Thursday, September 24, 2015

Compersion Dance or Compersion to a Point

A while ago I came across this article: The 12 pillars of Polyamory for Everyone.
As I’m looking through the list I’m agreeing with every one of the pillars until I got to number 12 – compersion.  The definition (from both the Ethical Slut and More than Two) is: A feeling of joy experienced when a partner takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship.  The definition that this article gives is: the idea that you can experience joy when someone you care about is happy, even if you’re not the source of that happiness.  While I do experience joy when someone I care about is happy, I would not call that compersion.  I call that just being happy.  The article didn’t do a good job about selling compersion in a relationship.  There’s a difference about being happy for someone and compersion. 

Now I understand that the word compersion was formed in the poly community along with its definition. I would guess that the word was formed to differentiate between being generally happy for someone and being happy for someone sexually.  However, we mono/open people don’t always have to do the complete compersion dance every time our partners find someone; and – much to the shock of the poly community – it’s ok to do so! We can take compersion to a point.

First off, you have to have compersion to some extent or else we would not be with our poly partners.  We know that this is who they are and that there will be others in our partner’s lives besides us.  If you’re tolerating it thinking that they will “grow out of it” or giving your partner grief over others, then I suggest you assess your relationship to see if it’s right for you.  But if you understand that this is who they are then you can do a little compersion dance when your partner finds another because – again – this is their wiring.  M has been friends for many years with D.  Recently they have sat down and talked about having a close friend relationship (right now no sex – their agreement).  They enjoy each other’s company and are happy going out together.  Our rule is that I would like to meet anyone M is interested in.  She’s good people and we all get along well too.  I have talked to M about this relationship and he appears to be happy about it; so if he’s happy, then I’m happy.  If and when they decide to take it to the next level, will I be doing the compersion dance?  The answer is:  I know that M would be happy and that I know D; but my mono wiring will kick in and I will have to deal with that. Normal stuff us mono/open people go through.  It’s compersion to a point.

Now you don’t have to do the compersion dance if you don’t like the person that your partner is with.  That’s ok too!  Just because the word compersion is out in the world doesn’t mean that we mono/open people have to embrace it fully.  The poly world would like everyone to fully understand and do the complete compersion dance.  I say do the compersion dance at your own pace. 


  1. I like the spirit of this. I find the poly community almost insulting when it comes to compersion. But I do disagree with even the idea of compersion-to-a-point. I have not, and most likely never will, feel compersion for my partner having other partners. I find those other partners a threat. I find the concept of infinite love that the poly community likes to parade to be insulting (I'm a behavioral ecologist, I understand reproductive strategy, the evolution of mating systems, and all that stuff; there is no such thing as infinite love). All that together, I never feel compersion when it comes to romance. There is never a time that my SO interacting with their OSO doesn't hurt me. It always hurts. And my partner has a choice, just like I have a choice. I can walk at any time. I don't because something I get out of the relationship outweighs the cost of this pain. My partner has to accept that. I remain here because of a cost:benefit analysis that says this relationship, overall, is better for me than not having it. There is no perfect relationship. And this is a big flaw, but its one still being outweighed. My partner's choice, that she must own, is whether or not she can live with her lifestyle causing me pain. It will always cause me pain, that will never go away. And she has to live with that. If she can't, then her options are break up with me, or decide to be monogamous with me. Both of these options will cause her pain. And if she were to choose the latter option, then its on me to deal with guilt that I will feel while accepting that she made that choice of her own will.

    And that's really the part this all comes back to. If I'm with her, while her non-monogamy is hurting me, I'm doing this of my own will. If she decides to stop doing non-mono, I have to accept that as her choice. In either case, its a cost:benefit. Compersion doesn't ever have to enter the picture. I doubt she'd ever feel happy for me to not feel pain of non-monogamy. And I will probably never feel happy when she's with another.

  2. Thanks for sharing such a valuable post .I really agreed with these concepts and it is very useful.We should always respect ourselves and relationship