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Too jealous for a threesome?

I'm worried my partner will like the experience better with someone else.

Photo by Obie Fernandez on Unsplash

Q: In my dating career and observations of the human race, I’ve noticed that people come out of the factory either wired jealous or not-jealous. Despite being more of the jealous type (and my partner too), in a controlled setting, I can see my partner and I having a FFM threesome or being exhibitionists in front of others at a swingers’ club. I’ve even encountered another couple (maybe two) whom I feel I could trust to engage in play with just the female partner, my partner and me. 

But here’s the rub (no pun intended). I’m worried, really worried, that my partner will like the experience better with someone else. Her vagina could be far tighter. Her fellatio significantly more deeply throated. Would he constantly fantasize about her? Wish I was her? Could this be a case of giving an indoor cat the taste of the outdoors once, and then it’s game over? I worry, clearly. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

You’re far from alone in this regard – group sex is easily the most common fantasy, but it’s not something everyone can execute in real life. Let’s look at your specific concerns. 

First: what even is jealousy? It’s often spoken of as a singular thing, when the reality is more of an umbrella of emotions, with a mix of motivations. We can fear being left out or abandoned. We could feel envious that another person has something that we want. We may feel devalued, invisible, or not adequately celebrated.

There are many rational reasons for jealousy and ultimately, it’s super functional. The emotional sting is like physical pain: important information. We are alerted to an issue that must be addressed before we suffer irreparable damage. In the same way that the searing sensation on my skin will warn me to get my hand off a stove, a feeling of jealousy might help me realize that I’m being treated unfairly in comparison to my colleagues or that a lover is pulling away.

That’s not to say that we should indulgently bathe in our jealousy. As psychiatrist Grant Hillary Brenner puts it, ”Jealousy is, like a tragic and horrible news story, a huge draw.” 

In an article for Psychology Today, Brenner says, “so curious that jealousy itself, like the fantasies it engenders, is cruelly seductive. Jealousy takes over, and we seem to become someone else. Jealousy, like love, is blind. But in not exactly the same ways. The dark side of obsession, near-delusional at times, jealousy is an alter ego we don’t want to know. Jealousy feels addictive.”

Someone can also have pathological jealousy, sometimes as a symptom of a paranoid or obsessive mental illness. And because ours is a culture that normalizes compulsory monogamy – the idea that the only valid/good romantic relationships are sexually exclusive – we often don’t see this kind of unhealthy preoccupation for what it is. In many stories about love, controlling, pathological jealousy is extolled as romantic, proof that someone truly cares. 

So we can approach this emotion from a place of practicality: identifying it clearly for what it is, seeking the true source of the pain, and working together to find a mutually agreeable solution. It’s about figuring out where we feel vulnerable and then finding more room for compassion and curiosity. It’s about working on areas of potential growth in our relationships, instead of demanding that others curtail themselves for our comfort. 

You mention that you think folks come hard-wired to be either jealous or not, but that’s not what the evidence suggests. There’s an idea that those who practice consensual non-monogamy must not be jealous – or that they experience compersion (the joy of knowing someone you love is experiencing happiness) in lieu of it. 

In truth, compersion and jealousy are not opposites, and they can occur simultaneously. You can be happy that your partner is deriving pleasure from another woman while also being nervous that he will like her better. The difference in reaction is likely more a reflection of whether we think our fears and insecurities can (or should) be challenged.

Let’s look at the specific fears you mentioned. They exist wholly in the providence of sexual prowess, or perceived desirability. That’s understandable! We want to be wanted and to feel like our bodies and sex skills will keep our lovers coming back for more. 

While you don’t say how long you’ve been together, I infer it has been long enough that you and your partner have significant compatibility, sexually as well as romantically and emotionally. I assume you have a depth of trust, shared interests, and an enjoyment of each other’s company, on top of a physical attraction. Those things are not to be underestimated. Good head is superb and can even make us stick around a toxic situation longer than necessary, but it’s rarely enough to rip someone away from a happy, satisfying relationship. 

My recommendation would be to take stock of how you feel about your connection with your partner and to evaluate the many strengths you bring to the table as a lover and a friend. Because if you feel truly confident that you’re a fun, sexy, loving, trustworthy mate, and that your partner appreciates that, then you know that a tight pussy is just a body part, and what matters is the person to whom it is attached. 

Have a question for Dr. Timaree? Send an email to asktimaree@philadelphiaweekly.com.

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  • Timaree Schmit Headshot

    Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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