I’m now in a relationship, we had “something” between us for a while but only about a month ago, as it became more intense and also we had some problems, we’ve decided to say we’re together. It’s an open relationship, and we mostly expect clear communication from each other. Meaning, it’s ok to have other relationships, or whatever, you just have to be open about it.
I’m somehow on the asexual spectrum but also am a hypersexual, yeah I know, it’s just complicated. I want to have sex and sometimes I have it, but it’s always a complicated matter, I grew up as a hetero cisgender boy and was struggling (still am) with pornography addiction. I wanted to ask you about sexual jealousy and insecurity.
It is specifically this type of jealousy that I feel when I hear they’ve been sleeping with someone else. It’s stronger if someone is a cis man. It’s even stronger if that someone has also relationship-potential in their life, like it adds to the power of the sexuality.
I’ve known myself not to be a very jealous person. Though I’m not feeling much of the compersion feeling people talk about when I hear of my partners’ sex with other people, I do think that I take it pretty easily most of the time. Generally I see my sexual jealousy as part of the hetero-capitalist-patriarchy that is built on the idea that deep down, we’re all competing each other. On some level, I feel jealous EVERY TIME I hear about anyone in the world having sex; but I can live with that, and I just see it as part of the False Competition we’re all taking part of in the western-capitalism-ruled earth.
But lately I heard about my partner’s new sexual partner and I can’t take it. Like, can’t sleep can’t take it. I tell myself that it’s the competition, I tell myself many things, but talking to myself doesn’t seem to be working. And I know it has to do with the relationship not being stable enough yet, and I know it’s also the romantic potential that they have, but there is this sexual jealousy that is totally sexual that amplifies everything. And I want to understand that part better. Why is sex something to be so jealous of, as an independent thing? How come I feel worse hearing that they have sex, than for example, if they’d leave me for the new guy but I knew they were not having anything sexual?
I encountered mainly three explanation/solutions to this: that I need to work with myself to learn how to feel accepted for my own sexuality; that probably my needs aren’t being met in the relationship and therefore I feel insecurity; and that it’s natural and normal to feel sexual jealousy and I just have to learn how to live with these feelings inside me.
Those explanations all see the sexual part as a symptom for a “deeper” problem, like insecurity, or other needs in the relationship, or feeling accepted. But I still feel like the sexual part is problematic for itself, and not only as a symptom.
What do you think? Is sex-specific jealousy something one has to “learn how to live with”, or is it something you can actually get rid of? And what do you think is the nature of this jealousy, except for times when it’s a symptom for something else in the relationship?
I’d love to read your thoughts on the matter. Thank you very much!
There’s a lot to unpack here and I want to make sure that I address everything that you’re putting in here. The main issues that I’ve noticed here is what it means to be ‘open’, fear of being replaced, as well as addiction and hypersexuality.
Defining what it means to be open
There are all sorts of ways we end up in relationships. Sometimes they do ‘just happen’. And I do think that there’s a lot in the media that encourages people to not talk about things, that it’s more ‘romantic’ to let things happen. And while there is a risk of trying to over-plan and put things into stone where you need to still figure each other out, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a discussion about expectations.
The way you describe the start of your relationship sticks out to me. You mention that you’re open and that all that’s required for your relationship is that you have to be open about it. I’m not saying everyone needs to be serious about their relationships, but I do think sometimes when you start out with no structure, it can cause anxiety for a lot of people. You might want to consider sitting down and having a conversation with your partner about your boundaries, what ones you know.
You may also want to consider thinking about *why* your relationship is open. Do you need it to be? What was your original motivation? I do think people, whether monogamous or not, need to really think about whether or not they want a relationship and what they exactly get out of it. We’re so socialised to assume romantic relationships are the thing everyone does and should do and we’re not really encouraged to think about why. I do think you should think about what you get out of it.
Fear of being replaced
Many of the fears you mention are understandable in logic. Sex has a lot of meaning for us in this culture and I know in my own personal experience of being asexual, it can mean even more to me in some situations. I have a lot of insecurity because I feel like I’m not as valuable as people who aren’t sexual. I do fear being replaced by someone who is sexual a lot. And I do think that because sex is something everyone seems so obsessed to me, it feels like it’s the Most Important Thing, even when it isn’t.
I think as asexuals we might have trouble understanding what it’s like to not be asexual. With my own anchor partner, he’s interested in causal hookups and I can’t really understand why. He can’t explain to me why. We’re just different. I feel less anxious about the casual hookups he might have but it used to make me feel nervous because my brain would ‘logically’ say that if I were exciting enough, he wouldn’t ‘need’ that, right?
But that’s my brain not understanding his motivations and picking up these context clues from a society that encourages unhealthy and unrealistic ideas about attraction. It’s something I sometimes still have to work on. It may help you to remember that the motivation to have sex for people who aren’t asexual might not be something you can ever understand fully and that your brain might be trying to fill in the blanks with panic and worry.
