We were hanging out in my good friend’s car and he told me that one of our fraternity friends fucked a girl we both knew.
A girl who I’d developed a deep infatuation towards.
“Oh, and she’s a squirter,” he added.
I not so secretly hoped that both of them choked to death on their own vomit in their sleep.
But what I expressed, instead, was, “that’s awesome! Good for him. What a ledge. [Short for legend.]”
The guy in question was a smug, overly confident douchebag who I was certain had bodies hidden in his basement.
(And because he overcompensated for everything, everyone thought he was gay and they still do. Not that that matters. I question my own sexuality often, too.)
And so, my outward expression was, NOICE!
Internally, you could smell the resentment and insecurity radiating off of me.
I’d convinced myself, time and again, that I was unlovable. Undateable, even, and that I’d likely never get laid. Even though I told everyone at the time that I’d already had that taken care of.
It wasn’t true. I was a savage liar.
And so every girl who I’d ever developed some sort of crush or emotions towards, I felt jealous and anxious anytime I heard of their hookups.
This happened a lot.
The breaking point happened when I was pouting about in my room, junior year, stuck in a deep depression.
It was during one of those moments when — wishing I was dead — I recognized how unhealthy my habit of jealousy had been.
I want to feel happy again, I thought.
I need a girlfriend in order for that to happen.
I was lying to myself.
On being the 3rd.
We kissed on a cloudy, cold and rainy day on the 4th of July and it was magical. We dated for the next few months.
And I was the third.
What I mean by that is that she had two other partners at the time.
And when she first brought that to my attention and made it clear that, hey, yes, you’ll be the third partner that I have to manage.
I didn’t think twice about it because I liked her so much.
But the truth is that in that dynamic — at least in any healthy relationship these days — they would be having sex.
So, I had to chew on that fact and accept it and it didn’t take me long.
Partly because I wanted to have sex, too!
But also, because, love!
I didn’t feel much jealousy or resentment towards her two other partners. Because I’d accepted this as my new reality.
Get used to these emotions and these feelings because you’re polyamorous now, bro.
Oh, and shit, I can do the same thing, too!? THIS. WILL. BE. AWESOME.
But the truth is it was easy for me to be the most recent partner in a non-monogamous relationship.
I was the new focus of her love and energy.
I was the baby in the family.
Everything was great.
It’s hard to be jealous of other people when you feel like you’re getting more than enough attention.
And then, at some point, a few weeks, a few months, maybe a few years later, that changes.
And then the honeymoon is over.
Or they find someone else, too.
When you find out you’re not the only new person.
The truth is I’d deluded myself into believing that I’d be impervious to jealousy.
Because now that I’d seen what a polyamorous relationship looked and felt like I had developed the emotional maturity of a monk.
Bull. Fucking. Shit.
The other week, I was hanging out with my ex while we were in that it’s complicated stage.
And she felt the need to disclose a recent hookup she had with somebody else.
Now, I wasn’t the baby in the family. Not anymore.
Somebody different took my spot, or at least that’s where my mind went to.
And I felt that same sickness I felt when that one girl who I kissed in high school told me, I’m kinda seeing this guy right now.
She asked me how I felt about it and I said, “weird” and “fine” but I was lying to her.
The truth was that I felt envy. Because, as the single person in this relationship I should be the one fucking things, I thought to myself.
And it was no longer about her, but rather my deep-seated insecurities around sex and relationships and dating.
And how I viewed women more often as objects of my affection than as people.
I felt fucked up.
Like somebody had knocked me unconscious and dumped me in a border-town along the Mexican-border.
Then, an hour or two later, I let that feeling go.
Because it felt so selfish and twisted and weird and useless.
Then I picked it up a day or two later.
Then let it go.
The dangerous pursuit of emotional perfection.
I was listening to a podcast on polyamory the other day and I got angry.
Because sometimes when I’m listening to people talk about relationships I project.
Like, that’s fucking bullshit! They are delusional! They must be. Nobody is actually fucking happy. Everyone is miserable. Everyone sucks.
I wanted to believe that she was lying to the world and to herself.
That her typical response was something like envy and jealousy and rage. My emotions. I wanted her to be me for a few hours.
My goal in life is to get to a point in my relationships in which I can be zen-like, too.
And some days it feels like I’m making progress.
And then something happens.
And I start to tell myself, I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I should have more self-esteem. I should feel more secure about myself.
I should be fucking perfect, I think.
Perfectionism is a dangerous, deadly road.
Don’t aim to be perfect. Just be honest.
When I found out that a girl I was seeing in New York for a few months was dating someone not long after we broke up, I was sad.
But I didn’t tell anyone that. I pretended to be okay with it.
That it wasn’t weighing on me. Emotionally or otherwise.
I wasn’t being honest with anyone, especially myself.
And so, that childhood insecurity that told me, I’m not good enough, I’m not lovable, I’m a piece of shit, was winning.
Because when you don’t express your true feelings, they actually get stronger.
So I felt angry and ashamed and guilty and I told nobody.
Why am I so unworthy and incapable of finding a partner?! I’d ask, crushed.
And as is so often the case, the answer was hidden in the question.
Worthiness is difficult to quantify.
You’re as worthy as you feel, right?
But when you’ve been dumped, or are going through a rough-patch in a relationship it’s exhausting to remind yourself.
And so, until I’d actually started to believe that I was worthy of love, it’d never come.
We like to tell ourselves that we don’t and/or won’t get jealous because we’ve got self-esteem, yo!
Because we’re confident!
Because we’re not codependent!
Because we’re worthy of love and awesome and anybody would be fucking blessed to be in a relationship with us.
And then, even if you’re in an open relationship and you have the emotional maturity of the Dalai Lama, something triggers you.
Whether it’s that you found out your partner fucked somebody, anybody.
Or, they went to a movie with somebody and you always go to the movies together! And you’ve wanted to see that movie!
Or, they cooked your favorite Blue Apron dish and it wasn’t a total fucking disaster!
Something will trigger that jealousy.
And so, the lie that I’d been telling myself for months and years, even, is that I don’t get jealous.
Then I started to get real with myself and all the bullshit scaffolding that I’d built around my lies started crumbling around me.
I was trying to be happy and upbeat and unshaken in spite of the complete fucking turbulence in my life.
I didn’t want people to know that I was in pain or mourning or lost.
Finally, I admitted, I’m hurt. I’m in pain. This sucks. This fucking sucks.
And I’m not unblemished. I’ve fucked up a lot. I’ll fuck up some more.
I’d let go of my foolish pursuit of emotional perfection.
Then I rolled over on my bed and cried into my pillow for the next few minutes.
This sucks. This fucking sucks. I kept repeating to myself.
And for the first time in weeks and months, I wasn’t lying.