I’ve recently decided to delve deeper into the concept of polyamory. Although I feel I understand it quite well – simply just watching random people’s expressions and ideas come out over FB groups, or reading the occasional blog post, wasn’t doing it for me. Though I appreciate blogs (obviously) for their up-to-date information and broad spectrum of perspectives, I really prefer to sit down with a good non-fiction book. Before starting this blog I had already read books like “What Love Is: And What It Could Be” by Carrie S. I. Jenkins, plus tons of books on LGBTQIA+ topics (because I’m into that sort of thing). I especially liked “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out” edited by Susan Kuklin, because I found a real sense of home, or belonging, within its pages. Currently, however I’ve been reading more books on Polyamory. I’m at the very end, right now, of a book called “Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s)” by Sophie Lucido Johnson. I’ve also got a whole stack of other polyamory-related books I plan to devour next. Movie-wise my library search came up somewhat short. But I did watch a newer movie, just recently, called “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” which is about the polyamorous relationship of the man who created the character Wonder Woman. It was quite an enjoyable film. It was filled with tons of vividly depicted sex and dress up, and of course the dramatic emotional story of a love triangle (or I suppose in this situation it would simply be called a triad). However, in all my reading and movie watching the concept of Compersion is really where I felt most interested.
As a society I feel like we are somewhat taught to feel jealousy. We’re taught to be possessive, and jealousy is one of those alert systems we have to inform us that what we thought we possessed might be pulling away from us, or taken away from us. How dare a possession leave us? And interestingly enough there isn’t much to be said in our society for those who actually feel the opposite about things. In relationships, as with other things, if you don’t get jealous over it, it is seen as not being of much importance to you. Which is odd, considering the fact that allowing an individual to do what they want and allowing them to be happy (outside of the things you do with/for them) seems like the obvious route to take if you truly cared about them. It isn’t all about you, you know? But somehow that message gets lost in our society, or simply overlooked, I’m not sure which. Nonetheless, people seem oblivious that it could even be an option.
Doesn’t a parent feel happy for their child when they start to grow up and go off on their own to make something of themselves? Or more simply, when a mother sees a child happily laughing and smiling and having a wonderful time with his father – doesn’t the mother feel joy and just a warming sense of happiness for her child? When a best friend gets great news about a promotion, or finds a wonderful partner with whom she clicks perfectly, etc. – aren’t you genuinely, deeply happy for them? Don’t you want your child, or your best friend, or your uncle, or cousin, or grandma, or whomever, to be happy? Truly and utterly happy? I don’t know about you, but my main goal in raising children was making sure they were happy. Happiness is at the root (or core) of all that matters to me.
Yes, of course in all of those situations there could be jealousy. Maybe the child used to be more attached to the mom, but he’s spending more and more time with his dad and that causes strange feelings of abandonment for the mother so she finds the moments of joy for her son (when he’s with his father) to be somewhat painful. Or maybe the parents split up and they hate each other, for who knows what reason, so the child being friendly and loving to both of them seems like betrayal in the mother’s eyes. And perhaps you’ve had a really hard time busting your ass at the same job as your best friend and you haven’t been picked for a promotion yet – man, what is her deal? She’s always one-upping you. And maybe that guy she clicked so well with was the guy you had been daydreaming about marrying – well, that whole plan just flew out the window, screw her. But you know what, maybe jealousy doesn’t have to come into these situations. Why do you have to be the one to get something first? Why do you have to be the most important person in someone’s life? Why does it matter what other people do and don’t do? You’ve been raised to think it should matter, to think you need everything, to be competitive, and to be jealous. But you don’t have to be. You can sit around and feel nasty, or you can allow life to just flow around you and be genuinely happy for others, while also working harder on yourself to eventually get what you want as well. It isn’t a “flip the coin and see which side you get” kind of thing.
However, this idea of compersion seems to freak us all out. And that is true whether or not it has anything to do with having multiple romantic (or even sexual) relationships. I can’t even let someone use my shampoo in the shower, how am I supposed to share the person I’m having sex with? But in that sense you really need to see it for what it is – you aren’t sharing that person. That person is an individual. You do not own them. They aren’t yours to share with someone else. They lovingly share themself with you. It is completely up to them who they share themself with. And, aren’t you lucky? They’ve picked you as one of the recipients of their love. What is there even to complain about? I know realizing this doesn’t suddenly make all the bad feelings of jealousy (inadequacy, possession, loneliness, etc. – whatever they might be) go away. But it should make these feelings manageable. It should allow you to take a step back from yourself and really think, and come to understand that these feelings you’re dealing with are things that you need to figure out. You need to work on them. Yes, it’s great when you have your partners support and love through times of jealousy to help you get through it and feel better. But ultimately, it is not their problem – it is yours. You’re the one needing the internal work.