Another aspect of this fear you have — and I do think your fears aren’t so much about sex as they are about potentially being replaced. You’re likely hyperfocusing on the sexual aspect of it because of your asexuality. It’s about competition, as you said, and that competition is all about you being disposable, that sex is the key area where you are different from other people, and you have to ‘compete’ with everyone about it. I feel like on a base level you’re equating sex with an acknowledgement of inner value and that might explain why other people who you’re not with having sex might make you feel a bit jealous — because to you they’re getting valued in a way.
Also, it explains why your jealousy can circle most around cis men. I feel like such a horrible hypocrite when I feel more anxious when my partner dates or is interested in cis women than when he’s interested in cis men. I do still worry if he’s with a non-binary or a trans person who is more feminine than I feel I can possibly be. If there’s no way I can ‘compete’ with them, then I don’t get anxious, it seems.
He has a fairly masculine boyfriend and I’ve never felt worried about him at all. I have felt worried in the past when he’s gone into situations with men that seem to be rushed, but that was more around his safety than anything. I don’t think our anxieties have to always make sense. And if you’re aware of the disparity of how your feelings are, then that’s all you can do. But feeling that anxiousness about being replaced specifically in situations where you’re comparing yourself directly to other people… it makes sense.
It’s understandable for people to worry about being replaced. Just because you don’t necessarily feel fear and jealousy around other things and just about sex, doesn’t mean it’s not ultimately about being replaced. Because sex for you seems to have this clandestine meaning you’re not attributing to everything else. But that brings me to my next point:
Addiction and hypersexuality
Most people experience some anxiety in their lives and, as is the case with a lot of mental health conditions, they are ‘normal’ things that become so exaggerated, they affect someone’s daily life. Hypersexuality is sometimes a symptom of something deeper. Not to assume anything about you, but I know that a lot of people respond to being sexually assaulted by being hypersexual.
I’m not saying this because you’re asexual — because I am proof myself that being on the asexual spectrum doesn’t mean you never want to have sex. But I do think that, especially if what you describe your relationship with pornography as ‘addictive’, that your ‘addiction’, your hypersexuality, and your jealousy are symptoms of something deeper going on that desperately needs addressing.
I don’t think that deeper problem is insecurity or your needs not being met. It doesn’t sound like your needs are ultimately being umet in this relationship, from what you describe. You spoke very little about your partner and what they’re doing and only about how their sexual relationship with another makes you feel. It could be possible your needs are being unmet, but given the other things you’ve described, I do think that there’s something deeper going on.
Fundamentally, you could have a lot of insecurity around being asexual. There isn’t a lot of talk about asexuality. You mention being growing up as a heterosexual cisgender boy, but it’s not clear if that’s how you still identify. I can say at least that the socialisation of people read as men in this society is hypersexual and generally awful and you seem to be aware of that. It’s possible that this socialisation has had a huge impact on you. Maybe there was an event that happened that you didn’t want to mention. I do think it’s worth finding a good therapist to help you deconstruct these things, if that’s possible for you.
It’s hard for me to say at this junction if your sexual jealousy is something you will have to ‘learn to live with’. I mean, I live with my anxiety. It comes and goes. I’ll have months without a panic attack and then something crops up and I’ll be in tears. I don’t know if it will ‘go away’ or not because I won’t know that until I’m maybe very elderly and I can say I’ve not had a panic attack in decades. Who knows?
My anxiety is less brain chemical related and more related to how I’ve dealt with the environment I grew up in all of my life. I’ve written about non-monogamy and anxiety but I’ll sum up what my anxiety is quickly: it’s about my brain trying to help me function by redirecting my fear and worry from one big issue into small compulsions I think I can control. And it loves to redirect it into an anxiety that I’m not ‘good enough’ because perfectionism is the compulsion I can continue to act on in perpituity. I didn’t grow up learning how to soothe myself and this is such a crucial skill people take for granted. And I’ve had decades of this reinforced constantly. So, it’s going to take awhile to ‘un do’ it.
What’s more important is that you’re willing to work on whatever issues are going on, and I do think that you seem willing to work on things, which is great. Do have a look for a therapist that is open relationships positive and don’t feel afraid to ask for what you want from a therapist and ask them for what experience they have had with asexual people, with hypersexuality, and all of the issues you’re coping with. Here’s a great starter list of 23 questions to ask a potential therapist.
Ultimately, I think that you should do some introspection about why you’re in an open relationship and if it’s something you want. This might be a good time, if you’re struggling with sexual jealousy, to take a break from relationships to work on yourself and some of the problems you’re having. I definitely think you should find a professional that can help you work through some of these deeper problems such as the ‘addiction’ and the hypersexuality.
I do think it’s great to see that you’re willing to work on things and deconstruct your own thoughts. I think it bodes well for your future.
I hope this helps! Good luck!
Note: This column was written in 2017 so it is possible I may have gained a new perspective. If you have a similar question, feel free to submit it.
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