On anger, jealousy and envy

Dear Coquette,

You seem like someone who knows something about healthy anger. I just tapped into some serious rage over childhood sexual abuse in a therapy session. My therapist is wonderful and is proving to be a great guide through this, but I’d also love some advice from my favorite ass-kicker. How do you stay angry? I’ve realized that I never let myself be angry, and I don’t want to lose it now.

Healthy anger? There’s no such thing. Your goal should not be to stay angry. Your goal should be to let go of your anger.

Right now it’s still fresh. You’re expressing anger that’s been suppressed for a long time. It feels good because you’ve experienced a breakthrough. That’s the healthy part of this process, and that’s the part you don’t want to lose.

Processing anger is a wonderful thing, but only if it allows you to move on, because anger is poison. Knocking it loose isn’t enough. You have to flush it out of your system.

Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions you need to feel, but don’t try to hold on to them afterwards. Anger leads to acceptance and ultimately to forgiveness. That’s where you want to end up: Forgiveness, and not for your abuser’s sake. For yours.

He’s got a lot of women swooning. He can have any one of them, and he chooses a few. He’s open about this. I’m one of them and so is she. He’s good to me. Great, in fact. It’s magical. But she’s also a stunning woman, a beautiful person, and very hard to hate. He doesn’t hide anything and tells me everything I want to know, but the jealousy still makes me insane. Do I have to give up this relationship because I’m too much of a pansy to handle it?

By your description of this other woman, it sounds like you’re more than just jealous. You’re also envious. Those are two separate but easily confused emotions that you need to deal with differently.

You should combat jealousy with trust, and you should combat envy with contentment. Remember, jealousy focuses on something you’re afraid to lose. Envy focuses on something you want to gain.

Your jealousy is your fear of losing him, but your envy is also your desire to have what she has. When you say she’s “very hard to hate,” that’s your envy talking. Get rid of the envy, and you’ll suddenly find her “very easy to love” instead.

Most likely your single biggest problem is that you feel like every hour he spends with her is an hour he doesn’t spend with you, but you simply can’t allow yourself to think like that. An open relationship is not a zero-sum game. If you’re gonna share, you can’t do it begrudgingly.

You have to trust that he’s being completely open and honest with you, and you have to be content with the time you spend together. If you can’t, that’s OK. Don’t stay in the relationship if it’s making you miserable.


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