Within the context of modern romantic comedies, jealousy is often used as a measure of romantic love. In films such as “Love Actually,” “500 Days of Summer,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” grand romantic acts to mask the hyper-masculine jealousy of the character. In “500 Days of Summer,” Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) falls in love with the ever-unavailable Summer (Zooey Deschanel), and his entitled jealousy of Summer is romanticized through a montage of self pitying and romantic gestures that leave him in a constant state of dissatisfaction. Arguably, Tom’s sadness spurs from the fact that he only desires a monogamous relationship.
The mainstream media force feeds us a liquid diet of strictly monogamous relationships whose seriousness is measured by the degree of which a character feels jealousy towards potential threats of the object of their affection. But, what if we unplugged the feeding tube and freed ourselves from jealousy, and, more broadly, from monogamy?
The majority of researchers estimate the between 4-5% of American partake in some type of consensual and ethical monogamy. In her Psychology Today post, Elisabeth Sheff discusses the finding of Kelly Cookson, an Australian researcher, “It appears that sexually non-monogamous couples in the United States number in the millions. Estimates based on actually trying sexual non-monogamy are around 1.2 to 2.4 million. An estimate based solely on the agreement to allow satellite lovers is around 9.8 million. These millions include poly couples, swinging couples, gay male couples, and other sexually non-monogamous couples.”
The bottom line is that not everyone can fit into the mold of a strictly monogamous relationship. When we do try to fit every single person into this relationship model, those who have polyamorous leanings will naturally stray. This straying is often accompanied by jealousy which is both expected and encouraged. We do not have to be jealous. Jealousy wreaks havoc on monogamous relationships that err into open relationship territory. Instead of punishing those who stray from “conventional” relationships, we should instead encourage people to find partners who have similar ideals. The culture of jealousy stems not only from a force feeding of a monogamy, but the perception that we own one another and that another person poses a potential threat to the relationship.
If we introduce polyamory more readily into the discourse surrounding rom-coms, then perhaps we will be able to engage in a culture that is more sex positive and free culture. Ultimately, we must realize that jealousy is socially conditioned into us in order to uphold monogamy on the backs of jealousy, romantic possession, and sadness.