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
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