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Author Topic: Compersion - discuss, rant, share opinions!  (Read 945 times)

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Offline LaierunTopic starter

Compersion - discuss, rant, share opinions!
« on: June 02, 2012, 01:38:33 AM »
Hello there!  This is my first proper thread that I've made on this new website, save the Introductions thread that I had to make in order to properly acquaint myself with some people on this website.  Hopefully, I am not doing some sort of errant mistake here: I used the Search feature wisely, but I found nothing that seemed to have discussed this on here before! 

If a discussion about this has been made in recent months(or has fallen into inactivity; whatever proverbial rule applies), please forgive me, point me in its direction and I'll participate there.  I am truly sorry if I am bloating the forum with making new threads on previously discussed topics!

Not many people seem to know what compersion is.  It is, essentially, the complete opposite of jealousy, where one person harbours envy of another person's object or something they have, or own.  It can be a spouse, partner, a fancy car, money, anything!  Compersion would be to be glad or empathize in the happiness of someone else having a spouse, partner, that fancy car and more money than you, comparably. 

That's just an example, mind, so I hope I didn't step on any toes by extrapolating on that. 

The term was coined by polyamorous communities; compersion is quite often employed by people embroiled in poly-relationships, because they empathize or take joy in someone they care deeply for indulging in passions as much as they can, be it physical, emotional, or both.  Jealousy can still manifest, and even though they're on the opposite ends of the polarity, human emotions are complex, difficult and contrived... some say a small degree of jealousy is still important!

Now, I am personally identified as a monogamous person, but only because I genuinely lack the experience or understanding towards compersion.  It's something I want to learn, or perhaps grow towards becoming at ease with, but I have a question: do you think being able to 'comperse' can be taught? 

Or is compersion simply something that you'll be able to do?  Hard-wiring in the brain?  Is it a matter of preference or choice?(Doubtful that wording it like that even makes sense, but it's rather late and I require a good sleep!)

I didn't make this thread solely for the purpose of my question; I invite musings and debates on the matter at large.  If you know and understand compersion intimately, or if you've never been able to experience it or never actually wanted to - bring in your input either way!

In case my definition was terribly off the mark:
« Last Edit: June 02, 2012, 01:40:21 AM by Laierun »

Online AndyZ

Re: Compersion - discuss, rant, share opinions!
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2012, 02:53:00 PM »
I don't see this as the complete opposite of jealousy, but I'll offer my thoughts.

The idea is that you're happy for someone because they're happy, right?  I think that's just empathy.  You can be sad for someone when they're sad, and you can be angry for someone when they're angry.  Horny is a little weirder but I'm not sure horny fits the proper term of emotion.  Certainly, if someone has some degree of horniness directed at you, or if they share what they're feeling, you're going to often feel some arousal as well, at least to some degree.

I think this is just empathy.  It's what causes arguments to quickly become heated even if only one person is upset about things which aren't pertinent to the discussion, and why we can't help but say "I'm sorry," upon hearing about something terrible which happened to someone close to us.

Now, forgive me if I'm making too much of a leap, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong or stop me if you don't want to discuss something so personal.  I think that you're in a relationship with someone and you're both interested in taking things to a polyamorous level.  However, you feel some concern about how this would go over.  Since you are interested in learning the technique, I infer that your partner is already quite capable and seeks to have an open relationship.

Now, jealousy is certainly human.  When we have something, especially something which makes us blissfully happy, we want to hold on to it.  It frightens us on some base level when our lovers desire someone else, because we worry that if we set our lovers free, that they might not return to us.

Love is something that much of society teaches us that we should fight for.  We have so much of the romantic aspects of our world showing that not only should we do everything we can to keep our loved ones, but that our loved ones want us to fight for them as well.  It's a simple enough perspective to fall into.

Some couples set rules for open relationships.  For example, they might only be willing to have threesomes with the two of them involved, or they might not want their lovers kissing others but everything else is open.

I'm going to suggest this: sit back in a chair and watch as your partner masturbates.  Do you enjoy watching him/her squirm in delight, the smile, the soft moans?  Will you hold him/her as the orgasm finally comes and savor every moment, even if you refrain from getting your own pleasure until afterwards?

I don't even know if empathy can be taught.  If someone doesn't have empathy, that seems to be more of an antisocial disorder.  However, I'm guessing that it's more jealousy that's the question, and if it's possible to numb down jealousy with compersion.  To that, I'm going to say no.  Emotions are weird: you can absolutely be angry and sad at the same time.

Let me know if any of that helps, and if I'm anywhere near the right track, I'll try to continue.

Offline kylie

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Re: Compersion - discuss, rant, share opinions!
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2012, 03:36:45 PM »
     I've been in a couple short-lived relationships that could be considered poly.  (We separated over other things, not jealousy.)  I haven't been very busy with poly jargon per se, although it turns out quite a few of the BDSM folks here are poly too.  I have been assisting with academic work gathering data about concrete poly experiences, although I would say my connection there isn't quite the same as actually living in many -- or long -- poly relationships.

