Compersion in Romantic Relationships

Imagine seeing your lover hugging and kissing someone else. What would your first emotion be? For many, jealousy would be a natural response. But what if we told you that instead of jealousy you could feel happiness and tranquillity?
Yes, it is possible to not be annoyed and angry when your romantic partner is making out with someone else. There is even a term for this phenomenon – compersion.

What is compersion?

So what the hell is compersion, exactly? Simply put, it’s the opposite of jealousy. However, the terminology is still new, and the definition is kind of fluid. Some believe that compersion doesn’t exclude jealousy and the two can co-exist peacefully. Compersion is complex, and it is all about feeling happy for the other person, even if they are happy with someone else. A hard pill to swallow for many, we know!
While the term compersion may be new, the concept existed way back in the day. Buddhists are known for exercising sympathetic joy in an attempt to reach enlightenment. Along the journey to become enlightened, they would first try to develop this feeling towards their partners and close circle, then they’d move on to people they don’t really care about or engage with. The final boss of this exercise is feeling compersion towards someone they felt strong negative emotions against.
If you look closely, you’ll find similar philosophies across all main religions. Feeling happy and glad for others is a big part of growing spiritually, so it’s only natural that this would be reflected in religious texts and ways of thinking.

What is compersion in polyamory?

Compersion, as you may guess, is associated with polyamory and more broadly the consensual non-monogamy that we’ve already talked about before in our blog.
Polyamory is a part of ethical non-monogamy (ENM) where multiple people can have committed relationships with one another. These relationships can be platonic as well as sexual, but the bottom line is that all members of the group are fully aware of each other and have expressed consent to this dynamic. Both polyamory and ENM pay special attention to the ethical aspect of such romances, and they focus on ensuring that everyone feels safe and heard, and can trust one another.
Compersion implies that we operate on abundance and not scarcity. We are not afraid to lose control or be left out. There is enough love in this world for all of us, so there is no reason to get jealous or turn into control freaks. Instead, we can celebrate each other’s feelings and passions, and embrace mutual sympathies.

Compersion in Monogamy: a myth or reality?

At first glance, the concept of monogamy itself seems to exclude the possibility that a person can actually be sympathetic to their partner flirting or getting physical with someone else.
There is very little research at this point. Still, the few studies on jealousy and compersion that were conducted, suggest that there is room for compersion in a monogamous relationship. Pretty much any time you can feel jealousy towards your exclusive partner, you can also feel compersion.
The concept of compersion itself does not have to be solely applied to romantic relationships. One can feel jealousy or compersion when their loved one is in good relationships with their partners, has close friends, makes a long-time dream come true, gets a cool promotion, etc. Basically, you can have empathy and experience happiness for others in all kinds of circumstances.
Prop tip: If you’re not completely against compersion and would like to give it a try, but just a little bit, talk to your partner. Open communication is our permanent go-to. Explain to your lover that you’re willing to explore new concepts and potentially change your mindset. In return, ask them to be gentle and patient with you on this journey. Another important thing is to exchange your boundaries and understand what is comfortable for both of you. You might want to try compersion out, but ask the other person to limit certain behaviors that can trigger you.

How to feel compersion: key steps and tips

One doesn’t have to train themselves to feel compersion, but one definitely can.
It’s fine to feel jealousy, it’s a perfectly natural feeling after all. However, if you believe that your mental health and relationships could benefit from you having more compersion, then you’re in luck – we have actionable tips just for you.

Step 1: Accept that you get jealous

Say it loud and say it proud! We’re all human beings, and all emotions are okay, we shouldn’t hate ourselves for them or suppress them. Instead, acknowledge and accept that you feel jealousy.
You don’t have to stop feeling it completely, but be honest with yourself and realize that this is what’s happening in certain situations. Try to ask yourself – “Why do I feel this way” whenever jealousy strikes you. It’s not always pleasant (pretty much never is) but you will learn a lot about yourself. Jealousy is usually a symptom of something else, for example, wanting to spend more time with the partner, or a need for reassurance.
Once you know what stands behind feeling jealous, it will be much easier for you to transform jealousy into compersion.

Step 2: Pay attention to your current expressions of compersion

It’s quite possible that you’ve already been feeling compersion, but didn’t know that there’s a name to this sensation! Watch yourself for a few days or weeks to spot those warm feelings of satisfaction and happiness when your loved ones and friends achieve something or simply feel great.
The more you realize that compersion is already a part of your life, one way or the other, the easier it will be for compersion to spread more.

Step 3: Practice makes perfect

Start intentional compersion practices. Aim to create this feeling inside of you more often with people in your life. It will probably be easier to start with non-romantic relationships, so your first exercises can be made with friends and colleagues.

Step 4: Make your life fulfilled and busy

One sure step to worry less about other people, and what they think and do, is to have an active life that’s well-balanced with friends, hobbies, career, sports, learning, etc. People who are self-sufficient and live colorful lives have higher chances of building compersion than those who have too much free time on their hands, so they spend it worrying and being jealous.

Final step: Watch how it makes you feel

One of the main reasons people want to switch jealousy for compersion is to feel better inside and out. To do that successfully, we need to remain motivated and do the work. And in order to do that, we need to see what’s in it for us, right? That’s why you should pay attention to how compersion makes you feel. If it brings you peace and serenity, and you actively notice that, you’ll be more inclined to try and feel it more often. Instead of having all those negative emotions and stress from jealousy, you’ll be doing your best to feel good for someone. And yes, forcing it is not ideal, but you have to fake it a little bit sometimes, before making it so it comes naturally.

Compersion is not a replacement for jealousy

As you work towards fostering more compersion and having less jealousy in your life, remember that the two can co-exist. Both are a part of the normal human experience, so don’t try to cut out jealousy 100%. It will be just as toxic as feeling jealous all the time.
Just like with everything in life – balance is key.

Is compersion for everybody?

When it comes to relationships, especially romantic ones, there is no such thing as a one-shoe-fits-all. At Flure, we like to explore all kinds of things, like polycules, ENM, dating trends, and anything else. Yet, we don’t believe that one person should try everything or should adhere to everything that’s out there.
Absolutely try out compersion if you’re curious. After all, it’s a positive replacement for jealousy, so worth a try. However, if that’s not something you want to pursue, then no problem at all. You don’t have to!
The key is that you and your partner(s) are comfortable and safe in the relationship. Whatever works for you is good enough.
If you’re curious about compersion but struggle to make it a part of your spiritual reality, think of it as an exercise to being a better partner.
Instead of focusing on how something makes you feel, and looking to have compersion instead of something else, focus on them. You showing support even when it’s non-conventional to do so, demonstrates that you respect the other person’s full autonomy, whether it’s physical, emotional, or behavioral. You can’t control others or tie them to yourself 24/7. Whatever happens, happens. So if you are open to a nonmonogamous lifestyle or can understand that one-offs happen, then continue to practice compersion, and you’ll get there.