The ways the concept of Starvation Economy negatively affects both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.

What is Starvation Economy? Despite the wording it has nothing to do with business or economy. It is a core belief / schema that’s developed in childhood about how people have a limited amount of “love”, “affection”, etc. and therefore it must be earned or manipulated to have.

This impacts monogamous and non-monogamous relationships in similar but also different ways. I will firstly talk about how it impacts all types of relationships.

Jealousy can be triggered when you feel my partner’s attention is on someone or something else such as work, a friend, a family member, a hobby, etc. This is due to the believe that my partner and humans have a limited supply of affection and attention and therefore any attention towards something else is taking love/affection/attention away from me. And this is simply untrue.

This belief is usually developed from a childhood where you were rewarded for good behaviour or achievements with attention and praise but otherwise you were ignored. You may have had siblings who you had to compete with. You may have not be given a feeling of safety and security in your relationships with important adults in your life. You felt like you had to EARN love and affection. Adults in your life withdrew love and affection as punishment.

THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE DONE THIS. This is unhealthy and contributed in developing a healthy understanding of relationships and communication. Regardless of whether you “behaved” or “achieved” you should have been provided with attention, affection and love. You should not have to earn love. The job of a parent-carer is to provide you this love unconditionally. It doesn’t matter if you were a model child, an overachiever, a brat, or a rebellious teen.

If this was your experience you may need to be careful keeping in mind that this is a shitty thing that happened, you didn’t deserve this to happen to you, and that you should not project this onto your partner. Jealousy can be a natural reaction, but jealousy that is over the top is unhealthy and unhelpful to both you and your relationship. This can manifest in possessiveness, emotional dyregulation, blame and putting the responsibility on your partner for your happiness, passive-aggressive behaviour/communication, retaliation and other unhelpful things.

You can challenge this belief by understanding how this belief developed, have empathy for yourself, grieve that your childhood was not what it should have been, regularly check-in with yourself on your beliefs and behaviours, and expand your social supports too! It is important to widen and deepen your other relationships – one partner is not responsible for your overall happiness. You can deepen friendships, find new hobbies and interests, build more social connections, reconnect with family, go to group therapy, and if you’re not monogamous you can deepen other relationships or build more social connections in the community.

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