Over the weekend, Special Man and I were in a Dollar Store picking up party supplies, for a “Day of the Dead” themed event I hosted in my home on Saturday night. I’m not sure how we got on the subject of compersion, of all things, as we walked down the medicine aisle, but he stopped me in my tracks as he said, somewhat loudly, that he was of the opinion that swingers are way better at compersion than polys. (I don’t even know if polys is a word, but I’m making it up if it isn’t.) I think his exact words were, “To tell you the truth, I think swingers are the ones who have the compersion thing down.”
He kept walking, assuming I was following, and I stood, in the middle of The Dollar Tree, thinking. And I had a poly epiphany, right there. Of course, swingers think they’ve got compersion down. Their focus is so very finite and well defined. It’s sex. Usually together, often in the same room, and they go home together. Every rule and guideline that swingers enforce, is in place to protect The Relationship. Because sex is just sex. I get it.
We polys have blown this concept up to embody the entirety of a relationship that doesn’t include us. Not just sex, not just orgasms, not just bodies on bodies. Emotions and time and fights and life and inside jokes and a history…and we are supposed to feel compersive about all of it. The vision I have going in my brain right now, is that of a smiling, glowing Stepford Wife. That’s what I feel I’m being asked to achieve, when I read about how compersion is the highest poly state we should be striving for.
I wanted to stop and debate this right then with him, and I’m not sure why. It may be that it struck me as so kind of, well, smug. And he can be smug, because he and CC have a significant swinging history, and I’m pretty sure he identifies as a swinger, just as much (if not more) than he does as polyamorous. While my style of poly includes a lot of self analysis, and processing, both internally and outloud, he is more of a matter-of-fact, black and white, just don’t dwell on it, kind of guy. If he gets a jealous thought or twinge, he tells me he “just doesn’t think about it.” He doesn’t dwell. He waits for it to pass.
Now, lest you think he is perfect: He is not. These “not dwelling” moments tend to pile up, and then come out all at once, at least with me. I’m not sure how this dynamic works between him and CC. Their relationship is in a much different place than ours is after their fourteen-ish years, compared to our two-ish years. He does get a little jealous sometimes, and I usually don’t hear about it until it is really bothering him. I, on the other hand, will spill it immediately. I process out loud, and I know that can be hard on him. Just as his style can be hard on me, as I can feel blindsided if he’s been acting fine and then all of a sudden, absolutely isn’t.
So this has gotten off on a tangent. Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m going to vomit out onto a blog post, and I guess this is one of those times. My original thought, was that I was annoyed that Special Man was declaring the swinger team the winner of the compersion trophy. It’s been a challenge, having a relationship with someone who has both a swinger mentality, and a polyamorous side, and who can compartmentalize each so effectively. In the beginning I was so confused. I understood the swinger concepts, of sex being fun, and just something you can do with people you like, or people you’ve just met. But he and I have connected sex, loving sex, hot sex; sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s fun and recreational. But love is what makes it so good for me. Was it “just sex” for him? Where did I fall, into which compartment? Swinger sex or poly sex, or was there even a difference?
Sidenote: Man, he’s so going to love this post.
Now, I know there are all kinds of non-monogamy. This isn’t a swinging vs. polyamory debate, but I find they tend to exist in the same realm, and here I sit, from my little poly viewpoint, wondering why compersion is so elusive to so many in Polyland, but the swingers have that shit down. And I think it comes down to degrees. If I see SM flirt with another woman, it’s cute, but it has big implications…full blown, impactful, relationship implications. On the other hand, if we were in a strictly swinging context, the implications would be so limited, to that night, to those hours, to the activity of sex and flirting, that I would think that compersion in context, would just be simpler.
This all just leads me back to my opinion that compersion, as I understand it, is kind of overrated. I’m still working from a place of pleasant neutrality and acceptance, when he is interested in spending time with someone else. Some days, that’s the best I can do. Some days, I’m a jealous, scared little girl. My poly is imperfect. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t GOOD.
7 thoughts on “~Swing~”
I’m going to be just as black-and-white as our hinge: fuck compersion. It’s an overrated idealistic view that represents just as many societal expectations and just as much programming as the idea of monogamy. It’s like, “Hey, feel free to buck trends and go for the relationship you want, not the one TV says you should have, but oh yeah this is the way you have to do it.”
I can get down with being generally happy because my partner is generally happy. But when I think about the specific things that MAKE him happy, that part sucks. I have trouble following this blog because whenever I get details about sex and dates and specific interactions, my skin gets all tight and tingly and I get short of breath and my thoughts just start racing. I can’t help but try and keep score. (It was about 7 years in before I got my first piece of jewelry from him. We don’t go to restaurants together anymore. I can’t remember the last time he chose a shirt to wear because I liked it. This is what my brain tells me when I get details.) I start ticking away at all these little things, and it makes me forget the big picture: he is happy. He is making another person happy. That makes me happy.
I feel the same way about compersion the way I feel about hot dogs: they’re both great, but I don’t want to know what goes into them. That doesn’t diminish at all how much I enjoy the hot dog, and it shouldn’t take anything away from my poly relationship.
I love the hot dog analogy. I get it. I had to step out of the room during the slide show at your birthday. Too many details, too much history, so much intimacy. All those memories. My stomach hurt and I felt like a side dish.
I think we should start a “Fuck Compersion” campaign.
Love this post, and I appreciate your continued exploration of the “compersion conundrum” (next week’s blog post for me, which is inspired by, and will reference you!)
Have you ever felt full compersion with/for one of your lovers? With no trace of jealousy whatsoever? I’m curious only because I feel that, having experienced it a little myself, it is entirely worth striving for, even if we can’t always get there.
If you have experienced it, and still feel it’s not worth attaining, then maybe compersion is like love…we all feel it in a different way. For me, maybe it’s this awesome experience, but for others (maybe you) it’s a “meh” experience.
I must say that with my one steady girlfriend, compersion is so hard to attain, as I’m so in love with her, I fall into my insecurities, which I think is the root of all jealousy. When insecurity exists, compersion can’t live. At the least, I think it’s worth it to battle our insecurities, and learn to love ourselves.
Any-hoo, I love your writing, your honesty, your wit. I hope you continue to find happiness…I shall feel co-blogger compersion for you! 🙂
I had to look up what compersion means http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compersion jsut in case anyone else didn’t know… I don’t know how many of your posts I need to like before I realize I need to follow your stuff. Really, really great!
Oh and one other thing. I thought this was funny from the Wikipedia page on compersion.
The adjective frubbly and the noun frubbles are sometimes used, in the poly community in the United Kingdom and the United States, to describe the feeling of compersion. These terms are more suited to cheerful, light-hearted conversation, and they are more grammatically versatile, for example: “I’m feeling all frubbly” and “Their relationship fills me with frubbles”
Does anybody use this terminology?
No, I’ve never heard frubbly before! I love it! ~Ginger
Thank you for this! I feel very similarity. I find compersion fairly easy during sex/swinging. Relationships? Oh hell no. it’s a constant struggle. And yeah, I tend to feel pretty bad myself that I can’t seem to get on board and be happy for them. I will continue to see it as a goal though. Maybe an unattainable one, but kindness and love have to be a motivation for me otherwise I’ll just be miserable.