~Compersion, Thou Art A Harsh Mistress~

I think compersion is overrated. There. I said it. There’s nothing in the poly world that has the potential to make me feel more inadequate than the concept of compersion.

Compersion as defined by Wikipedia (because, you know, it isn’t a word that has even made it into the dictionary, at least as far as I could find…):

Compersion is an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy…..It is commonly used to describe when a person experiences positive feelings when a lover is enjoying another relationship. It is an opposite of jealousy.

In the poly world, compersion is touted as the end all, be all. As if it is the ultimate enlightened goal for each of us. We all know, jealousy is BAD and compersion is GOOD.


It’s a personal success, when I can feel pleasantly neutral about my partner wanting to spend time with another woman.

Here’s what I really think:

How you feel is completely separate from how you act.

Let me say it again.

First, feel your feelings. Second, choose your actions wisely, and thoughtfully… Even if your feelings and your choices are at odds.

You still get the poly points, gentle reader.

I had a jealousy flare-up a while ago. I was so jealous it made my teeth hurt. When my guy offered to not see her, if I asked him not to, I was stunned. Of course I wasn’t going to do that. I was just feeling my feelings. I’m generally proud of myself and the choices I make in my poly relationship. Asking him to not talk to a woman he might enjoy was not something I had ever considered.

Moral of this story?

You can do good poly, and never attain that ultimate state of compersion. Moreover, you can even feel jealousy (~gasp~) and still be a successful practitioner of healthy poly. Love yourself, love your people, and do your best.

This is all I can do, and it has to be enough.

10 thoughts on “~Compersion, Thou Art A Harsh Mistress~

  1. I also enjoyed this post ( I commented on a later post) I feel horrible and jealous when he spends ngiths with multiple metamours when he only has a week in town. We live together and he says that means more and htat my insecurity is the only thing pushing him away, but I’d like a date night too, even if all the little things like cooking food and passing out on the couche and waking up together most mornings happens. (if I have horrible typos, its bc I’ an anti morning person waiting on a importnat call and entertaining myself with interwebs.

  2. Reblogged this on Welcome to Polyville and commented:
    I have not yet written about Compersion, but this post about jealousy, poly, and the role of compersion and jealousy nicely illustrates how complicated it can be, how important it is to discuss one’s feelings with one’s partners, and how jealousy must be acknolwedged and dealt with.

  3. I have felt both immense compersion and intense jealousy. I’ve felt jealousy more and easier unfortunately, and I like compersion more. I am totally with you that I am absolutely allowed to feel jealous and to talk about my feelings and to address things, and that my actions are not dictated by my jealousy, and that whether I’m compersive or jealous is of less consequence than how I ACT. I don’t have to pretend I don’t feel what I feel, but I can feel it and talk about it respectfully, and still be supportive and reasonable.
    Thanks for writing this. I like knowing I’m not the only human doing poly.

  4. Thank you for this post! I am so frustrated with my husband’s jealousy. Compersion used to be so natural for him. And suddenly he is irrationally jealous. (My Incubus is half his age, sexy as hell, physically fit, and very talented)
    Perhaps I need to show this to my Beloved Husband. Perhaps.

  5. That makes me feel better to hear someone else in poly say it aloud…I don’t have to experience compersion (although I’m not opposed to it!) in order to do good poly. That takes some pressure off, LOL!

  6. I love this post! I am the first to tout “compersion” as a great and awesome thing within poly – and I really believe it! And you know what, nobody who is human can possibly feel compersion for every single partner in every single instance. We’re not robots after all, we’re human beings!

    I think of compersion as an ideal, like love itself. It’s beautiful, but not always attainable. When it is attained, it’s something we should rejoice in. But when it isn’t, we shouldn’t see ourselves as a failure. If that was the case, then I am an utter failure! For example, I have a dear lover, and she has a husband, a boyfriend, and she’s dating another couple. I feel absolute compersion for her and her husband. I feel almost compersion for her and her boyfriend. But until recently, I felt mostly jealousy for her and her couple. I am now at a spot of mostly neutrality with them, and somewhat happy at times. I truly believe that jealousy is a healthy emotion to have at times, as long as you process it. If you let jealousy fester, however, it becomes bitterness.

    Jealousy is ultimately a negative emotion, and to allow it to grow can allow it to turn into a cancer. Kind of like feeling sorry for yourself…sometimes I feel sorry for myself. I get it out of my system. I move on. I feel that is what we should try to do with jealousy. We shouldn’t wallow in it. If we do, I think we ultimately hurt our partners, because they are worried about us. Like your partner who offered to break it off with another person, because of your jealousy. This affected your guy SO much that he was willing to eschew his own happiness as a result. We need to remember that we are in interdependent relationships, and everything we go through emotionally affects ALL of our partners, and ultimately THEIR partners as well.

    Again, thanks for this article, and for making me re-think the way I approach compersion. I will still seek to attain it, and will shower others with my love when I do! 🙂

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