I (Michelle) sometimes post responses on the She Meets Her Facebook page, which is a dating site for black women. What I find so fascinating about the updates some women post is that they are so often questions that have to do with a particular underlying assumption about lesbian relationships, including when it comes to jealousy. This assumption is really common in lesbian circles. This assumption is: my partner should do everything she can to take care of my needs and avoid triggering me.
Guess what? These are not necessary for long-term happiness or a fulfilling relationship! I can see your jaw on the floor. You can pick it up now. I’ll explain.
Here’s the latest example from that page: Two women are in a long-distance relationship, and one of them feels it’s necessary to sever all connections to exes or women who might be interested in her, and expects her girlfriend to do the same. The girlfriend isn’t, and so the question is, should the other be OK with that? So the assumption is that each of them should do everything possible to avoid any possibility of the other getting triggered by jealousy, by eliminating all possible sources of jealousy.
But, of course, you can see the fallacy in this, right? It’s impossible to eliminate all possible sources of jealousy. What about that cute co-worker, or the hottie cashier at the grocery store? The only way to deal with jealousy… is to deal with jealousy. That is, if you are the one feeling jealous, notice what’s happening for you. Notice what’s coming up. What stories are you telling yourself? “She’ll leave me for someone else,” “she’ll cheat on me,” “I can’t trust her,” “she thinks that other woman is more sexy than me.” Are these stories actually true?
Now of course, we can’t ever guarantee that our girlfriend won’t leave us for someone else. But most often, when that happens, it’s because we’ve not been paying attention. Either we haven’t chosen our girlfriend well, and she doesn’t have the skills to navigate difficult situations, so when the going gets rough, she moves on. Or perhaps we haven’t been noticing that our own lack of emotional or communication skills has been creating a rift or tension, a rift wide enough for her to walk away through.
The secret is this: if both people are committed to a path of conscious relationship, and are willing to learn the skills to tolerate their own feelings, and communicate them to their partner, and they are actively building intimacy, and healing conflict, this just isn’t going to happen. If they are both growing and being present in the relationship, there won’t be any surprises, besides the regular ones life throws at us. There won’t be cheating.
And, further, in a general sense, beyond just jealousy, we don’t have to do our best to meet our partners needs and make sure our partners don’t get triggered. That is because if we each know ourselves well, are clear about our own needs, can handle our own triggers, and communicate our own feelings, this isn’t necessary. In fact, this is the most sustainable avenue for relationships. Of course, we always have to do our best to speak compassionately, without criticism, blame or defensiveness, listen cleanly without assumptions, and be always willing to emotionally turn toward our partner. Those are the key aspects of a healthy, fulfilling, long-term relationship.