Poly Debriefing #1: Compersion

2 hands making the shape of a heart

Photo by em-volleyball-1-6 /CC BY

Compersion is so fantastic and ever-present for me (even when I’m sexually exclusive) that it gets to go first, and it gets an entire essay to itself. I’ve included a basic definition below for the uninitiated who stumble across this writing (quick, rough definition of compersion is “the opposite of jealousy”).

Compersion is a state of empathetic happiness and joy experienced when an individual’s current or former romantic partner experiences happiness and joy through an outside source, including, but not limited to, another romantic interest. This can be experienced as any form of erotic or emotional empathy, depending on the person experiencing the emotion.


Compersion is awesome.

The warm glow I felt in my chest the first time I saw my ex-husband Seth kiss his girlfriend Megan (who’d been my friend for many years) took me completely off-guard, but it was unmistakable. Or when I’d come home from a night out with friends and see them snuggled up on the couch watching “Dexter.” They were adorable, and I was happy for them. And I had that feeling again when I’d go to bed with couples, I’d see the love they had for each other and just melt. And even when I’d drink peppermint schnapps and play crazy 8’s during my weekly “chewing the fat” sessions with my FWB, Slut Monkey (my nickname for him), and I’d hear of dates he’d went on, girls he was interested on OkCupid. Firing up the laptop to browse profiles. Showing him who I was messaging.

I was thrilled later to feel compersion again when I entered the Cleveland kink community. To feel that warm, bubbly feeling for friends, acquaintances, and strangers at the dungeon when I saw them in their scenes or even just canoodling in the lounge area. I found myself more open and receptive to positive energy than ever before. And it was wonderful.

Cultivating compersion successfully can lead to genuinely feeling happy for your loves’ successes in non-romantic/non-sexual situations.

Lover gets that job they wanted? Warm bubbly feeling. Gets a story published in a big name magazine? Warm bubbly feeling. Does well on their diet/exercise program? Warm bubbly feeling. Finishes their degree? Warm bubbly feeling. Has a good nap? Warm bubbly feeling. You name it.

It’s not all about just hanky panky. Being able to celebrate in a loved one’s joy is a powerful and wonderful thing, and I find it does wonders for the relationships I’m in, regardless of the number of them going on simultaneously.

Cultivating compersion successfully can lead to genuinely feeling happy for people who are not your partners (be they friends, acquaintances, or even strangers) in non-romantic/non-sexual situations.

I find myself cheering when I hear good things are happening to my friends. I jumped up and down when a friend bought his first house. I glow for days when I hear a friend gets a new job she/he likes.

Feeling happy for other people results in feeling happiness frequently and being more happy in general. I feel this every day. The change within me has been remarkable. Before when good things happened to other people, I’d be envious, feel like it was just another bit of evidence to underscore my relative failure.

Honestly, that sort of bitterness is just arrogance. Other people’s happiness is not an attack on you. It’s a triumph for them.

In fact, I was startled when contacting my soon-to-be ex-husband a while back on IM to discuss details of our separation agreement, and he mentioned he had a girlfriend, that he was seeing someone. I was startled because I was happy for him and puzzled because the news did not disturb me. It disturbed me more that I wasn’t disturbed at all.

Even though it’s been a relatively friendly and painless divorce, it’s still been stressful, and I’ll admit I’ve viewed him as an obstacle or an adversary on more than one occasion. Even felt resentment as I sorted through the ups and downs of the last decade in my mind. And yet, I was happy for his happiness, genuinely so.

That alone is a huge blessing, that alone is worth so much of the work that poly relationships took, the fantastic journey I went on.

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1 Comment

  1. I am seriously backwards on this one. No problems feeling warm fuzzies for my ex when he had a good day, good golf game, solved a business problem, reconnected with friends, tons of warm fuzzies for close friends, acquaintances, perfect strangers. But when it came to being happy my husband was gaga over another woman and boinking her brains out, my compersion hit the wall going 220 and erupted in a spectacular fireball. I could support him in just about anything, but when I knew he was going out to see his girlfriend, everything in me shriveled and died. And when he came be-bopping home all happy and sappy, all I wanted to do was slug him. When he tried to make love to me after being with her, my skin literally tried to crawl off my body and run screaming into the night. I hated it; I missed our closeness, our fun times, our sexy times, our love. I still miss it, but every time he tries to woo me back, I remember what it was like. You know the definition of insanity, right? Yeah, not going back into it and expecting different results.

    Even as hard as our divorce was, I’m still proud and happy for him when he gets recognized for his charity work and public service. He’s a good guy, I just couldn’t stand being one of the crowd.

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