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Jealousy and Co-Dependency in Non-Monogamy

Co-presenters Jordyn Amstutz and Isaac Cross deliver a talk on jealousy and co-dependency in non-monogamy.

More than 30 people met for a monthly relationship presentation on Jealousy and co-dependency strategies in a bright and inviting room in the Boulder, Colorado, USA Public Library. Scholarly paper — ” A cultural perspective on romantic love” discussed how: “Individualistic cultures such as the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and the countries of Northern and Western Europe focus more on self-interest and the interest of one’s immediate family, personal autonomy and making your own decisions, individual initiative and independence.”

Collectivist cultures such as China, many African and Latin American nations, Greece, southern Italy, and the Pacific Islands, on the other hand, induce people to subordinate personal motivation to the group’s interests, being loyal to the group that in turn looks after their interests.They encourage interdependence and suggest that group decisions are more important than individual ones.” — Karandashev. “A Cultural Perspective on Love.”

Culture can create a loss of personal autonomy

As a result there are many cultures around the world promoting a lack of personal autonomy in all relationships.

A loss of one’s autonomy can feel like your life is not your own.

One might feel controlled by one’s nation, family, romantic partner, friends or employer when they lack autonomy.

Establishing and maintaining autonomy is important in all relationships especially non-monogamous relationships.

Love letters in colors. Photo Courtesy of Nicole De Khors.
Love letters in colors. Photo Courtesy of Nicole De Khors.

Boulder, Colorado Psychotherapist — Jessica Fern Cooley is the organizer, host and a frequent presenter in this monthly relationship workshop series. Cooley’s in-person and virtual psychotherapy practice has consensual non-monogamy as an area of focus.

Consensual non-monogamy is also a persistent topic that we discuss here at Culturs Magazine as part of our “Happiness series.”

In this series we examine your personal life, professional life and your lives as global citizens. We offer new ways of looking at old challenges to create your happiest “New Normal Big Life” through this process of self-analysis.

Jealousy and co-dependency in non-monogamy

Jealousy and co-dependency: Photo of Jordyn Amstutz and Isaac Cross Photo by Antoinette Toscano
Co-presenters Jordyn Amstutz and Isaac Cross deliver a talk on jealousy and co-dependency in non-monogamy. Photo and video Courtesy of Antoinette Lee Toscano. Click photo to watch the video.

First the event topic on Oct. 27, 2018, was “Jealousy and Co-Dependency in Non-monogamy.”

The presentation was co-presented by Jordyn Amstutz and Isaac Cross from the Colorado Center for Alternative Lifestyles (CAL).

According to CAL’s website:

“The Colorado Center for Alternative Lifestyles … is committed to creating an environment that supports consenting adults who engage in alternative relationship expressions and structures.”

There are groups and organizations like this one on every continent. They can be found on Facebook, on blogs and through word of mouth. These are groups of ordinary people who come together with relationship experts to discover healthy strategies for happy romantic partnerships.

Jealousy and a loss of autonomy is often a major challenge in all relationships. Including monogamous and open relationships. Making this an important topic to focus on.

Co-dependence, autonomy and healthy relationships

Men with a pride flag draped around one's shoulder. Photo Courtesy of Samantha Hurley.
Men with a pride flag draped around one’s shoulder. Photo Courtesy of Samantha Hurley.

Jealousy and co-dependency can arise within every relationship. Sexuality educator, relationship coach and Portland, Oregon, USA sex therapist — Gina Senarighi says:

“Co-dependents often have low self-worth and look for things outside of themselves to feel better.” — Gina Senarighi

Adding that codependent traits run in different degrees or on a spectrum of severity. She emphasizes that only a qualified professional can make a diagnosis of co-dependency and not everyone experiencing symptoms suffers from co-dependency.

How co-dependent are you?

Check your co-dependence in relationships by taking this quiz.

Nationwide insurance company’s research shows:

“The average length of a relationship for 20 somethings is 4.2 years although a third (31%) have been together for six or more years.”

Finding someone to date, creating a relationship and remaining happily together is difficult.

