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liminal's avatar

What has been your experience with compersion?

Asked by liminal (7769points) March 25th, 2010

In a writing titled: (some may find this [NSFW] because of images used in the article) Compersion: The Only Way Out is In the author states that “compersion is the full appreciation of another person’s pleasure and indeed their existence—something many relationships could use a lot more of. If we could indeed get there, this would be an excellent resolution for jealousy and much besides.”

The author notes that the idea was developed in a community where people explored polyamory. Yet, I imagine, that even people who practice monogamy have experience with the phenomena.

The word hasn’t made it into dictionaries and it is something that I don’t quite understand. I am thinking hearing others write about their experiences or thoughts will help clarify it for me.

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28 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

:) Love making can be like that

wonderingwhy's avatar

sounds like love to me. and my experiences with that have been pretty wonderful, even the bad parts.

ChaosCross's avatar

Incredible, limitless love, or complete, total sexual submission. At least for a moment, these are what they are.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I grew up knowing many of my parents’ friends were in open marriages or open relationships, some even lived with multiple partners and we never saw any of those relationships last. Good luck out there.

liminal's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I think I am pondering if compersion is really the answer to jealousy. I find myself, sometimes, feeling jealous over things that my thoughts tell me are silly to feel jealous about. The question isn’t really about the working or not working of polyamory or monogamy.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Jealousy is triggered by so many different factors, most of the time jealousy becomes a tool to hone your own self better by, dial into what is really valuable and important to keep as far as what’s most acceptable to yourself. The article I read seemed an alternative for people who too desperate to find partners who are really into just them, a way to make the swallow sweeter if your partner wants others, a way to brainwash yourself into accepting less. Just my quick take.

Cruiser's avatar

I experience that on a daily basis and can feel her even when I am far away. It’s incredible when we are together…mind blowing wow! Not so sure about it wiping out the jealousy part though still working on that part.

liminal's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I agree with what you say about jealousy. And I am wondering about the efficacy of honing a sense of compersion as another tool in the development quiver. I am intrigued with your perception that accepting compersion is a way of brainwashing one’s self into accepting less. I am going to think about that some more. I think someone who is able to move with compersion would say that there is no way for any one person to meet every need of another.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

For a moment, I thought Alex asked this q because we talk about compersion all the time – it’s how we began our relationship, given that I was with two people at the same time. So, you may say, we’re all over it and on top of it. It’s quite the philosophy to live with.

Coloma's avatar

I’m all for intimacy on many levels, but this is nothing NEW!

Open relationships, group sexuality, blah, blah, blah..I surviived the 70’s…very OLD news here, and..while compersion is a nice idea for those that could actually handle it, it can also be used as a very crafty disguise for sexual addiction.

( and I am sure it is in many cases )

As always..a huge propensity for manipulation of an otherwise potentially helpful practice.

There are many paths to intimacy and open sexuality is not the holy grail of enlightend experience.

Meh….been there, done that, and I still prefer one on one relating…which does include sharing all, but does not have to include bringing random strangers into ones bedroom.

The odds of finding TRULY healthy and willing partners amongst close contacts is unlikely for most…and I somehow don’t think that trolling Craigslist casual encounters is really the ultimate for attracting compersion partners! lolololol

I’ll stick to one lover at a time and the turbo jets in my hot tub. haha

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Coloma You don’t know much about today’s polyamory scene – no one uses Craigslist and compersion, for many, isn’t about sex.

Coloma's avatar

Thats okay..I’ve traveled my own path and it’s been right for me.

No lack of amazing openings and intimacies.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Coloma Of course, why would you have a lack of these?