     You might think about your ons, your interests in sexuality generally: How do they seem to fit or not fit with compersion?  Are they things that can become more interesting when there's more than one person out there (or perhaps in the room, whether more casually or more intimately)?  I think I have always held an interest in voyeurism, exhibitionism, and more or less harem fantasies.  I always had this general feeling that regardless of whether I was good at finding people for me or not, sexuality is something good to share.  So when I meet people who wanted to share time with me and a partner as well, or who had partners elsewhere, I have been happy with that. 

     Less certain how much this paragraph plays in for you here but..  I also feel like both exhibition/voyeurism, and the desire for multiple partners are socially common fantasies.  I don't live as close to poly in the romantic/household/long-term sense and that may be just it --- Still, I don't feel the same fear of 'explaining' the sexual ons of poly to people -- as opposed to say, BDSM where I expect more possible struggle.  And I also think that question of how your community is likely to view it, could be related to how you find compersion.  I mean, if we are seeped in rules about controlling or proving singular relationships and people keep repeating those expectations around us, could it actually become more automatic to feel jealousy (particularly jealousy in a more negative, controlling rather than appealing sense)?

     By the time I found poly partners, I did have my own approach for relationship comfort:  I want a partner to understand that I want them to feel free to mention their other partners at some general level, and perhaps to mention (when they wish or find it pertinent or amusing) some things they had done together.  Partly, this can help my "voyeuristic" satisfaction, in the event that a longer relationship has someone going out without me while I'm very aware of it.  Done casually, I see that as a way of potentially reducing jealousy:  A partner could "rub off" some of their pleasant experience with others on me verbally and also make it a topic that we could share intimate time about and learn from.  It pleasantly surprises some people who have known some partners not wishing to hear much of any detail about their meetings with others.  (Although there may also be cases out there where people don't wish to share hardly anything.)  It has also made it relatively easy in my relationships to discuss as much as needed about what we had each had experience with elsewhere, and what the practical context for that was.         

    "Can compersion be taught?" I suppose, although I don't have a syllabus made and I'm not sure how widely the reception of the students would vary.  I think I would start with more general philosophy on social goods:  What is your view of human nature?  How do you see yourself connected to others?  What do you think everyone should have, and ideally have more of?  What do you want in life -- for yourself and for others (not necessarily precisely the same)?  What do you think prevents people from having more of things they should have?  What is the view of human nature that your society rewards people for professing?  Do you belong to any relationships or groups that actually function based on somewhat different assumptions?  Do you wish to do something to reconcile any differences you see in all the above?  How do you think it would feel to do that?  Can you imagine situations where it would be harder or easier than otherwise?  What's the difference there, exactly?  Once you see a range of possibilities and issues for you personally (and ideally some sense of how they have played out in society so far), I think you have a start.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2012, 03:43:09 PM by kylie »

Offline Iniquitous

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Re: Compersion - discuss, rant, share opinions!
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2012, 05:31:51 PM »
Am I capable of compersion? Short answer - no.

I understand, to a degree, poly - and hey, if others are happy with it, great. But I know without a doubt that it is not for me and here is why.

1. It is hard enough work to make one relationship work. Do not want nor need the stress of making relationships with the other women work as well.

2. I want a man who is dependable. I do not feel a man would be dependable if he was splitting his time between women. There is NO way a man can be there for every woman when she needs him if he is busy trying to juggle several women at one time. And no one can prove me wrong on this - say you are poly and have never let one of your lovers down by forgetting something important, not being there when you were needed, not showing enough affection when it was needed and I’ll say it’s impossible.

3. I have a hard enough time coping with one person in a relationship. I do not get along with the mass majority of people and I can do without the stress.

4. I view sex as more than just physical pleasure. It is, in my opinion, something intimate. Special. It cheapens it if the person I am with is going and having sex with others. There is also the fact that, quite honestly, I do not want someone I am involved with going out and sticking his dick in another woman then coming home to me. Condom or no, the thought is gross to me.

Offline LaierunTopic starter

Re: Compersion - discuss, rant, share opinions!
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2012, 10:12:11 PM »
Oh my!  I am (almost) overwhelmed with the response here.  Thank you very much for being so invested in giving me material and content that reflects back on a lot of what I think about, some of it consciously, other things lurking just underneath the surface. 

In all fairness, a lot of it has been put in a new light!  For the sake of my lazy simplicity, I'll try to address each post respectively... though I'll have to be fluid in some segments!

First of all, I'd like to clear any illusions about me being in a situation where the discovery or acceptance of compersion is in any way relevant.  It isn't.  I'm not in an emotionally-engaged relationship, nor do I predict that I will be for years to come.   My interest in compersion stems from me being a naturally inquisitive being by nature(a lamentable fact at times, because most people are right to not allow or invite my innocent, but still inane curiosity at times).  It's sort of a mental exercise that is equivalent to "dipping my toes in the water" instead of diving straight into it. 

