In intimate relationships, it’s common to want your partner to feel happy for you. You might even view your partner(s) as a cheerleader that celebrates your wins and supports you through your losses. Read on to learn more about a concept called compersion and how you can cultivate more positive feelings in your romantic relationships.
What is Compersion?
Jealousy and compersion are the opposite of each other. Jealousy serves as a way to protect oneself against betrayal and gain a sense of control. The term compersion refers to a person experiencing joy and having a positive emotional experience from seeing their partner happy even when the situation does not directly involve or benefit them. Both are natural human emotional responses.
The term was first coined by the Kerista Commune, a community based on polyfidelity. Polyfidelity is a relationship structure where three or more people are committed to each other and have romantic and sexual relationships within that group.
Monogamy is currently the hegemonic relationship structure in society, and jealousy is a very common experience. In fact, most people will experience feeling jealous at some point in their life. However, jealousy can also impair your romantic relationships when left unchecked.
Compersion can help you and your partner(s) become more empathetic towards one another and can even make you feel more connected to your partner(s).
Compersion and Consensually Non-Monogamous Relationships
Compersion is a popular idea within the consensual non-monogamy (CNM) community. In the context of open relationships, many polyamorous people agree to engage in sexual relationships outside of their primary partnership. Partners may also decide to date other people and have emotional connections that may or may not involve everyone. The structure of the non-monogamous relationship is up for the people involved to decide.
Compersion plays an important role in these relationships. Depending on the agreements between partners, there may be times where one partner is experiencing pleasure that does not involve the other partner.
That’s not to say that jealousy doesn’t exist within CNM relationships. People in CNM relationships can and do experience jealousy, yet they often deal with those feelings differently. CNM folks may negotiate boundaries and make an intentional effort to practice compersion.
How to Practice Compersion in Relationships
Compersion is not a feeling that comes easily to many people. That does not mean, however, that it can’t be cultivated. It’s also not required to plung into a non-monogamous relationship to experience compersion as monogamous folks can feel compersive as well.
In order to move away from jealousy within relationships, people often need to examine entitlements that they have as well as feel confident in their ability to be vulnerable which can take practice. Below are some tips to begin cultivating compersion.
Use jealousy as a tool
Since many people are familiar with jealousy, it might be helpful to start there. When you get jealous, allow yourself to sit with that emotion and become curious about it. Is there an underlying insecurity? What is the root of the jealous feeling?
Practice empathy with your partner
Practicing empathy means listening to your partner(s) and hearing their side of things even when you don’t agree. When you have a conversation, you make an effort to understand their emotions about a situation without inserting your emotions and vice versa. Everyone is heard, validated, and supported. This can be practiced in couples therapy.
Notice the small moments of compersion
When you care for someone, you might notice you already cultivate compersion at times. For example, you feel excited when your partner(s) or friend achieves something they’ve been working really hard on, you have a feeling of joy when they land their dream job, etc…
Talk about jealousy with your partner
When you and your partner practice empathetic communication, it becomes much easier to talk about jealousy. When you hold space for your partner’s emotions and both talk honestly about your jealous feelings, you can tackle the jealousy together.