Hi. My name is Kelly.
I'm writing a book on polyamory, and I'm working on a chapter dealing with jealousy.
I came acoss a book called "Romantic Jealousy: Causes, Symptoms, Cures" written by Ayala Malakh-Pines. Some rather extraordinary claims are made about Kerista. Specifically, on page 140 of the book, it says:
The Keristans believe "it is natural to be free of jealousy. The natural instinctive reaction is compersion."
"...all the Keristans described their partners as 'not at all jealous.' They also said that they never experience jealousy, dislike jealousy, do not want their partners to be jealous, and do not consider their own jealousy to be a problem. All this was true only from the time they joined Kerista."
I am wondering, now that ex-Kerista members have had time to reflect on their experiences, what they have to say about jealousy.
I would appreciate any help in getting insights from ex-Keristans willing to talk about the matter.
Ed: You may send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. As usual, you will only be referred to by your Keristan name. In addition, you may choose to keep your response anonymous, or off the website, or to send your response directly to Kelly C only. Just tell me what you want!
I am vouching for Kelly C. He appears to be a longtime polyamory person, respectful & agenda-less. Here is the unpublished book's website: Poly Couples and Lovers
I have had some more discussion with Kelly about his interesting life, if anyone is curious.
Responses from Ex-Keristans
Ayala makes a common mistake in confusing our public commune ideology with our very individual experiences of complex emotions like jealousy, and to state absurdities like 'we all feel exactly the same thing, no one ever has a jealous thought, kerista cured me the moment i joined'. Our ideology allowed for jealous thoughts if it didn't affect your behavior, and 20 people will *never* all have the exact same emotions or thoughts about any one thing. Also, she didn't do private personal surveys, she was an academic writing a book about jealousy who asked questions of the non-jealousy commune inside the group context - where all she could expect was the party line from loyal communards. She would have received a different more complex picture if she would have dug deeper. Many Keristans admitted to emotions like jealousy publicly, but as long as they 'renounced the negative emotion', they could stay. Also, it is important to separate the discussion of jealousy from envy - a point we often made in the commune.
But, Ayala is correct - I think we did conquer jealousy in Kerista. Firstly, we sorted out the jealous types by attracting non-possessive people. A new member was screened for months before starting the sleeping schedule, even after joining a family, so the new member would have to deal with their potential-mates naked and sleeping all-around before the new member would have the chance to be jealous. Most often, seeing your naked potential-mate just washing off another lover's fluids - every single day. So, it was hard to be jealous in Kerista - as we would rub your face in it, and then closely monitor your reaction. In addition, we strongly encouraged Divide and Regroup for obscure reasons, so in those months the potential-mates may have changed groups, perhaps more than once. Typically, a Keristan would have to deal with an ex-lover immediately after a divide and regroup with calmness and equanimity, and (to be politically correct) public 'Joy' at your freshly-ex-lover's newfound opportunities - immediately after leaving you - without as much as one private word being shared.
Oh, the Joy!
It was part of the Keristan experience to be very fluid(!) with whom you had sex, and relaxed about starting and ending sexual relations. Keristans were hippies at heart, we sold free-love and free-your-mind as solutions to the world's problems. In spite of that, there were obvious acts of intense jealousy inside the commune, but few and far between. For the most part, from what I saw, we lived together and slept with each other often and well without much negative emotion. I don't think compersion is a more natural emotion than jealousy, but I feel they are both natural emotions. In the commune we failed worse at fighting emotions like anger and preferentiality, those battles may have been lost before they were even begun.
In my experience:
Before Kerista, I don't remember feeling very jealous. I don't think it really came up with my girlfriends - but I remember once hoping my friend could get it on with a half-girlfriend we had in common in high school. I don't feel very sexually possessive. Also, I was promiscuous and unfaithful in my youth. So, perhaps I don't possess a strong moral position on fidelity. I have listened to girlfriends coming with other men many times in my life, and did not want to kill anyone or break up with her. I could always turn the music up or make a joke. In those situations, I think the more consistent emotion I feel is closer to envy - wanting to be the other, right then - wanting to be the one screaming or causing the screaming.
Sharing lovers in Kerista was easy for me. I have felt jealousy - I know of the physical-rage at my lover's happiness and toward my rival, but it is rare and fleeting. I have also felt the emotion of wanting to interrupt my lover's happiness with another - to impose my needs and will on the time they are sharing, even for just a minute. This is a strange mix of envy and jealousy and self-absorption - but I have felt it and acted on it, though rarely. Overall, I have experienced neutral feelings or compersion much more consistently than I have experienced jealousy, maybe 50:1.
I would be OK if my wife or I took other lovers, and have recommended it several times, but she does not seem interested. I am interested, but not that motivated. Non-monogamy and jealousy aren't that hard for me, it is a new lover's emotional requirements that I anticipate to be more daunting, and slows my lust.
even eve 10/11/2010
sorry, but we lied. or i guess i should just speak for myself -- i lied about the no jealousy thing. also lied to myself as much as was able... trying to re-frame those uncomfortable pesky feelings in more keristanly-proper terms. what is true, though, is that i'd say i felt less jealous overall in that setting and poly context than in other situations (for instance a period when i was still nonmonogamous post-kerista). it (jealousy) was there, but not as a major or debilitating emotional presence. i think the fervent will to believe in the whole ideology helped keep it at bay. somewhat. and you could distract yourself with other people and all the intense activity going on. but compersion as the "natural instinctive reaction" for humans? oh please!
ayala was a very sweet and smart woman. i'm sorry we took her for a ride. it was too socially dangerous within kerista for any individual to own up to feeling jealous, at all, so no one did. also we were so impressed with our own public image, and enjoyed impressing other people, that we couldn't back off of it.