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

GQ, @liminal

Compersion is a fantastic solution to jealousy, and I do think it can be applied to most situations where you would be jealous even in a monogamous relationship, I assume.

liminal's avatar

@Coloma I am thinking about compersion in terms of it being an emotion. In particular, I am thinking about what does a healthy sense of compersion look like. I am sure, just as with other emotions such as anger, it can be used as a means of manipulating another. Which is something to keep in mind.

liminal's avatar

I approach emotions as fluid and separate from behavior, though obviously there can be a relationship between the two. I also try not to moralize emotions as good or bad, they simply are. I sometimes think that it is easy to classify emotions into a false binary. For example, one assumes if they could feel happy then they wouldn’t feel sad. I think most of us realize emotions are not that simple. Yet, before I go adding another label to put on my emotions I wanted to explore compersion a bit. As a person who practices monogamy I will try to personalize it a bit more.

I maintained friendship with my first serious break-up. Everything went well until we started seeing other people. While part of me was happy to see him moving on and thriving in a relationship, part of me felt loss and jealousy. The dissonance was uncomfortable and I let the friendship fade. I sometimes wonder what would have happened in that friendship if I could have given more energy to the feeling of being happy for him to have found romantic love outside of me (which I believe is the definition of compersion?).

I am thinking that allowing a sense of compersion to be stronger than a sense of jealousy could be a very helpful practice in relationship. Again, I am not thinking in a binary way.

As I finish typing this I am literally reminded of a time when my SO told me a story of someone noticing her in a sensual way that she enjoyed. The exchange she had was an innocuous verbal exchange and I was all smiles when she told me about it. Yet, throughout the week following I kept making little joking remarks about the person who had noticed her. Saying things like “so how was so and so today” and “to bad so and so isn’t here to see this”. It got to the point where my SO said she wished she had never told me and asked me to knock it off, I then realized I was feeling jealous and willing to scratch out some strangers eyes. I have since learned how to notice my jealousy and often succeed in not acting out of it. Right now I am also wonder how that whole experience may have gone differently if I could have tapped into a sense of celebration and pleasure about someone noticing my SO and her liking it. Not as a means to open up our bedroom, but as a means of opening myself to her and enjoying with her what it feels like to be found pleasing.

Anyway, thank you all for responding. Obviously it is helping me think this emotion through.

Coloma's avatar


Yes, understood. My point exactly..ALL good work has the potential for manipulations, and it happens, probably more often than not much of the time.

Over the years I have known two people that I disagreed with intently on some of their ‘practices’ which, when engaged in honestly had some measure of vale.

One person who was trying to build more ‘intimacy’ with his 21 yr. old daughter was hung up on taking her to a nudist hot springs, feeling that if they could commune in those circumstances it would bring more openings to their relationship. Bullshit! And I told him so…there are a million other ways to deepen intimacy and a father has no buisness lounging around nude with his adult daughter. I am not saying he had a dark intent, I don’t think he did, but to me, it was a manipulation of something he was hung up on at the time, that everyone should be nude to experience ultimate openings. Sorry…thats just creepy.

I knew another person that activley involved his teenage kids in his naturist community, and then was schoked and suprised when some old pervert had designs on his 14 yr. old daughter. Hmmm…what kind of moron would not be aware that in an enviroment such as that the propensity to attract perverts under the guise of ’ Oh, I just love to play naked Volleyball, I feel so FREE! ’ Hahaha

Give me break! lol

Neizvestnaya's avatar

re @Coloma
”...ALL good work has the potential for manipulations, and it happens, probably more often than not much of the time.”

I agree wholeheartedly!

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Coloma I think you’re dismissing this concept on the grounds of unrelated circumstance.

prolificus's avatar

Q:   What has been your experience with compersion?

A:  When I think about the idea of compersion as described in this thread, I think about the differences between jealousy and compersion.

I think there are two types of jealousy:  one is momentary and easily resolved, the other is long-term and challenging.  Jealousy arises when someone fears something/someone belonging to them is in danger of being taken away, or when someone feels left out of another person’s life, or when someone else appears to have something better than the one experiencing jealousy.  Essentially, jealousy involves fear of exclusion or worry about not having the object of desire.  Long-term jealousy errodes the life force of a person, it consumes time and energy. Instead of gaining and receiving the object of desire, the person consumed with jealousy moves further away from enjoying pleasures within reach.

