I'm at a dance with my lover. But he's enthusiastically boogying with someone else. At night's end, I wind up chatting with the woman in question. She's bright-eyed, bubbling about how happy she's feeling. Then I sit with my lover. She comes over and tickles the top of his head. He drinks it up. Then he puts his hand on my knee.
I suddenly feel sick to my stomach, and I don't know why. He invites me to another dance the next night. I bow out. I need some time in nature's quiet.
"Let him dance with her tomorrow night," I think. Anger I don't even know I have is blinding me to a big development in my life.
He calls Saturday morning to make a date. Saturday night he goes dancing - without me. Monday night he comes over to my place.
I'm super-excited about spending an evening in intimate conversation and embrace - until he announces it's over. He connected with her on Saturday night, and they're now monogamous lovers.
I'm about to learn the source of my nausea the other night. It's jealousy.
I'm 39 when all this happens, but I can't remember ever feeling jealous before. I've never been able to understand what people were talking about when they discuss it. And I've walked the talk - I've recently been in a polyamorous situation.
I tend to feel contempt for those mired in possessiveness, see them as weak. Maybe that's why I have so much trouble at first recognizing my own jealousy. I've always considered myself so beyond any visits from the green-eyed monster that it takes me a while to catch on that it's my heart the creature is gnawing on now.
What I deny during the day haunts me at night. For weeks after the break-up I can't sleep. My stomach churns, my solar plexus is tied up in knots. I obsessively ask myself, "What does he see in her?" "Is she any good in bed? She can't possibly be as good as I am!" "What does it feel like for him to fuck with her?"
I can't stand thinking about it, and yet I like thinking about it at the same time. There's a perverse feeling about it all. I go through this till maybe 3, 4 in the morning every night and finally realize, "Oh, I'm jealous," and manage to get a few hours' sleep. The next night I go through it all again.
What keeps me sane is reminding myself over and over that if I really love my ex as much as I say I do, his happiness has to mean more to me than his continued physical proximity. As I focus on this idea, I start seeing that I must be deeply dependent on him to be so obsessed with the affection and attention he's giving her!
It's time to start focusing on the fact that love can flow into my life from elsewhere. I also recognize that if I need a guy this much, I'll be willing to put down other women, as I've put her down in my thoughts over and over again, in competitive bids for "my guy."
Now I'm ashamed of my weakness. I call to tell her that whom he loves is his choice and I won't compete over him. The sun starts to shine in my life again, and I'm sleeping better.
Just one thing still nags at me. I'm mad at him for not telling her he was with me till after they'd clicked. Then I get mad at her for not having asked him whether he had other involvements before going for him. It's like a round robin in my head. His fault! her fault! that I'm unwillingly single again.
One day I say, "Enough!" and head off to my neighbourhood park to sit under a tree and try to make peace with the situation. That's the day I realize it's both their "faults." Together they choreographed a coupling that I had no choice but to accept as a fait accompli.
And the bottom-line truth is that I'm not actually mad at them. The person I'm really angry with is myself, because now, digging deep, I remember that when I'd first seen them dancing together - which they did with great verve and skill - I felt so ugly and destitute by comparison. In that state, I couldn't do much but deny the drama unfolding before me; I certainly couldn't confront either of them and say, "Hey, I'm a player here, too. Take my feelings into account!"
In my belly, I am pissed off that I could so abandon myself, that I was so dependent on his attention to make me feel good about myself. And in my belly is a voice telling me I'm beautiful, and that their coupling makes no difference at all to this reality.
From that day on, my jealousy of her is gone.