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Welcome to the second portion of my four part discussion on Bad Poly.
Today, we’re going to talk about something which many people find to be one of the “stranger” parts of poly. The idea of compersion. As with before, let me lay down some terms for you!
Compersion: Often considered the opposite of jealousy, compersion is the positive feelings that you experience when your partner is investing in a relationship with someone else.
Metamour: Your partner’s partner.
Envy: When you want what someone else has.
Jealousy: When you’re worried someone is trying to take what you have.
NRE: New Relationship Energy- The excitement that exists when a relationship is new. Can last 3 months-2 years and beyond, and is individual to each relationship.
The beautiful, wonderful, shimmering piece of polyamory that makes us more enlightened than our monogamous friends. The piece that people use to show that they “don’t have jealousy”. They fail to recognize that some people simply don’t feel compersion. They don’t feel upset when their partner is investing in another relationship, but they also don’t feel all warm and happy. Being that I struggle with compersion, and also feel it, this article is going to focus on those who do feel or struggle with feeling compersion.
For me, compersion is one of the hardest things to understand and feel. Like I can understand it as an abstract, but to have a concrete idea of how it feels is so complex. So in the interest of helping others to figure out how to feel compersion, or if they even can, let’s try to break down compersion into some easier to digest parts.
Let’s say that for quite some time, your partner has spent all of their spare time with you. Any time that they were not giving to work, or family obligations was spent with you. Now imagine that your partner picked up a new hobby. For the sake of this post, let’s call this new hobby World of Warcraft (WoW). You got the chance to meet World of Warcraft, and maybe you even got a chance to play WoW with your partner! So, you don’t hate World of Warcraft, you probably rather like WoW.
Now let’s examine how you feel when your partner invests their time, money, and energy into playing World of Warcraft. Chances are, you feel pretty great that your partner has a hobby that you don’t have to be a part of. Maybe you’re feeling a bit jealous that they have this new thing, Or maybe you simply could not care at all.
If you feel happy that your partner is into this new hobby, congratulations! You’ve experienced compersion (or as similar as you can get). If you haven’t, well don’t worry, we’re gonna address that soon!
Okay, so let me share what I have found in my experience (and your mileage may vary), to be the reasons why I’m unable to feel compersion.
- I’m not getting my needs met in my relationship.
- The person in question is a terrible fit for the polycule, and is giving off all sorts of red flags and warning bells that in the near future, there will be chaos and drama.
Regardless, they both need to be taken care of and fast, or else my relationships experience a high amount of strife.
In the unlikely event that I am unable to experience compersion because the new partner is problematic for the polycule, there’s not much I can personally do. So I typically take the easy road. I own my shit, tell my partner my concerns, and then see what else happens. I also give myself time to be wrong before insisting on a change. I own that my inability to feel compersion with this specific person could just be that I don’t get on with them on a personal level, and then I let my partner do what is best, because I trust my partners. That’s the important part. I trust my partners to do what is best for our relationship. In the event that they don’t and that the person in question is still being allowed to cause havoc in my relationships, I leave the relationship because…
My needs are not being met.
This one is the tricky part. Sometimes it is super hard for me to feel compersion because my needs are not being met. Actually, 99% of the time it’s because my needs are not being met. Literally in the time that I’ve been doing this, any inability to feel compersion is because something is happening in my life that makes me realize that something I needed was not there.
Some people think that becoming poly will save their relationship, and that any flaws will be magically smoothed over when they start adding people to a relationship. The reality is that the opposite is often true. The tiny flaws in your relationship become magnified when they’re next to another partner. Especially when you have the moment where your partner does something for their new partner that you always wanted them to do for you. That shit really starts to add up, and sometimes can make you feel really sucky. It can also start to leave doubt in your relationship as to whether or not your relationship is healthy.
So what the hell are we supposed to do?
Well, you start by talking to your partner. Let them know that you’re having trouble feeling happy for their relationship when you don’t feel secure in your own relationship. Let them know that needs they were meeting, they aren’t anymore. Talk to them about ways to fix the fact that your needs aren’t being met. Talking doesn’t always fix everything, so make sure you follow through. Do what you say you’re going to do.
I can remember the first time I felt compersion. It was in October of this year. Yes, you read that right, October of THIS YEAR. 9 years of non-monogamy, and I felt compersion for the first time basically a month ago.
#compersion is watching your boyfriend snuggling with your housemate and hoping they kiss lol.
— Rebecca Hiles (@TheFriskyFairy) October 25, 2014
The thing was that my needs were met, I didn’t feel threatened in my relationship, and things were pretty great. Because of that, I was truly able to feel happy that my partner was investing his time and energy into someone else.
The thing about compersion is that it can be super hard to feel because of what it is. We have all been socialized to feel a certain way about a partner investing in another relationship. We’ve all been conditioned to feel jealousy and rage, or feel unhappy if your partner (or even ex partner), finds another partner. These are things that our monogamous society has taught us. However, if your needs are being met, and your metamour isn’t trying to cause destruction and chaos in your relationship, maybe you don’t feel compersion. If you can’t feel compersion, you’re not wrong. You’re not bad, and you’re certainly not doing poly incorrectly.
Don’t stress over your compersion or lack thereof. You’re awesome.
Coming up, we’ll talk about bad communication, and other ways to fuck up your relationships!
Until Next Time!
–The Frisky Fairy