Compersion: A feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. (Urban Dictionary)
I wonder how long it will be before it appears in the Oxford English Dictionary? They are quite good at adding new modern words but so far this one seems to have slipped through the net but within the poly and to some extent the kink community it is term that is fairly well-known.
Often people say compersion is the opposite of jealousy but I find that to be an over simplification. I feel like it implies you can feel one or the other when in fact I think it is possible to experience both at the same time. You can feel happy for your partner that they are spending time with their lover and also feel a prickly of jealousy that it is not you going to the cinema or theatre or restaurant with them. Compersion does not cancel out jealousy or vice versa.
Most people I have talked to and many of the pieces I have read about compersion make me believe that it is something that lots of people struggle with and I can understand why. We are so programmed from a young age to believe that there is one person for us and that romantic love is something you only should feel for one person. The same is true of sex too, society definitely teaches us that sex fidelity is desirable and even makes you a morally better person somehow, especially if you are a woman. The idea of sharing a partner either romantically or sexually is one that most people have never considered and so suddenly not only being OK with it but actively happy about it is a bit of stretch.
I was in a monogamous relationship for a very long time (with my 1st husband) it suited him but it never really suited me and I will freely admit that over the 18 odd years we were together I cheated on a number of occasions. I am not proud of that but I also refused to be ashamed of it either. At the time it felt like my only choice and in many ways it is probably some of the reason I stayed as long as I did. Back then neither of us had the communication skills required to negotiate anything different or the knowledge that something different was possible.
Fast forward to now and I am kind of in a poly relationship. I am poly by proxy I guess as Michael has another romantic/sexual partner; Kitten. I am monogamous with Michael though hence the poly by proxy thing. Can I really say I am poly when I don’t have any other partners? I don’t think so but you might think differently. Anyway, the why and wherefores on that subject is another post for another time. This one is about me and compersion.
I find that compersion comes completely naturally to me. I have had many people ask me how I do it and the answer to that is I don’t know, it is just what I feel. It is not something I have had to teach myself to feel or something I have to work on it really is just my natural response to him having someone else. I do wonder if maybe it would be different if I didn’t like her or we didn’t get on. I think that would probably change things hugely for me but as that is not and has never been the case I can’t know for sure. I also think it helps that I am sexually turned on by sharing him sexually with another woman. It really is a massive kink for me. I love watching them fuck but am equally turned on by knowing they are fucking even if I am not there. I do need to know about it though. I think if I felt excluded or he wasn’t open about it with me that would definitely make it much harder for me and I have to wonder if that would inspire me to feel jealous. I definitely think I would be angry and upset.
I don’t know why I am like this. Maybe being an only child meant my jealousy radar was never set off when it came to the people I love or maybe it is because I find it a turn on that somehow switches off the jealousy for me. I wish I could give all those people who are struggling with it, damn I wish I could give Michael a 5 step guide to successful compersion but I can’t because I don’t know how or why it just happens.
Having said all this that does not mean it is always easy to share your partner or that I don’t have moments where it has been challenging. Having Kitten here for over a month earlier this year was brilliant. We had some much fun together and we all really enjoyed it but oddly when she went home I found myself feeling more vulnerable than usual and looking for reassurance. I think in some ways I just needed to be sure that he was still happy with ‘just me’ but also I think because I knew he was sad it made me feel a little unsure of that. Maybe having more highlighted how I was ‘less’.
We talked about it a lot and he was also swift to reassure me and tell me that he loved me and it passed fairly quickly and whilst it wasn’t jealousy I felt it was feelings that were hard at times to sort out in my head. The key for me for really being honest with him and also taking what he said at face value. “I love you” means exactly that. It does not mean ‘I love you because you are here’ or ‘I love you but it is better with her’ It is so easy to let your mind put in those added snippets of what are essentially your brain telling you lies.
It also helps that I really like Kitten very much. I enjoy her company; we can happily spend ages talking and can also happily sit in silence both doing our respective things. She fits into our life whether that is on Skype or in person. I think that her job and the fact that we both work from home also means that I don’t ever feel like I am ‘waiting for my turn’ to be with Michael. I think if he went out to work all day and then only had a brief window with Kitten in the evening that might actually make it much harder as I suspect I would feel like maybe I was waiting for his attention until after he had spent time with her. I think the fact that we all hang out happily together makes it so much easier.
I really don’t know how or why it works this way for me when it comes to jealousy and compersion, the only thing I know for sure is that I am damn glad it does.
We make a good three.
*Credit to Hyacinth Jones for this picture attached to this post.