One of the things I love doing as a sex educator (and an educator in general) is discovering parallels between different modes of communication and models for seeing the world. Sometimes this leads to me pointing out funny reversals in sexism, and sometimes it takes the form of applying ideas from gender studies to folklore studies, or vice versa. I especially love pulling concepts from the creative arts when teaching about how people conceptualize relationships and sexuality.
Recently, I came across a blog post from a writing coach titled Who is living your dream? In it, author Alexandra Franzen describes meeting a superstar in her field. She was worried she’d be intensely jealous of this person… but realized that in fact she didn’t at all feel envious of this person, because she wasn’t living Franzen’s dream.
Why is this a sex ed thing? I believe that because we’re not taught healthy relationship skills in American culture, a lot of us lack the vocabulary to articulate what we want in our relationships and sex lives. We miss out on the tools to help us develop our relationship communication skills, our introspection about what’s desirable, and our ability to build intimacy and trust.
In the blog post, Franzen gives this advice: “Jealousy can be a teacher if you lean in… close. And if you’re willing to feel it, explore it and hunt for the patterns.”
This is pretty different from portrayals of jealousy as negative, destructive, and indicative of insecurity. I’ve blogged over at MySexProfessor.com about communication techniques for discussing jealousy productively, and about compersion, which has often been described as the opposite of jealousy. Here, though, I think it’s neat to take advice about career and life jealousy and apply it to relationships and sex: whose relationships and whose sex life make you feel jealous? Maybe that feeling (unpleasant though it might be) is worth exploring. Maybe you could make jealousy your guide in figuring out what you want.
Treating jealousy like another tool in the self-discovery toolbox could have wonderful implications for recuperating this maligned emotion, as well as for our own abilities to pursue happiness. Why not try it?