In contrast to jealousy, compersion acknowledges the freedom of everyone to enjoy pleasure and desire.  Instead of guarding territory out of fear, it protects the relationship experienced between two people while opening the door to freedom.  I think compersion encapsulates the virtues of love. There are many defintions of love.  The definition I’m familiar with is found in 1 Corinthians 13.

(Note:  in defining certain terms, I refer to the Bible and Christian theology. I’m doing this just so that others can understand my perspective. I am neither attempting to convert others to Christianity, nor am I suggesting Christianity is the only way to understand these terms.  I am open to and respect other beliefs.)

Regarding Neizvestnaya’s quick take, I think it’s fairytale thinking to believe one person can give all the focused love and attention the other needs/wants. Yes, we all deserve the bond of one-on-one intimacy, but to think (a) it is foolishness to form deep, intimate attachments outside of marriage AND (b) to think practicing compersion is brainwashing / self-depreciation—to do this is to have rigid, black and white thinking about the nature of human relationships.  We are designed to know and be known deeply, to love and be loved profoundly.  It is humanly impossible to have this design completely satisfied within the context of one relationship between two people.

Returning to the definition of terms:  Jealousy is part is part of the works of the flesh (link to Galatians 5:19–20).  I think compersion is another word for the type of love, joy, peace and patience (link to Galatians 5:22) we have in and through Spirit. I think Spirit practices compersion all the time—if you think about it. Spirit is madly in love with us in the most intimate way, yet celebrates our love and joy experienced apart from her.

(Note: again I want to note the use of Christian terms for the purpose of perspective. I would love to hear other perspectives, perhaps a discussion about these terms in another thread.  Here, I am focused on differentiating between jealousy and compersion.)

To answer the original question, my experience with compersion has been limited because I have struggles with fear and worry over being left out or not receiving pleasure.  However, I believe someday I will evolve into the land of compersion!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

All of my responses are in relation to compersion as presented in the OP’s link which was about the sexual dynamic between people/couples/whatevers. Compersion as a mindset and applied to all daily existence is possible, I would think tibetan monks get pretty close since they have a control area, control group, blah blah.

liminal's avatar

@prolificus thank you for an obviously thoughtful answer. I do believe you may have just published the first christian theology of compersion. I also appreciate your words on jealousy. It will be interesting to see if anybody responds to your thoughts. I think your words also suggest that compersion involves a process or development of sorts. That seems important. Thank you.

@Neizvestnaya I appreciate your reflection regarding the article. My intention for posting the link was to cite my source for the definition I am reflecting on. I felt the article offered enough information to consider compersion as an emotion not just a dynamic in certain polyamorous relationships. I like the tibetan monk example.

I am liking the potential spiritual aspect that you bring up, @prolificus , interesting.

Coloma's avatar


No. I am not dismissing the concept at all, I am simply saying that there are many paths to intimacy and sexual openess, vulnerability is only one of many.

Transformations in consciousness or psychological breakthroughs come in many shapes and sizes. ( No pun intended! ) lolololol

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@Coloma I don’t think anyone would argue that. Just not sure that compersion as a concept indicates otherwise – it’s certainly been important in my life and love, but I’m sure others have other important revelations. Compersion doesn’t have anything to do with the situations you described. It’s likely we’re completely missing the other’s point here.

bryancharles's avatar

has anyone actually personally had any experiences/emotions that they would define as compersion?

it seems like it’s debated a lot theroetically but i haven’t found much information about peoples’ experiences with it in practice.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bryancharles Well the people above like @JeanPaulSartre talking about compersion have.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@bryancharles Certainly.

I’m more curious about where this is debated in a theoretical sense. I’m clearly going to the wrong parties!

Coloma's avatar

Flashback to the 70’s when the parents were dropping their keys in a bowl at parties and mate swapping and the kids were just as loose. lol

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