Dear Reader: The following is a co-written article between the creators of Sex the Podcast, Natalie Vartanian and Bob Schwenkler, exploring desire and jealousy within committed relationship.
Why Did We Write This Article?
There’s a pink elephant in the room that no nobody’s giving any attention to. It’s a trend happening in bedrooms and households all across the country.
It’s ruined many, many relationships and there’s a really strong chance that it’s ruining yours too. And by ruin, we don’t necessarily mean BANG all in an instant. It’s oftentimes much more insidious than that.
We mean that it’s kept you settling for less within your relationship. It’s ruining any chances you have of creating the deeply connected, playful, sexy, inspiring relationship that (we hope) you dream of.
How often do you tell your partner all about the crushes you have on other people? Do you even acknowledge to yourself that you have crushes on other people than your partner?
How often do you ask your partner about their latest crushes?
Having a crush on someone besides your partner is typically seen as a cardinal sin. To acknowledge jealousy as a natural (if not necessary) component of being in relationship would be grounds for commitment to the insane asylum.
This conversation around crushes is at the top of the list of conversations that we see NOT being had in relationships all around us. It’s also the conversation that could make the biggest difference in how much trust, safety, and intimacy you and your partner experience with each other.
In this article we explore how having the “I have a crush on…” conversation can completely transform your relationship and bring you closer together, not farther apart!
How should we know that?
We’ve seen this happen not just in our own relationship, but in the relationships of those we love, support, and coach!
Why would we want to intentionally let our partner know about OTHER people we find attractive physically?
Why would we put them in a situation where they will feel less than or jealous or unwanted?
Wouldn’t we want them to feel like they are the ONLY one that turns us on and that we find attractive?
This can be a confusing topic because you might be the one sharing about your attraction to others OR be the recipient of that information.
Again, who would want to hear that their partner is attracted to someone else?
Wouldn’t I want to feel that I am the only one in this whole wide world that turns my partner on?
Ideally, I believe that it shouldn’t matter. The truth here is that we have feelings and attractions and there is nothing wrong with any of it. Me thinking ‘that guy is hot’ has nothing at all to do with how much I love, adore, trust and lust after my man.
If we did not make those attractions wrong, as well as the reaction to my partner’s attraction (jealousy), it would actually open up so much in terms of trust in the relationship… because we were THAT vulnerable and honest in our communication.
I am going to confess something to you though: I am still figuring this one out as I go.
I am not super great at it. It is definitely a work in progress, especially because it feels different in every relationship and with every partner.
Historically I have not shared who I found to be attractive with my partner because I didn’t want them to feel bad, but I most definitely wanted to hear who they found attractive because it was a turn on. Seems paradoxical right?
Seriously, it would get me all hot and bothered to the point that I would ask them to point out people they found attractive and tell me what they would do to them in graphic detail. I didn’t think of myself as a jealous person during any of my three previous relationships, and I honestly prided myself around that ‘fact.’
Currently though, with Bob, things feel radically different. I don’t even recognize myself sometimes.
I have somewhat of an easier time sharing with him who I have interesting chemistry with because we have set up a container where it’s all kosher to be that open and honest.
HOWEVER, I am not going to lie in that I have had a ‘hell of a time’ hearing who he may be attracted to. Or let’s be even more honest, I have simply been feeling jealousy across the board – with exes, other women, clients, friends, colleagues etc – and have been making it (my feelings) wrong.
Instead of looking at it like “Man, do I love Bob and want him all to myself.” (which is a super new feeling for me), I look at it like “What is wrong with me? Why am I feeling like this?” I shun myself and the emotion which keeps me super disconnected from the person I love the most.
Over the years I have realized that jealousy is never actually about the thing we think it is about. There is usually something deeper there that is craving to be communicated.
What I have also found is that when we can talk about it in such a way where no one is taking anything personally, and you can simply show up and be curious about the experience your partner is having, that in and of itself dispels so much of the charge!
Bob and I have definitely gone around this topic a number of times in our relationship, at times very gracefully, at others times super sloppily. I liken it to the blind leading the blind. However, we are getting better each time and allowing the other person the space to feel heard and understood.
It may seem crazy to say this but embracing and owning and COMMUNICATING those desires and feelings and reactions can bring you closer together, not farther apart which is what the FEAR of those desires and feelings would like to have you think.
What’s your relationship to jealousy?
Me? I love it, but truth be told it took a while (and a lot of pain) to get here.
When partners in the past would confess crushes it stung. Sometimes badly. For good reason too. I’ve been hurt within relationship. In one relationship I was cheated upon while I was out of town on tour. And then broken up with when I got back. Yeah, that more than stung.
In another I suffered as my girlfriend took a weeklong vacation to Hawaii with another man. Our communication around this particular man had broken down so badly that I wasn’t included in the decision making process. I was so shut down with jealousy and so unclear about where my boundaries were in regards to the openness of our relationship that I couldn’t even talk to her about him. She got invited, I had already made it known that I was unavailable for conversation about him, and she decided to go.
I know I’m not alone in my story either. Though your circumstances might vary we’ve all experienced the pain, trauma, and drama that jealousy can create.
But I’ve learned something really important along the way.
Here’s the secret: It’s just a feeling.
I know that simply saying that won’t change the pain you or I experience, but on the other hand, nobody ever died simply from experiencing a feeling. It’s the choices we make based upon our feelings that can cause so much drama and trauma.
What if you made a different choice this time?
What if you started creating more opportunities to acknowledge and work through your jealousy instead of sweeping it under the rug within your relationship? What if you explored and worked through it bit by bit instead waiting for it to COME TRAUMATICALLY CRASHING THROUGH YOUR RELATIONSHIP ALL AT ONCE.
What if you actually committed to honesty with yourself and your partner and welcomed jealousy into your relationship?
What if jealousy wasn’t a feeling that you needed to make wrong or DO anything about? What if you simply felt it and welcomed it into your body as one of the million different beautiful experiences of being fully alive?
What if jealousy was actually a gift, an expression of love and desire? What if it simply means that you deeply desire your partner?
What if you opened up to the vulnerability of fully expressing that desire to your partner?
Then, what if that expression of desire transformed into a powerful turn on for you both?! What if it became something that deepened and strengthened your connection? What else might then become possible in your relationship?
What might that kind of relationship feel, look, and be like?
And… What if you and your partner started asking yourselves questions like these more often?
There is a saying we love that states the following:
“It’s only weird if you make it weird.”
Jealousy will continue to have a bad rap if you keep giving it a bad rap. Allow it to mean something else and you will be amazed at how it shapeshifts to fit into your new definition of it.
Being attracted to others outside of the relationship, and having that be okay, could be a new way of confirming how strong the trust is within your relationship. Novel concept right?
There is also a saying that says “It’s only weird the first time.”
It will feel weird to have these kinds of open, honest, vulnerable conversations in the beginning, and that is more than okay. In fact, it is normal because you have never had them before.
Think of a baby walking for the first time, all cute and clumsy. But we don’t make the baby feel bad for not knowing how to walk or chastise them for its wobbly strut. We encourage the baby. We clap and smile and laugh. We know that what is available on the other side for them is freedom and confidence and a whole world of possibilities, which is why we cheer them on.
So consider this our version of cheering you on. As you begin to have these often times uncomfortable and scary conversations around sex, know that what we hold as possible for your relationship is that it will make you stronger, more connected and deeper in love.
Go for it. All of it.
What have you got to lose?
Only a relationship so loving, trusting, connected, inspiring, supported, and playful that it exceeds your wildest dreams.