I've found a great many articles about OPP and why it does nothing helpful, but I'm having difficulty finding anything on eliminating or overcoming the feelings that lead to the "need" of an OPP in the first place. I think/feel I may be poly, I think my wife is poly, but before I broach this with her, I want to get these jealousies and insecurities under control first. Could you offer any strategies or point me somewhere that can help me? Thank you!
I absolutely love this question - this is one of my favorite questions I've ever gotten. Short of popping over to your closest liberal arts college for a quick minor in gender studies and queer theory, there's a lot you can do and read to try interrogating the feelings and assumptions behind an OPP!
There are a lot of strategies from CBT/DBT to help you examine this - there is a delicate "switch point" where a feeling becomes a fact, and it's in that point that you'll be doing most of the work.
"I feel threatened" becomes "This thing makes me feel threatened" becomes "This thing is threatening me" becomes "This thing is inherently dangerous and should be avoided for my own safety." And it's totally understandable that we go through that unconscious process - we have to be able to rely on our perception of the world! But sometimes, assumptions and prejudices warp what feels like simple observations.
You can try and stop that nearly automatic thought process with awareness and intentionality. When a feeling-fact comes up, ask yourself:
- Where did this information come from?
- What is the evidence for and against?
- What would the world look like if that was true?
- Does the world look like that?
- What else might be true?
- How does this thought make me want to act?
- How might I act if something else was true?
I think it also helps to be aware of where certain ideas come from. Again, things often seem like "facts" because they're just floating around in our world being taken for granted, but they become much easier to challenge when you can actually see them as products of a specific worldview rather than just how the world works.
- When you were growing up, what were you told about men, masculinity, and male sexuality?
- What were you told about women, femininity, and female sexuality?
- How were you taught to understand gender and sexuality?
- What messages from songs, movies, books, and culture have you internalized?
- How do you interpret your own sexual feelings and desires?
- What of your own thoughts and feelings might you be projecting onto a theoretical other man? Where did those thoughts and feelings come from?
Imagination and thought exercises are also powerful tools:
- Think about your partner having sex with a man. What feelings come up?
- In this image, how similar is the scenario to your partner having sex with you (assuming you are a man)? How different is it?
- Think about your partner having sex with a woman. What feelings come up?
- What feels different to you, between the two?
- Why does it feel different?
- How might you feel about your partner seeing a trans man? A trans woman?
- In each case, what is your best-case-scenario? What is your worst-case scenario?
It might seem cheesy, but journaling about these questions - actually brainstorming and writing down what you actually think and where you think those thoughts came from - can really help. Sometimes, getting into the nitty gritty of what you actually think and why can help you let go of assumptions that aren't really well supported or aren't serving you.
Sometimes, those pesky feeling-facts will stick around longer, refusing to dissipate just because you took them into the light. But they will be much easier to talk about, find resources for, and work on once you have a better sense of what they are and where they come from.
I looked around for poly-centric resources on actually working past the worldview that gives rise to an OPP, and you're right - most just explain why OPPs are bad but don't give a clear roadmap out of the OPP braintraip. This article is the closest I got. Hopefully people in the future can also find this blog post - thanks, letter-writer, for actually asking this super important question!
Postscript: I am tempted to get in deep on my personal philosophy about OPPs, how my polyamory is wrapped deeply in with my radical politics. To give just one example, male" is often associated with "property owner" and "female" is often coded as "property to be possessed," so interrogating OPPs might also mean looking into anti-capitalist thinking and understanding how our concepts of gender and capital are all intertwined; how understanding the fundamental assumptions of our culture goes so much deeper than just figuring out how to make non-monogamy work - but I wanted to keep this answer pretty open and leave it as a guide to pursue your own self-work. If ideas about righteousness and sin; or abandonment and families; or economic ownership, or other sociocultural concepts come up for you while thinking on these questions, there are tons of resources out there to dive deeper into whatever you're most interested in.