Now I’ve always felt compersion in non-romantic relationships. I was genuinely happy to see my mum happy with her new boyfriend (even though I didn’t really understand how the two of them even connected). I was happy to hear my sister was chosen to do an internship for an entire year on one of the paradise islands in Thailand. That’s SO great for her! I was happy when one of my best friends moved to the town I always wanted to live in and started filling his life with all sorts of amazing things that I couldn’t be a part of. And I’m always happy to see my two children play happily (even ecstatically) with my husband. I truly care about all these people in my life and I want them to be happy, no matter what. Even if I’m not causing that happiness, and even if I can’t take part in that happiness. It isn’t about me. It’s about them and their lives and their happiness. And they deserve it!
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to feel real compersion within my romantic relationships. Except for a brief one-time-thing with another woman (which I did feel happy about, until my husband drunkenly forgot to remember his family existed), my husband doesn’t feel like he really wants to be with anyone else. Which, let me be clear, is completely fine. Polyamory is not for everyone. But he is completely supportive of me being polyamorous, because he genuinely wants me to be happy (no matter what). Now, I have another man in my life who is a long-time friend and who somewhat recently became something of a partner (though things are not sexual between us). And I would like to say I’ve felt compersion for him and his other romantic/sexual interests or experiences, but he mainly tends to pick others who treat him like complete shit. So there isn’t really anything for me to feel happy for him about.
But I’d like to tell you about the moment I truly understood compersion. Which just so happened to be last night. (I know, I know, a little late to the game, eh?) I’m sorry, but this was the first time I truly recognized it and felt like it made complete sense to me – at least when referring to a polyamorous situation. This had been after reading the section in this book “Many Love” where it references one of her past relationships and states how when this man told her he loved her it was so natural, and how he (honestly, I can’t remember if it was the same guy or a different one) said that all that love really was, was wanting someone else to be happy. I thought that was so beautiful. And, in essence, it means that without compersion your feelings probably aren’t entirely centered on love anyhow. So, compersion is pretty damn important.
Anyhoo, let me get on to what happened last night. First I’ll give you some backstory. I live with my husband and my two children, but I also am in-love with my longtime friend who I now consider to be somewhat of a partner. My husband is completely aware of my feelings for this other man, and our relationship. (Like I said, I am polyamorous.) While we were away on vacation a lot of stuff went down with my other partner, involving my house and my space, and it broke a lot of my trust. I won’t get into specifics, but I’ll just tell you I was pretty infuriated by all of it. Of course, deep down I still felt a lot of love for this man. But I felt completely disrespected and so I stopped speaking to him, and just wrote him a lot of angry letters filled with the maximum feelings of my pain. (I get pretty intense when someone hurts me emotionally.) My husband was upset with him, too, of course. But he seemed to be able to effortlessly glide between the two of us and give us each lots of support. (Oh, I forgot to mention that the two of them are really good friends, as well.)
Okay, so here is where we get to the part that made me truly understand compersion. I have been nothing but angry with my other partner for weeks now. Haven’t spoken to him on the phone, or anything. But I recently decided I had been a little too harsh in my letters and so I wrote out an apology, which I just sent out yesterday. This came up in conversation last night after my husband had just gotten off the phone with my other partner. I mentioned I had written him another letter, and my husband asked if I had apologized, which I told him I had. (The whole time I was pissed off my husband kept saying to me “You know this won’t last. You’ll forgive him. You know you love him.” etc. Which had, at the time, made me even more mad.) During our conversation I asked my husband how my other partner is doing, and how he had been reacting to my letters. He told me he was having a really hard time taking in everything I was writing to him. But then (and here’s where it hit me), he told me he subtly mentioned to my other partner that even though I’m mad with him, I still love him.
And that was it! It hit me like, wow. This man in front of me, my husband, loves me so much (and loves our mutual best friend so much) that he is willing to go outside himself to not only recognize, accept, and validate my feelings for another man, but also convey that to the other man in his times of hardship, because all he really wants is for both of us to be happy. He cares so deeply for the both of us, that his jealousy is completely surpassed by his love for us. And that’s exactly what compersion is – putting yourself and your insecurities aside long enough to focus on your feelings of love for others. I completely get it now. And it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever been able to understand. I am so thankful to all of my loved ones for showing me how to care for each other unconditionally, but mostly (at least for the moment) I am thankful for the unconditional love my husband feels for, not only me, but also my other partner.
**If after reading this post you realize there is something you’re needing to work on in the jealousy department, there are some wonderful resources on this website for you to look over. There are wonderful resources covering other topics of polyamory on that site as well. Click here to check out the More Than Two website.