Category Archives: Polyamory

Compersion and Jealousy: the good twin and the evil twin.


Compersion and Jealousy

Compersion is such a recent concept, spell-check doesn’t even recognize the word and you cannot find a definition in mainstream dictionaries.  This is the definition offered up by Modern Poly:

Compersion: adj., the experience of taking pleasure in the knowledge that one’s partner is experiencing pleasure, even if the source of their pleasure is other than yourself. The feeling may or may not be sexual.

While this concept is commonly understood by those who practice polyamorous relationships, it has not yet found mainstream acceptance.  Yet it operates as does altruism and self-confidence, whereas jealousy, its evil twin, operates through its antithesis:  selfishness and insecurity.  The more I embrace compersion, the more I reject jealousy.  This concept is equally compatible with monogamy as it is polyamory and non-monogamy.

Jealousy needs no definition; we have examples all around us.  Jealousy is a destructive emotion.  Jealousy seeks to deny, repress and hurt.  Compersion, on the other hand, is constructive.  Compersion seeks to give, share and provide pleasure.  Imagine how many murders and assaults have been committed due to jealousy and insecurity?  What if, instead, we embraced compersion as a society and encouraged the idea that if you love someone else, then you should want that other person to experience pleasure?

With jealousy, the bearer of the emotion makes others accountable for his or her insecurity.  A lover is expected to conform to the stated or unstated expectations of another to avoid triggering a jealous response in that person.  The jealous person is rarely required to accept responsibility for the negative emotion and conform his or her behavior instead.  Outside relationships, however, we would not tolerate this, so why do we embrace it within the confines of dating and marriage?  Consider the following analogies:

  • A high school student is jealous of another student’s good grades.  Instead improving his or her grades or otherwise dealing with this jealousy, the student with the good grades is expected to stop performing so well.
  • A neighbor is jealous of the car another neighbor drives.  Instead of dealing with this jealousy, the neighbor with the car is expected to stop driving it or to sell it entirely.
  • An amateur athlete is jealous of the fame and success of professional athletes.  Instead of dealing with this jealousy, the professional athletes are expected to stop competing professionally.

These make no sense.  So why, therefore, in the context of dating, should a lover who is jealous be permitted to dictate what the object of his or her jealousy should do or refrain from doing?

With compersion, one person loves the other enough to want the other person’s happiness.  Not only are the partners willing to allow their partner to experience pleasure when that pleasure is provided by another, but they, too, receive pleasure knowing that their partner is happy.  This mirrors altruism where one is charitable to another for the pleasure such charity brings to the giver.

If one is insecure, however, and does not trust what they bring to the relationship is unique and incomparable, then the idea of allowing the object of one’s affection to experience pleasure with another is threatening.  The jealous person seeks to confine and restrict the other person to avoid feeling insecure rather than address their own lack of self-esteem or confidence.

Thus, the ability to embrace compersion is recognition of one’s own limitations (we can’t provide all pleasures in the Universe to another) as well as a statement of self-esteem.  The person who embraces compersion has the self-confidence to want those he or she loves to experience ALL pleasures, not just those he or she is capable of providing.  The person who embraces compersion is not threatened by their partner’s pleasure.  Indeed, the person who embraces compersion receives pleasure as well.

Compersion:  give it a try.  Imagine the possibilities.


Modern Poly.  (2011, March 26).  Compersion.  Retrieved on November 30, 2013 from: