• Sarah M. Neal

Compersion, Compersion, Compersion… Another F**king Blog About Compersion

"Compersion is a word the Polyamory Community adopted. In traditional “monogamous” communities; Compersion means to find joy and happiness in others’ joy and happiness."

Originally published 09.15.2017

Compersion, Compersion, Compersion…Another Damn Blog About Compersion.

Compersion is a word the Polyamory Community adopted. In traditional “monogamous” communities; Compersion means to find joy and happiness in others’ joy and happiness. Examples are; feeling excitement over your partner landing a new job or watching your childs delight in an activity. The Polyamory Community regards compersion as the “opposite of jealousy” or feeling delight at seeing your partner(s) happiness with other partners. It’s an awesome concept.

It can be incredibly difficult for non-monogamists to admit they struggle with compersion. Many feel that if we express our struggles with compersion, we’ll be told how silly or unenlightened we are or that we need to look at our own insecurities. Maybe even be told that we are not truly polyamorous. We might think, “If I join a support group, I’ll be asked why I’m in the polyamorous lifestyle if I struggle with compersion”.

Some of us have a little gremlin that likes to whisper, “go back to monogamy, everything will be fine.” That little gremlin might tell us something is seriously wrong if we don’t feel compersion, we suck at non-monogamy and need to give it up.

Perhaps our partners are better at compersion than we are. If so, our partners may not understand where the problem lies. They may think the solution is to end a “secondary” relationship. In reality, if difficulties with compersion and jealousies are truly reflections of our own insecurities then our partner ending relationships may only offer a temporary reprieve, but it won’t deal with the entirety of the issue.

We want our partners to be happy, not only because we love them, but if they aren’t happy, we aren’t happy.

Now what? How do we deal with a lack of compersion? How do we develop compersion? Can we develop compersion? What the hell is our problem?!

I struggle with this issue more often than I care to admit. However, in light of being transparent, I will be honest:

Compersion isn’t just about jealousy nor is it the exact opposite. One can have issues with compersion without jealousy. It’s much more complex. There are a million articles on compersion issues resulting from jealousy and insecurity. I take a different approach.

Let’s delve deeper into some of the complexities of compersion.

I wrote an entry six months ago called, “All Tanked Up and Ready To Go!” in which I marinated on the filling of emotional tanks and compersion. My epiphany was, if my emotional tanks are filled by the designated tank filler (one for Tyler and one for John) then it is much easier to feel compersion. John cannot fill Tyler’s designated tank and vice versa.

When John and I get the quality time I need to feel full emotionally, it’s much easier for me to have compersion when he is with another partner. It’s tricky when we are going 100 mph in a thousand different directions and no time to sit and enjoy each other’s company. John shows love differently so, when I feel my tank is low, it gets frustrating for him. In his mind, heart, and world, he is doing everything he can to show me how much he loves me. In my mind, heart, and world, this is great, but I need him to step back from our crazy schedules and spend time with me. Otherwise, I start feeling that he has time for everything and everyone but me. Not a good foundation for compersion.

Another side of the “Compersion Box” (compersion is anything but a two-sided coin), is mental health. Earlier this year, I began to battle a great adversary that I had never faced. I got a very clear, up close and personal, ring-side seat to anxiety.

My experience with anxiety starts with a knot in the pit of my stomach early in the day then usually around late afternoon\early evening it starts to churn and tighten little by little. I can usually blow that off and plow on through. It’s what Leo’s do. We don’t worry too much about our feelings (well, not those VULNERABLE feelings anyway), we do what is needed.

Then, it got worse. Before Anxiety; John visiting Jewels during the week would excite me. It meant pizza and a movie with my favorite girls, my daughters. And, I get my entire bed to myself. I looked forward to those nights. This past Spring, things took a turn. I began feeling incredibly anxious. I didn’t understand, except that my world was about to fall apart. I couldn’t tell John. If I did, he would drop everything and come home, that was not fair. One day, I just couldn’t stop crying. I hate crying and avoid it at all costs. John did know that day because I couldn’t chat with him on the phone without crying. Still, I refused to let him come home. The only way he finally conceded to continue with his plans was if Tyler came over.

If you experience depression or anxiety, compersion can be incredibly difficult to reach. Hell, even normal reactions are incredibly hard. Get help. I have since visited a doctor to help get this strange emotion under control. There is still a knot in the pit of my stomach and there are still flare ups, but there is progress.

Moving to another side of the compersion box. What if something inside you doesn’t like your metamour? Do you trust your metamour? Have you noticed odd behaviors from your metamour? Is your partner brushing things off they usually wouldn’t? Is it insecurities? Head playing tricks? Intuition? It can be hard to decipher. Especially for an empath.

When an empath starts getting not-so-warm-and-fuzzy feelings about someone, care has to be taken. We might outright determine we don’t like someone because of their energy. But, what if that person was having a bad day/week/year? What if that person puts up barriers or projects a certain uncomfortable energy? I have witnessed this in the Pagan world. Someone decides immediately they don’t like another because of their energy, never taking other options into account. I knew a woman in Tae Kwon Do and we flat out despised each other. I hated her energy. Then one day we needed to rely on each other. We came together and have since become great friends. My read wasn’t incorrect as much as it was biased. I picked up on her energy and my empathic abilities mirrored them. Maybe we shouldn’t trust our intuition so readily.

Empath or not, once we decide we don’t like something about someone, it’s usually game over. This can be a problem that gets in the way of compersion and puts a strain on relationships. If you start bitching about your metamour, your partner is put in a very tough spot. Maybe your partner sees something in your metamour that you don’t and vice versa.

Many non-monogamous relationships have “veto” power. I’m not a fan. If push-comes-to-shove and I tell John not to dating someone, he will end the relationship. The same goes for me. John’s relationships with his partners are his. My relationships are mine. Telling John he can’t date or continue a relationship doesn’t sit well with me. Unless that person is a straight-up physical threat to me or my family, it isn’t fair. It only creates a breeding ground of resentment. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a successful relationship with resentment sprinkled throughout.

If I have issue with John’s partner(s), you bet your ass I will voice them. Before I start running off at the mouth I will seriously reflect on my issues and concerns. Once I say my piece, all I can do is step back and let John deal with his relationship however HE chooses. I will never exercise my power to veto.

One more side of the compersion box: personal history. This encompasses histories with former partners, current partners and especially upbringing. I come across folk daily who are defying childhood teachings that define relationships. Sometimes, upbringing gets the best of us. The teachings of sin: what it means to be faithful and loyal; what it means to be committed; being “enough”. Of course, we also have lessons about how sexual we should be.

There are those in the non-monogamy world who have been cheated on. Even if our current partner(s) have done nothing to breach the trust we have bestowed them, our histories can still bite us in the ass. Those gremlins whisper in our ears making unfair comparisons. The next thing we know we are not only battling with insecurities, but also ghosts of our past. These gremlins and ghosts come out of nowhere years and partners beyond the source and catch us unaware.

Some of us, while working out this whole non-monogamy thing with our “primary” partners, either breached an agreement or a partner did. For some, this ends a relationship; for others, this means an end to non-monogamy. Some of us work with our partners, supporting each other through these breaches. Yet, even as we work through the mess with our partners, the battle still rages within us. We worry that the same mistake(s) will be made. It isn’t that we don’t trust our partner, but that worry/concern can still creep in. It may be several partners down the line when the slightest things trigger it. Our partners may still be in the relationship where a mis-step/mistake was made, still working through regaining trust and understanding.

*Some say that trust was broken and there should never be room for the same mistake and trust to broken again. This should be taken case-by-case and since this entry is about compersion, we’re going with the couple who seeks to work through mistakes and mis-steps while not giving up on non-monogamy.*

In these three cases, it isn’t just about insecurities. It’s deeper than that. When we try to grow and live as authentically as we can, we attempt pushing through those surface and soul-deep insecurities. It isn’t that simple. Even if we know we are “worthy” and responsible for defining our own happiness, it doesn’t mean that our pasts won’t cause compersion issues.

If I believe monogamy is the only way to have ethical, successful relationships, then start to feel differently, upbringing can create compersion issues. The same can be said for our histories. Even if our current partner isn’t the one who hurt us that residual process of working through it can still impede compersion. If we step outside of our comfort zones or listen to our desires of non-monogamy, it doesn’t mean that compersion is immediate. If my partner makes a mis-step and we decide to address it and try again, I may not be all “happy, happy, joy, joy” when they go out. I may feel incredibly worthy of a successful relationship, but trust has to be rebuilt. Until then, it isn’t just about insecurities of my own but about my partner doing the work to reestablish trust.

Compersion is tricky and yet for some, it’s an easily attainable concept. For others, we have to work and struggle for it. The process can be a hot, nasty, mess. On one hand, we REALLY want our partners to be happy. On the other, many factors may keep compersion just out of our grasp. I have no plans to quit reaching for compersion with John, Tyler, and any current or future partners of theirs or mine. I will not stop trying to navigate through the beautiful mess that polyamory can be. The concept of polyamory and compersion are part of the authentic life I want to lead. There will be days when I am convinced that I have compersion down pat. There will be days when it completely eludes me and when it does, I check my insecurities. If those are in-line, I look into other options. The trick is to never stop doing the work, not on myself and not on my relationships with my partners and metamours.

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