If you’ve never heard of compersion before, don’t worry. This concept, which many define as the opposite of jealousy, isn’t in any traditional dictionary. Yet it’s necessary for a strong foundation in many successful polyamorous relationships. Compersion is a warm and fuzzy feeling when the person you care about experiences joy provided by someone or something other than yourself.
Compersion can be difficult to understand if you have a more jealous personality type or if you’re not built for polyamory. Many polyamorous people describe how they feel compersion through their partner’s sexual exploits and flirtations with other people, and people who naturally feel compersion may learn that this isn’t the “right” way to feel. After all, jealousy is often portrayed as normal even when it’s negative!
To understand compersion, we should first understand jealousy. When we see or even imagine our significant others being emotional or physically intimate with another person, we tend to get a little jealous. Why is this? We’re taught that there is a finite amount of love and that when our lovers give love to others that is love taken away from us.
But the very concept behind compersion argues that this is untrue or, at least, not the only way to look at a situation. One of the concepts you must understand and believe to feel compersion is that idea that love can be multiplied rather than divided when spread. You have to feel comfortable that your man can multiply his love and he won’t wind up leaving you for another woman. You must feel secure in your relationship and not look at your significant other as something you own or control, which can be difficult in a culture than so often teaches us these things.
And just because you’re capable of feeling compersion or have worked your way toward compersion so you might experiment with swinging, threesomes or other sexual alternatives doesn’t mean you’re incapable of jealousy. You can even feel both at the same time, which certainly makes the whole thing more confusing!
Not all forms of compersion have to do with feeling positively about your man’s other romantic and sexual encounters. Compersion can also be a form of empathy, where you experience happiness because your man is happy. Imagine the way his eyes light up when he talks about something he loves or is good at, something that’s making him excited and hopeful again.
Of course, these are all feelings we experience as part of new relationship energy, so it only makes sense that you might feel compersion for your guy when he starts seeing someone else if you already experience strong feelings of joy in response to things that make him happy.
By extension, some people would say that a parent could feel compersion by watching their child experience joy with a toy or when someone close to them receives an accolade in their field of study. By some definitions, you might feel compersion when your significant other fosters friendships outside of your relationship.
But sexual and romantic compersion plays a crucial role when one or both of you is polyamorous and feels a need to be with other people. When that need goes unmet because one partner is unable or unwilling to allow exploration outside the relationship, resentment can grow. It might even lead to cheating. However, compersion allows the bond to remain and even flourish while more of you or your partner’s needs are being met.
For instance, your man might be bisexual and interested in sleeping with other men. Compersion would be a handy skill to hone so you could be happy with him doing that. If there’s a sexual activity that’s not up your alley, such as light bondage, that he’s able to do with others, you might feel joy knowing he’s exploring more of himself. Compersion can also be useful in situations where one partner is disabled and otherwise unable to provide necessary sexual stimulation.
Compersion can also be a strong aphrodisiac. It can bring new-found joy and even skills into your bedroom and relationship. It may turn you on to imagine or even watching your partner be with someone else; although, voyeurism isn’t a necessary component of compersion.
You may find that you’ve never expressed how you feel compersion to anyone, even your partner, because it wasn’t deemed “normal.” You may also approach the topic of an open relationship or seeking other sexual partners if you feel your partner is capable of compersion and that you can do the same.
With that said, you shouldn’t necessarily try to feel compersion or force outside relationships just to spice up your relationship. It’s a foreign concept to a lot of people, and opening up your relationship won’t necessarily fix any relationship issues.
If you are looking to grow your compersion muscle, you’ll need to combat jealousy. Frank conversation about the jealous feelings you have is a necessary, albeit uncomfortable, step in this direction.
Certainly, if you can feel happiness over your partner’s joy, it’s going to be good for your relationship, even if that compersion is of a more generalized nature. But compersion is something that isn’t widely understood by society, and talking about these feelings with people who don’t understand it, especially people who take a more conservative view of relationships, could lead to judgment and even ostracizing from your social group.
It’s always a risk to vocalize those feelings; although, you could find yourself making strong connections with other people who similarly feel compersion for their partners. You’re more likely to find those people in polyamorous communities. Perhaps this is the very reason compersion is a term so foreign in the monogamous world, even though practicing more compersion is beneficial in almost every way.