When you start delving into resources for polyamory and non-monogamy, you start to realise that as well as learning about new relationship models, you also start to learn a new language. You can find a very extensive glossary on the More Than Two site, to get a better idea of what I mean. One of the words that has popped up recently on my blog is compersion. That feeling of joy some people get from knowing their partner is finding sexual or romantic happiness with another person.
When I first joined the kink scene I had no idea I’d be presented with non-monogamy as a lifestyle choice. In my previous non-kink life, even the idea of a threesome was only hot in theory, I never, ever would have genuinely considered having one. When it became apparent that new experiences would open to me if I consider non-monogamy I decided to give it a shot. It was as a unicorn though that I decided to tip my toe in the non-monogamy waters.
“Unicorn: A single bisexual female willing to be part of an existing couple.”
I took this approach in part for very selfish reasons, I didn’t think I could share what was ‘mine’, and that isn’t the sexy kind of ‘mine’ either, that’s the possessive, shitty kind of ‘mine’. I assumed I was too jealous, too mono, too me, to even consider being non-monogamous with a partner that was romantically and sexually my main partner. I was absolutely okay with other people sharing their loved ones with me though. Which was obviously very generous of me.
I know there are instances where it was indeed enjoyable for someone to see me interacting with their partner. I remember for the longest time marvelling that not only could someone be okay with their partner engaging in sexy activities outside of their relationship, but also being present to witness it and enjoying that also. It honestly baffled me. I would have bet money on the fact that I would go my whole never figuring out how to enjoy watching someone I was emotionally invested in enjoy sexual activities with another person. Spoiler alert, I would have lost money too!
When I realised this feeling had it’s own word I was no less baffled. I was a bit like, ‘Compersion, what a great new word, that I will NEVER need to use!’ It then seemed like suddenly everyone was talking about it, and everyone got it, and I felt like everyone was just walking around feeling the warm and fuzzies because their partner was fucking and loving another or many other people. Then there was me, contemplating the fact that if I found a ‘primary’ partner I’d probably have to nope the fuck out of non-monogamy and be shunned from the kinkster club for being a bore.
So I get it. I get why some people feel compersion equals pressure, and it’s this buzzword that poly people use to make their lives seem all sunshine and rainbows. Here’s the thing though, I now know a lot of poly and non-mono folks. The variety of those relationships is vast. None of them have survived without their troubles though, and I think for many, if not most people, that feeling of compersion is valued so much because getting to a place where you can feel it has taken a lot of hard work.
The other fallacy we can find ourselves believing is that compersion is akin to feeling no jealousy, or insecurity. That by feeling compersion we become these magical beings who are just full of love and light and nothing bothers us, ever. Which would mean that even if you’re happy for your partner, but have a small wobble caused by FOMO or just because it’s new and scary, you have not fully reached compersion enlightenment and have therefore not earned your gold star in sharing.
I discovered though that it is in fact okay to feel more than one thing at a time. You can absolutely be super happy that your partner is banging a hot chick while you’re curled up with Netflix enjoying the peace and quiet, and at the same time be a little bit fearful that she might be so awesome in the sack that he’ll pack his bags the minute he arrives home and run off into the sunset with her, leaving you to die alone, without even a cat for company. (Thanks to PolyWeekly for being the best at helping people unravel their worst case scenarios).
Even alongside being nervous, or having to face your own insecurities, I think any level of feeling happy that your partner is doing something (or someone) they love is a win for any person. It didn’t come easy for me, and I had to do a lot of soul searching to understand myself and my reactions before I truly became excited about the prospect of non-monogamy. Then when those feelings started to click into place, I did feel pleased. I was glad I had this fancy word to explain what was happening, because honestly for someone who has spent most of their life being monogamous, suddenly feeling smiley and aroused by a partner getting sexy with someone else was frickin’ weird. Awesome, but weird.
Which means I definitely think that compersion is a beautiful thing. That said though, I don’t think anyone should beat themselves up for not getting it, or feeling it. I’m not sure how far my ability to embrace it goes, it’s definitely been a gradual process and extending it into romance and other unidentified things will likely be another hurdle for me.
I also know that even attempting non-monogamy is a big no for some people, and that is a completely valid choice. There is a lot of non-monogamy within the kink community, and I think for new people especially it can feel like a requirement, it absolutely is not. You can be a monogamous couple looking to get started in the kink community and still find awesome friends, and like-minded folk to support and encourage you.