Jealousy vs. Compersion

Everyone already knows what jealousy is, some of us more intimately than others, but 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.” (taken from Wikipedia)

Other than the “that doesn’t work” knee-jerk reaction to polyamory or open relationships, the other excuse that gets automatically thrown out is “I could never do that. I’m far too jealous.”

Discussion over.

Jealousy is most definitely a strong deterrent to even entertaining thoughts of an open relationship. Believe me, if you had told me 10 years ago that I would be in a polyamorous marriage with my husband, I would’ve told you that you were certifiably insane. After all, I’m a triple Scorpio: highly possessive and intensely jealous by nature. Throw in some serious self-esteem issues and an crippling fear of abandonment and I was the last person anyone (including me) thought would end up in an open relationship. But here I am! Happily polyamorous and talking about it publicly, no less.

Do I still get jealous? You better fucking believe it.

Is it as crippling as it used to be? Not usually.

The root of jealousy is fear. Fear of abandonment. Fear that your loved one will find someone better, smarter, sexier, more awesome, more whatever. The problem with those fears is that they are all inside the jealous person. No amount of reassurance from your beloved on its own will quell those fears. You must take responsibility for your own fears and express them to your SO without making them solely responsible for those fears. Your partner in life, spouse or otherwise significant other, does have a responsibility for your heart as you do theirs, but ultimately that responsibility lies within yourself. They can support and reassure and earn your trust, but they can’t quell those fears on their own. It’s a team effort.

The death of jealousy begins in honesty and trust. Remember the formula for building trust:

Words + Supporting Action + Reliability Over Time = TRUST

Once that trust is in place. Once you are able to say anything to your partner and they to you. Once you talk openly, honestly, and frequently, that jealousy begins to die. The love deepens past that you could’ve ever imagined, loving your partner so completely if for no other reason that they love you so completely for who you are.

It’s not an easy place to get to. It’s not luck. It’s not luxury. It’s months and years of work, sometimes tears, and intense vulnerability. It’s believing in yourself and in your partner. It’s believing in you as a couple. It’s knowing without a shadow of a doubt that the two of you will get through anything because you are a team. You’ve done the work. You’ve established a firm foundation of trust and honesty, and nothing will break that apart, certainly not sex with someone new. Sex is wonderful, but sex is sometimes just sex. Although sometimes it is sex and love, which can feel a bit more threatening, but it’s really not because once you get to that point with your primary partner, you also deeply realize that love is not finite.

Love breeds love.

Desire breeds desire.

And you will find yourself loving your partner even more, even when you thought that wouldn’t be possible, because they love you for who you really are, not who they think you are…not who they want you to be, but for YOU. And you love them the exact same way. From this place of deep love and trust, a sexual encounter or even a satellite relationship takes on a whole new meaning. It is more love for your beloved! It is allowing them to feel desired and be pleased by another person…because they deserve as much love and desire and fulfillment that they can handle.

Because you love them that deeply.

And that’s compersion.

You are happy that they are happy. You are thrilled that they had a new experience, felt the rush of desire in a first kiss all over again, enjoyed being touched only the way a new lover can touch…etc. Then they can come home and tell you about it, or not, and love you even more for allowing them both freedom and security. And you get the same from them. It’s really rather beautiful.

Compersion trumps jealousy every time because love always trumps fear, if you can find the courage to let it.

~ by omgrey on November 16, 2011.

12 Responses to “Jealousy vs. Compersion”

  1. Excellent piece. I have a new word in my vocabulary and a new concept to think about and share. I really like your equation as well!

  2. My Scorpio friend…. thank you. Compersion is on my list to write about as well! xoxo

  3. Beautifully put. And thank you for acknowledging that jealousy is not something conquered forever by compersion. Too easy to think that good poly is the absence of jealousy rather than good handling of it.

    Not sure I agree that compersion is “knowing without a shadow of a doubt that the two of you will get through anything because you are a team” though.

    I would say that if the difference between jealous ‘love’ and compersion is that one is about your needs, fears and fantasy and the other is about wanting what’s best for someone else, regardless and facing reality – compersion should allow that your relationship may change. It may end. Your spouse may choose to move on, be happier in a different primary relationship. Compersion is accepting that possibility and knowing it’s ok, not blind faith that your relationship has mystical powers to survive anything.

    I like to think of ‘open’ as meaning not just open to non-exclusivity, but also open for one of the partners to exit if they choose to.

    • No. Compersion is not “knowing without a shadow…” — that’s the level of trust.

      Compersion can be about accepting that your spouse might move on, indeed, depending on the relationship. In my primary relationship and in many poly relationships I know, the primary relationship comes first. Always. Period. So if something is threatening that relationship, it is addressed first and foremost.

      The terms “open” and “polyamory” mean different things to different people and couples, and as I’ve said in this post and others, it depends on the couple to define those terms. It always it about being honest and real, regardless of anything else. That’s pretty much across the board. The details of sexual contact and emotional availability vary from couple to couple.

      And the terms do cause a lot of confusion to people outside of the lifestyle. For example, they don’t understand that “open” can mean both committed and non-exclusive. It can also mean what you said.

      Depends on the individuals and the couples, and that’s why honest, real communication is essential.

      • I didn’t mean to suggest that an agreement that a relationship may change is an omnipresent feature of poly or open relationships at all – the joy of them is that there are as many agreements and structures as people want to create to reflect their situation, and no-one definition is superior.

        I guess my point was though that some poly relationships do allow that the relationship may change – and compersion is what allows that. And compersion can find a place in any poly relationship – but the agreement that the primary relationship is paramount isn’t necessarily a feature.

        I’m not disagreeing – I would expect huge trust in a primary relationship to result from living with compersion. But that’s not the only way it can go. Secondaries can have (maybe sometimes need more) compersion in their relationship, without it ever starting to feel like it’s the two of them together forever against the world. Same for non-hierarchical poly families of any configuration I guess.

        To explain compersion to the monogamous though, you definitely picked the best way to describe it 🙂

      • Thank you. 🙂
        I agree with all your points, and I love your comments. You are very articulate. Thank you for your contributions. xo

  4. […] that the only thing either of us ever wants to hear is the truth… Through embracing compersion and rejecting jealousy Through the knowledge that love breeds more love, desire more […]

  5. […] I choose compersion. […]

  6. […] Original Blog Post […]

  7. […] caught in the cogs […]

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