Compersion is the opposite of jealousy
Compersion is the experience of enjoying another’s positive experiences. In intimate relationships, compersion refers to the enjoyment of your partner’s erotic, sexual, or romantic encounters with others.1
Often referred to as the opposite of jealousy, it is an experience that many in non-monogamous relationships may relate to. However, it isn’t uncommon for those who are in monogamous relationships as well.
What Is a Compersion Relationship?
There’s a joy that comes with romantic encounters. Feelings of excitement, sexual arousal, and even giddiness can all arise when leaning into the novelty of being with a lover. Yet, some may feel jealous at the mere thought of their partner experiencing that joy with another person.
This can extend to negative feelings that arise even just by witnessing someone flirt with your partner. Many may feel shame regarding their jealousy or they might notice it is negatively impacting their relationship. However, it is possible to relish and share in your partner’s joy. Compersion can be cultivated.
A compersion relationship is a relationship where compersion—instead of jealousy—is the norm. This can look different to everyone.
Some individuals in a compersion relationship might identify as non-monogamous or polyamorous. Alternatively, some may be in a monogamous relationship and still feel compersion when seeing their partner hug, cuddle, or enjoy a close relationship with a platonic friend of the same sexual orientation.
Is Compersion a Real Thing?
Though research literature on compersion is building, it is still rather limited, leading some to wonder if there is any psychological backing to it. However, compersion is a real experience—it just isn’t a mainstream point of discussion yet.2
If you’re still skeptical of the validity of compersion, consider how you feel watching someone you love get married. Chances are you are deeply happy for them and may even cry tears of happiness during the ceremony. At that moment, you are feeling compersion because you are taking part in the joy someone you care for is experiencing.
Can You Feel Compersion and Jealousy?
You absolutely can feel jealousy and compersion. While there may be some circumstances where compersion arises in your relationship, there also may be times when you feel jealous. First, jealousy may arise because your partner’s interactions with others are new or fall within a gray area of the boundaries you two have agreed upon.
Even without these circumstances, you can still experience these conflicting feelings of jealousy and compersion. In fact, it is completely natural to feel both at once. Wondering how that is possible? You likely already have experienced both of these emotions at the same time.
Let’s say you and your partner are both hoping for promotions at your respective jobs, however only your partner gets promoted. You likely are happy for them and notice your positive feelings heighten as you see their excitement. However, there may be part of you that is jealous because you had hoped to receive a promotion as well.
Experiencing both of these feelings doesn’t mean you’re a bad partner or have ill intentions. It simply means that you are a complex human navigating a new relational experience.
Ivy Kwong, LMFT recommends acknowledging and sitting with jealous feelings as part of the process of developing compersion, responding to jealousy with curiosity and compassion, and identifying the source of your feelings of jealousy and desire for compersion.
What Is Poly Compersion?
Poly compersion refers to compersion as a key tenet within polyamorous relationships. Compersion is a popular concept within the consensual non-monogamy (CNM) community and many polyamorous people hold compersion as a key tenet within their relationships.
It is worth noting that those in polyamorous relationships can also feel jealous and lack feelings of compersion at times. No relationship is perfect, jealousy is a natural human emotion, and compersion may not be second nature to many folks—even if they are participating in one form of non-monogamy or another.
How to Foster Compersion in Your Relationship
Compersion is a natural feeling, however, there are actions you can take to begin fostering it in your relationship. First, attune yourself to when you feel especially excited for others. You can even begin with television or movies. Perhaps a character you’re rooting for finally has their happily-ever-after or they stand up for themselves once and for all. You might feel excitement, pride, and joy for them.
See how that experience translates into your daily life. Maybe you notice your friend had an especially great day and, in turn, you begin to feel good. You can consider all of these instances as clues of what compersion feels like for you.
Then, begin to notice how you feel when good things happen for your partner in your relationship. There’s a chance you’re experiencing compersion much more often than you’re realizing. When you notice those positive feelings, take a moment to deepen your experience of them.
Take a moment to share in the joy you’re feeling for your partner, letting them know how good it feels to see them feel good. Become attuned to what it feels like to say it aloud. Invite your partner to also explore their feelings of compersion, inviting them to share when they also notice this experience coming up for them.
Finally, explore activities you can do together that bring each of you joy. Not only can this be great for overall bonding—but it also allows each of you to share in the positive feelings of joy together, thus building your ability to foster compersion in your relationship.