Throuple, Quad, and Vee: All About Polyamorous Relationships

Jealousy is a common issue that can arise in any relationship. However, those who practice non-monogamy, such as in polyamorous relationships where partners can have multiple romantic and/or sexual connections, often have strategies in place to address jealousy. This can make it easier to manage this emotion in these types of relationships.

Compersion, a term coined by the polyamorous community, is a concept created to tackle feelings of jealousy and the effects they can have on a partnership. Generally, the community defines the concept as feeling happy that your partner is happy—even if with their other partners. Obviously, no single solution can be a one-size-fix-all for every relationship, but compersion has become a widely accepted pathway to peace for people in relationships that fall under the non-monogamy umbrella.

“Compersion is a concept that has gained attention in recent times, and it may take some effort to discover it within oneself,” according to Dossie Easton, a marriage and family therapist and co-author of The Ethical Slut. “However, I can assure you that it is present within all of us. Many people struggle with unwanted feelings of jealousy, and compersion can provide a way to move beyond those negative emotions.”

The concept of compersion, which was originally developed within the polyamorous community, can be applied to monogamous relationships as well. In fact, incorporating compersion into your monogamous relationship may bring numerous benefits. In this article, we will explore what compersion is and how you can practice it in your own relationship. Experts in dating and relationships will provide insights and guidance.

What is comperison?

Dealing with jealousy in a relationship can be a difficult and emotionally charged process. One approach that some polyamorous people use to handle jealousy is called compersion. Compersion involves acknowledging and accepting the emotions of jealousy, and taking responsibility for managing them. By using compersion, it may be possible to navigate jealousy in a more positive and healthy way.

“Compersion is the feeling of joy and happiness when someone else is experiencing happiness,” according to Michelle Hy, a polyamorous educator and content creator. “In the context of non-monogamy, this typically refers to feeling happy for a partner when they are having a good time with another partner. However, compersion can also extend beyond romantic relationships and can be experienced when seeing a friend have a positive moment with someone else and feeling happy for them.”

Rewritten: Compersion is a concept often embraced by non-monogamous individuals as a way to counteract jealousy by feeling happiness for a partner or loved one when they experience joy outside of the relationship. However, according to experts, this view simplifies the complexity of human emotions, as it is not always possible or desirable to entirely eliminate negative feelings like jealousy.

“Sometimes, people define compersion as the opposite of jealousy, but I’m not a fan of that because you can definitely feel both at the same time,” explains certified sex educator Angel Kalafatis-Russell, MS, CSE. “Let’s say my best friend and I are up for the same job, and she gets it. I could totally be jealous that it wasn’t me and super happy for my friend at the same time.” So, it’s totally possible to feel jealous that your S.O.’s friends get some time with them during a Friday night out while you’re at home, but still feel happy that they’re getting that quality time to connect.

Why is compersion important in relationships?

If your partner has siblings, does it make you feel left out when they reference the inside jokes they share? Or if they have close childhood friends with whom they share a lot of memories that you weren’t a part of, does it make you wish you had that connection, too? Feeling jealous in situations like these is a valid and very human response, but the way you process and deal with those emotions is what counts—and what has the biggest impact on your relationship.

Although it’s easy enough to understand, sex and relationships expert Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT says that learning compersion isn’t always automatic. “It’s super normal to struggle with feeling compersion because we grow up in and are programmed by a mononormative society that takes a lot of effort and energy to unlearn. It’s hard to feel happy for someone when our old fight, flight, or fawn system is activated,” she explains.

Especially when it comes to codependency, possessiveness, and even a triggered. While it can be difficult at first, compersion provides a key response to those in the way of reframing your initial jerk reaction toward jealousy or insecurity.

How can I Practice Compersion in a polyamorous relationship?

Like Hy says, people in polyamorous relationships view compersion as a reaction to seeing their partner feeling happy with and fulfilled by their other partners. 

 We’re all human, after all, and jealousy is a very human emotion! If you’re polyamorous and finding it tough to watch your partner feel fulfilled and happy by their other partners, especially in different ways than they might feel fulfilled with you, Easton recommends trying to foster good relationships with your metamours as a way to enhance feelings of compersion.

The point is to nurture a friendship that feels like family to all its members, while we acknowledge that we have a responsibility to support positive connections with our lovers’ lovers,” she explains. Nurturing a positive connection with your metamours can help ease feelings of jealousy or insecurity in each of you.

 “Compersion is often put on a sort of pedestal, but it isn’t at all necessary for healthy, sustainable non-monogamy,” she says. “Some people might experience it in some dynamics and not others, and there isn’t anything automatically wrong with that. If you don’t feel compersion, but you’re still able to create safe containers for yourself and with your partners, you’re doing great!”

What if I’m in a monogamous relationship,though?

Many people can relate to having conflicting feelings about their partner having close friendships that they aren’t involved in, especially when they are with someone of the same sexual orientation. But unless there is a previously-expressed boundary being crossed, or if your partner is engaging in behaviors that they know make you feel uncomfortable, compersion can be a great concept to consider when feelings of insecurity and/or jealousy pop up for you.

 You might want to think about the pleasure you feel witnessing someone you love enjoying a particularly wonderful flavor of ice cream, or a transcendent chocolate truffle. That might make it easier to notice your own feelings when you witness a lover’s delight in something that isn’t about you,”

Ultimately, the fact that you love your partner, want them to feel joy, and want them to have healthy and fulfilling relationships is crucial to keep in mind when you’re working through feelings of jealousy and trying to let compersion lead the way. To do that? “Remember that you love and care for the target of your compersion, and you do really want them to be happy,” Kalafatis-Russell says. “Actively celebrate the successes and joys of those you care about. You can resist the urge to compare yourself to others, because comparison is the thief of joy, and—most importantly—practice gratitude for what you have.”