especially if they are very attractive), not chatting on Facebook, not flirting with, not going to a convention or concert with. Your primary social partner is your exclusive partner in all things not work related and anyone else is infringing in that space.

Intellectual Exclusivity

Intellectual Exclusivity points to not finding other person-gender interesting or having interests in common (and wanting to share it with them) especially if your partner does not share it in common with you; not having deep conversations about life, politics, religion, or philosophy, etc.

Emotional Exclusivity

Emotional Exclusivity points to only having romantic or other feelings of desire for your partner and no other person-gender – not still caring for your ex’s or even still carrying a flame for them or a previous love, not falling in love with or being attracted to someone else, not having a close friendship that is closer than an acquaintance or distant friend.

Sexual Exclusivity

Sexual Exclusivity points to having sex with and only sexual thoughts for your partner and not finding other person-gender attractive or thinking about them sexually, not looking at porn, not admitting that they are pretty or are in great shape, not pointing out great things about them, since you should have eyes for only your partner.

Financial Exclusivity

Financial exclusivity points to not spending money on other person-gender – not gifts, surprise parties, trips, etc. All money should be spent only on your partner.

Parental Exclusivity

Parental Exclusivity points to only wanting to have children with your partner, not thinking about wanting kids with partner-gender or what your children might look like. Obviously, there are some exceptions when you already have kids with someone else, but the other rules still basically apply to them too.