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Compersion is a term that originated among practitioners of polyamory and is used to describe feeling pleasure or joy because one's romantic partner is experiencing pleasure or joy,[1] even if the source of their pleasure is other than yourself. The feeling may or may not be sexual. It should not be confused with cuckolding practices or voyeurism. It was originally coined by the Kerista Commune in San Francisco[2] [3] [4] (or possibly by the ZEGG community in Germany)[5] which practiced polyfidelity. It has since been adopted throughout the culture of polyamory.

Compersion is often discussed as a strategy for managing personal feelings of jealousy in polyamorous relationships and has been referred to as "the opposite of jealousy."[3] [5] It should be noted that some polyamorous people report that jealousy comes with the territory of open romantic relationships.[6]


Polyamorous views on jealousy and compersion

In romantic relationships, jealousy refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and/or anxiety over an anticipated loss of a partner or of that partner's attention, affection, or time. Because polyamorous relationships often exist within cultural frameworks of monogamy, where jealousy is understood as a natural reaction to perceived competition for a partner's attention, affection, or time, treatments of jealousy in polyamorous literature are quite extensive.

In her book Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits, Dr. Deborah M. Anapol describes five different types of jealousy - possessive, exclusion, competition, ego, and fear - before discussing compersion.[3] The books The Ethical Slut and Opening Up also devote entire chapters to discussions of jealousy.

Investigative reporter and sex educator Eric Francis wrote on his Planet Waves website that an individual could look for their own compersion within jealousy itself: "Right inside the jealous episode is a fiery core of erotic passion. It may surprise you how good it feels, and if you get there, you can be sure you're stepping right into compersion."

Formal definitions

  • PolyOz defines compersion as "the positive feelings one gets when a lover is enjoying another relationship. Sometimes called the opposite or flip side of jealousy." They comment that compersion can coexist with jealous feelings.[5]
  • The Polyamory society defines compersion to be "the feeling of taking joy in the joy that others you love share among themselves, especially taking joy in the knowledge that your beloveds are expressing their love for one another."[2]
  • The InnKeeper defines compersion as "A feeling of joy when a partner invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship. ... Compersion does not specifically refer to joy regarding the sexual activity of one's partner, but refers instead to joy at the relationship with another romantic and/or sexual partner."[7]
  • From Opening Up, "Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio writes that compersion is, in part, 'the ability to turn jealousy's negative feelings into acceptance of, and vicarious enjoyment for, a lover's joy.'" (p. 175)

Related terms

The adjective frubbly and the noun frubbles are sometimes used, in the poly community in the United Kingdom and the United States, to describe the feeling of compersion.[8] These terms are more suited to cheerful, light-hearted conversation, and they are more grammatically versatile, for example: "I'm feeling all frubbly" and "Their relationship fills me with frubbles".

Compersion in the news

In late 2007, The New York Times reported on former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's acceptance of her husband's romance with another woman.[9] The article opens, "So this, in the end, is what love is. Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's husband, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, has a romance with another woman, and the former justice is thrilled -- even visits with the new couple while they hold hands on the porch swing -- because it is a relief to see her husband of 55 years so content." The remainder of the article discusses Justice O'Connor's reaction as an example of mature, "more complex" love and contrasts this with popular conceptions of "young" love.

See also


  1. ^ "Only You. And You. And You.". Retrieved 2009-09-07.  
  2. ^ a b "Polyamory Society Glossary". Retrieved 2006-12-26.  
  3. ^ a b c Anapol, Deborah M. (1997) Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits. IntinNet Resource Center: San Rafael, CA, pp. 49-64.
  4. ^ Taormino, Tristan (2008) Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. Cleis Press, Inc.: San Francisco
  5. ^ a b c PolyOz - Polyamory Resources Australia Inc. - RD Glossary
  6. ^ Easton, Dossie & Liszt, Catherine A. (1997) The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities. Greenery Press: San Francisco.
  7. ^ InnKeeper, Joreth. "The Inn Between".  
  8. ^ Alexander, Steven (2005-04-04). "Free love gets a fit of the wibbles". Guardian Unlimited.,,1451809,00.html. Retrieved 2006-07-05.  
  9. ^ The New York Times, November 18, 2007. "Still Many Splendored; Love in the Time of Dementia" by Kate Zernike. Retrieved 2009-11-06.

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