However, rather than staying in an unhappy partnership more people are engaging in couples therapy, seminars and discussion groups to improve the way they relate to their partners.

Relationship support groups on every continent

There are groups of people around the world meeting in libraries, coffee shops private homes and online.

They gather for the purpose of improving the way they relate in open relationships. However the content of these discussions apply to all relationships — romantic monogamous, non-monogamous, platonic and professional.

Presenters Amstutz and Cross have more than a decade of experience at polyamory and open-relating.

In their jealousy and co-dependency workshop they discussed jealousy’s root causes and how to distinguish jealousy from other negative emotions like envy. They also taught practical ways to handle negative emotions as they are experienced.

People are not Things

Photo of a couple on a camping trip. Photo Courtesy of Sarah Pflug.
Couple on a camping trip. Photo Courtesy of Sarah Pflug.

Primarily Cross and Amstutz outlined two key principles used in managing jealousy and codependency.

The principles are based on the book “More than two: A practical guide to ethical polyamory” by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert.

These principles are:

  1. People are more important than the relationship.
  2. People are not things.

First Cross talked about how it is more important to focus on the individual people within a relationship.

Placing people above the relationship

This is different from mononormative practices which focuses on preserving the relationship at all cost to the people involved.

Ethical consensual non-monogamy practices aspires to place the happiness of the individuals within the relationship before the relationship itself — even if it means changing or ending the relationship.

Next Amstutz explained that people are not things.They are not instruments by which needs are met. Nor are they crutches for leaning on.

Furthermore looking for an individual with a certain set of characteristics to meet your needs without concern for the person would be treating a person like a thing.

The fact that you are interacting with an actual human being with their own wants, needs, emotions and boundaries is an important relationship and partnering consideration Amstutz said.

What co-dependence looks like

Crying man. Photo Courtesy of Matthew Henry.
Crying man. Photo Courtesy of Matthew Henry.

Creating a co-dependent relationship where one or both partners have given away their autonomy is treating a person like a thing.

A lack of autonomy may show up in a relationship as asking for permission to be who you are or to do the things that you enjoy.

Another area that demonstrates a lack of autonomy is in not controlling one’s own time.

Allowing a partner to view all of your free time as time available to spend with them is a lack of autonomy.

In addition co-dependency might appear as having devolved into feeling as though you cannot exist without your partner.

These feelings can indicate a lack of self-esteem and a loss of autonomy.

The six pillars of self-esteem

Author and psychotherapist — Nathaniel Branden wrote the book — “The six pillars of self-esteem.” In it he lists the following six internally generated life practices exhibited by people with high self-esteem:

  1. Living consciously
  2. Self-acceptance
  3. Self-responsibility
  4. Self-assertiveness
  5. Living purposefully
  6. Personal integrity

Having self-esteem in all aspects of one’s life is critical. Strong self-esteem in the area of romantic and interpersonal relationships is a crucial skill for developing deeply connected autonomous relationships.

All relationships are challenging at times.

Without some inner work having deep and meaningful, emotionally and physically intimate relationships with multiple people — as in polyamory can be even more challenging.

One of the most important takeaways from the workshop is that each person in a relationship will have their own issues.

Feeling unhappy in a relationship is not about what a partner is doing or not doing. It is about how one feels and reacts to a partner’s behavior.

How relationships mirror our inner-life

As in most things the people around us serve as a mirror. If you are feeling jealous those feelings say more about you than it does about your partner. A partner is simply mirroring back to you what you are projecting from the inside out.

Yes overcoming jealousy might require some help and support from a partner, friend or a therapist to work through it.

However it is ultimately a solitary journey that one needs to undergo to become free of this negative emotion. Self-analysis a lot of talking with your partner and monitoring ones’ own inner thoughts is key to all types of healthy relationships.

Relationship improvement resources

Fortunately there are books, blogs, therapists and coaches and support groups for every flavor of relating.

You can connect with Amstutz and Cross and read more about working through jealousy and avoiding co-dependency in your own relationships here.

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