by Michael Love
Hello, My name is Michael, and I am a compersion addict… yes, you heard me right.
Anyone who has been in the lifestyle for more than a minute has come to understand what new relationship energy is. We have to be careful to manage our addiction to NRE because it can cause us to behave in ways that could cause damage to existing relationships.
Can you imagine a world where, instead of jealousy we could get the same “charge” from our partners experiences with others, as we get from our own NRE?
What if I told you that such a thing exists?
The Kerista Commune, a long running polyfidelitous community out of San Francisco, coined a term called “compersion”. Compersion is defined as, “a feeling of joy when a partner invests in and takes pleasure from another partner’s romantic or sexual relationship.” So instead of feeling envy or jealousy when your partner connects with someone new, or has a new experience with an existing partner, you instead feel joy and excitement.
Before I go on with this article I should tell you, when I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was the most jealous person. Ownership was my thing. “No one was gonna touch my woman”… yes… cringe-worthy, but I have said those words in my life. Even as Ellie and I got into the lifestyle, I had some pretty serious separation anxieties. It took WORK for me to get to a place where I didn’t have panic attacks when she went off to go play with someone else. The first time she spent an overnight with someone else, was nothing short of terrifying. Any feelings you may be experiencing… any panic, any anxieties I promise you, I’ve felt. It takes work to get to a place where you can feel compersive, but if you really want to, you can get there.
I have been very fortunate to have a partner in my life who is a good role model in compersion. She has taught me a lot about compersion and how to be compersive. It is very helpful to have a mentor who sets such a high standard to live up to. She constantly amazes me with her excitement at hearing my experiences and my new adventures. I cannot even begin to describe the joy of having a partner who cheers you on and celebrates your relationships along with you, without fear of negative backlash or feelings of jealousy. I have to tell you… this person has become someone that I feel like I am permanently tied to, not only because I cannot imagine us ever having a disagreement (it’s hard to have a disagreement with someone who is always so positive about your life), but because of her enthusiastic compersion… I can’t imagine ever letting her go.
Being with her for the last three years has taught me a lot, and has given me insight into the kind of partner that I want to be. I want my partners to feel about me, as I feel about her… and to some extent I hope that by being that role model for my other partners, they will learn compersion as well.
I’m not sure compersion can be taught. I think you just have to find it. I will give you some tips for how I’ve been able to get there myself, and you can see if it will work for you. Compersion can be a rather fleeting feeling to have, so don’t be discouraged if you struggle to get to that place, but it is something we all should strive for. So the million dollar question is… how do you get there?
I think the first steps to feeling compersion is to actually feel good about yourself. Keep in mind, if you are constantly depending on your partners for your validity and good feelings (codependency), this is going to be a constant struggle. You need to find a place where you feel worthy, you are a good person, you are a person who is valuable to your partners. When you feel good about yourself… it’s easier to feel more secure in your relationships. It’s also easier to respect their autonomy. Do some self inventory… what do YOU do to feel more happy and content in life and in your relationships? Are you striving to be a valuable part of the team?
For me the next step was to accept that while my partners and I are each independent and autonomous entities, we are also very much connected and interconnected. The best way that I have found to look at this, is to think of my polycule as a team… my partners are my teammates, and the game is love (for my poly partners) or sex (with my more casual partners); my team wins when I or my partners scores a goal (either love time, or sexy time
respectively) I celebrate their achievements the same as I would if it were a touchdown or three-pointer scored by your favorite teamt. You have to BECOME your partner’s biggest fan! Realize it is your role in their life to encourage and support them in their own efforts of non-monogamy. Be a cheerleader, not a roadblock.
I have found, when I look at it this way… I get excited for them. It felt awkward at first, but the more I practiced this “team thinking” and the more opportunities I had to be excited for my partner(s) the more real it felt. It’s not just me either, I’ve seen this starting to materialize in some of my partners as well… the beginning of compersion starting to take hold. When it happens, it feels like the dark clouds have parted and the warm sunshine shining through… it’s an amazing feeling.
…And guess what? I got addicted to it. The feeling is incredible… much like NRE. So much so, that my wife has gotten frustrated with me at times… that I am so eager to see her go out with her other partners rather than spend time with me. (Something I’m working on… I wonder if there is a 12 step program?)
Don’t be surprised if it takes you awhile to get there. It takes time, and a lot of patience. Keep your eye on the prize and communicate with your partners about your efforts and what you’re trying to accomplish. Don’t be afraid to ask for their support and encouragement by celebrating your accomplishments with you and by being patient with you when you’re feeling weak. You’ll get there eventually and soon you’ll be needing a 12 step program of your own to beat your compersion addiction.