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.