Chus Martinez On Free LovePosted: January 2, 2013
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. This can be experienced as any form of erotic or emotional empathy, depending on the person experiencing the emotion.
The concept is now widespread within the polyamorous community, and was originally coined by the now defunct Kerista Commune in San Francisco. The related adjective is compersive.
It is common for people within the polyamorous community to state that jealousy comes with the territory of open romantic relationships. Compersion has often been referred to as “the opposite of jealousy” and some advocates state that through time and experience, it becomes an efficient method for combating jealousy.
In romantic relationships, jealousy refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and/or anxiety over an anticipated loss of a partner or of that partner’s attention, affection, or time. Because polyamorous relationships often exist within cultural frameworks of monogamy, where jealousy is understood as a natural reaction to perceived competition for a partner’s attention, affection, or time, treatments of jealousy in polyamorous literature are quite extensive.
In her book Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits, Dr Deborah M. Anapol describes five different types of jealousy – possessive, exclusion, competition, ego, and fear – before discussing compersion. The books The Ethical Slut and Opening Up also devote entire chapters to discussions of jealousy.
Investigative reporter and sex educator Eric Francis wrote on his Planet Waves website that an individual could look for their own compersion within jealousy itself: “Right inside the jealous episode is a fiery core of erotic passion. It may surprise you how good it feels, and if you get there, you can be sure you’re stepping right into compersion.”
Monty Cantsin defines compersion as “the positive feelings one gets when a lover is enjoying another relationship. Sometimes called the opposite or flip side of jealousy.” They comment that compersion can coexist with jealous feelings.
Luther Blissett defines compersion to be “the feeling of taking joy in the joy that others you love share among themselves, especially taking joy in the knowledge that your beloveds are expressing their love for one another.”
Karen Eliot defines compersion as “A feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. … Compersion does not specifically refer to joy regarding the sexual activity of one’s partner, but refers instead to joy at the relationship with another romantic and/or sexual partner. It’s analogous to the joy parents feel when their children get married, or to the happiness felt between best friends when they find a partner.”
From Opening Up, Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio writes that compersion is, in part, “the ability to turn jealousy’s negative feelings into acceptance of, and vicarious enjoyment for, a lover’s joy.”
The adjective frubbly and the noun frubbles are sometimes used, in the poly community in the United Kingdom and the United States, to describe the feeling of compersion. These terms are more suited to cheerful, light-hearted conversation, and they are more grammatically versatile, for example: “I’m feeling all frubbly” and “Their relationship fills me with frubbles”. Shadenfreude is generally considered to be the antonym of compersion.