I had felt compersion since I was a teen, but I never knew the word for it until the last few years and my jump into poly. Compersion.

The description of compersion in Wikipedia:

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.”

I have always been very emapthetic and tuned into emotions, especially joy and happiness in others regardless if I was involved in it or not. I can easily say that compersion is one of my favorite feelings.

There are other terms like “The adjective frubbly and the noun frubbles” but no matter the terminology it all means the same thing “the opposite or flip side of jealousy.” It can be argued that jealousy can be experienced with compersion, but that isn’t what this post is about.

So as one that has compersion I am curious to know what people think when it comes to this question: Is compersion something that can be learned over time or is it something we are born with?

I haven’t seen anyone develop compersion. I have seen people learn to tolerate or accept in lieu of not achieving a state of compersion, but this doesn’t seem like a winning situation. It seems like this would be a recipe for resentment and a quick way to end a relationship. It isn’t always the case, as sometimes tolerance is the state one wants to reach or is the highest state one has been able to achieve.

I have met many people in poly relationships and a surprising amount struggle with jealousy. Jealousy is like a bad word in the poly community, but it is something that happens from time to time. No one is immune and no one should be shamed for it. I have had my moments of jealousy and I have been able to trace it to what triggered it. My jealousy didn’t start until I was betrayed and fucked over. Regardless of the reasons, jealousy can happen to all of us. We should be helping each other and encouraging one another with healthy ways of dealing with these negative emotions instead of judging them harshly.

Oops, I went off on a tangent, back to the original question.

Is compersion something we are born with or is it something we can learn? We can give people all the tools to deal with jealousy, but can we teach them the joy that can sweep through us that are lucky enough to have compersion? Can they learn to be as happy as we can be when our partners enjoy themselves with people other than us? Can they learn not to be jealous if we had fun with someone other than them? I don’t have the answer. I believe we can teach the ways of processing jealousy and share tools to work towards compersion, but I don’t know if it can be learned or taught. I enjoy sharing what I can with those that come to me, but that doesn’t mean I can “cure” or “fix” anyones jealousy. I just was fortunate enough to have parents that taught me how to process emotions more than succumb to them if they aren’t the reaction that I expected or wanted and I attribute that to my lack of jealousy, but did it help me to learn compersion? I don’t know.

So I am curious…what say you, people? Can people learn compersion or are we born with it?

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2 Responses to Compersion

  1. James says:

    I believe compersion can be taught; but it depends on having a healthy and strong sense of fairness and sharing.

    Most of the poly virtues seem to me to simply be extensions or rededication to the things we were all supposed to learn in kindergarten: tell the truth, get permission before playing with other people’s toys, return anything borrowed in good condition, say please and thank you— the stuff that makes one a welcome guest in somebody’s home is the same stuff that tends to make one a welcome guest in someone’s spouse.

    People who have truly and deeply internalized those lessons tend to learn compersion , almost naturally. But of course we all know people who seem to have escaped those lessons. I’m not necessarily talking about people who are mean or curmudgeonly, but people for whom is is an effort to share their own stuff, or who aren’t comfortable giving or showing affection even with those who are fairly close to them. These people tend to have a fear that there won’t be enough, either enough time, affection, or concern left over for themselves, because that’s their common experience. So seeing their experience. The usual training we get from books, movies, magazines, and TV is that Love is hard to find, that people will bail at the drop of a hat, that honesty and trustworthiness are rare and getting rarer. All of those beliefs are self-fulfilling prophesies.

    Give people a chance to love unselfishly, and some will take to it while others falter. Those others may be poorly trained in the kindergarten basics, or they may be cynical due to poor relationship experience; but even they aren’t having a real problem learning compersion itself; only using it prerequisites.

  2. Tutivillus says:

    Ahh, Compersion.

    It’s a concept I have become familiar with…even its bite. I learned it but have had partners who could not–and it’s a bitter lesson when your lovers don’t feel it.

    That’s when you walk away.


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