In other words, I am not in a committed emotionally-involved relationship. 

AndyZ:  Your assumption, whilst rather off the mark, was not in any way too forward or too personal!  I've certainly observed partners masturbate before me in the past, but it was mainly used as a means to foreplay or teasing, or implying an act of arousing me.  I am certainly not averse to doing my utmost best to maximize and ensure that my partner's pleasure is fulfilled.  Even when I am at my most dominant, I dominate because I know that is what the submissive partner in question wants(caveat: I've never been in a proper, BDSM-centric relationship, but I'd like to think that dom/sub roles extend beyond BDSM metrics).  By some people's definition, that puts me in a dichotomy between what being dominant and submissive -- that's naturally a discussion for a completely other day, but I'd air it out there anyway. 

I am that focused with my partner's pleasure, and that is why I theoretically want to be pleased or capable of allowing my partner to find physical - or perhaps emotional, I'm not sure if which distinction I'll go by just yet - connection, activities and pleasure elsewhere.  It sounds almost romantic in concept, you know?  If I care for someone, why would I deny them the right to attain pleasure?  Every part of my conscience tells me that's what I should feel, but I am not so terribly naïve as to think that's how it would work if executed in reality.

Kylie: I am uncertain how I will even begin to tackle this comprehensive post!  So much to digest.  To me, it seems like you have a deeper, more complex and refined understanding of polygamy/polyandry than you seem intent on admitting!  But that's just me throwing shameless compliments, perhaps. 

I do realize(and this is directed at both you, and AndyZ) that there's a huge, boundless variety of setups and structures that all come down individual preference when it comes to polyamorous relationships, how they are conducted, how many are participating in it.  Some of them are triads, including three people at once, or four or five, or they can be where two partners simply engage in completely third-party relationships with other people at the same time.   I understand that the actual rigmarole of how complex and diverse they are can greatly affect how comfortable I may or may not be with it in reality.  That's one of the big question marks that are buzzing around in my head, really, and you've both touched at the core of the issue perfectly.

In regards to jealousy, I do acknowledge that it is a very primal, base human emotion that can be intrinsically linked to compersion, but going into great detail on just how that works will be too difficult for me to put into words -- especially since I am not intimately familiar with compersion to begin with, hence why this entire thread being made to begin with.  I do believe that a slight amount of jealousy is healthy in most relationships, but certainly not to the point of possessiveness.  In terms of a polyamorous relationship, I'd like to think that jealousy could be healthy in the sense that "I am watching my partner indulge in pleasure, so now I want it too," without that necessarily meaning that I would want to rob my partner of the pleasure he/she is getting and then take it for myself.  Pleasure should be boundless!

Furthermore, I also acknowledge that a lot of hick-ups or baggage people -- and I am certainly not exempt from this equation -- may have over this subject is due to societal pressure.  Would I feel emasculated if I essentially became a cuckold?  It's very possible I just might, even though I know it shouldn't have any impact on my masculinity(which is an already abstract, baseless concept in our present society, which is another topic of interest - for another day!).  Would I feel cruel or selfish if my SO was a cuckquean and got off on being humiliated by seeing me indulge in intimacy with others?  Also just as likely.  At the end of the day, it devolves into fantasy and speculation, and what my rational half of my brain says will rarely agree with my emotional half.

I do think that to some effect, since I have all these questions and ponder it so frequently, it's fair to assume that I would not be okay with being in an actual poly-situation/relationship, but here is the crux of the matter: regardless of whether I am or not, I would dearly like to train or adopt my brain to compartmentalize the various factors of it in my head, and make it okay.

Iniquitous Opheliac:  Thank you very much for your opinion!  The way I see it, you are perfectly reasonable in what you expect from a relationship and your aversion to the idea of an open relationship.  Some people are presumably wired for it, and others are presumably not!  You also point out some very crucial reasons as to why -- trust me when I say that I have studied this topic with an almost academical fascination, and you have made some arguments that I've never actually seen before.  I do remember Dan Savage pointing out that making a relationship function between two people is a challenge enough; bring in more into the situation and things are more prone to get messy.

One thing I do metaphorically disagree with is your fourth argument.  I believe that sex can be special and have more meaning than just the physical, even if you partake in it with more than one partner, or heck, with a load of random partners.  That you are grossed out by it is very understandable, but I do think not everyone should or has to view sex as some sort of transaction, and that you don't dilute the "special" part with sex just because you have it with more than one person, or if you have it excessively much.  But that's just my opinion; I'm just offering a polite counter argument to either reinforce or reflect back on what you think.

Online AndyZ

Re: Compersion - discuss, rant, share opinions!
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2012, 11:38:15 PM »
AndyZ:  Your assumption, whilst rather off the mark, was not in any way too forward or too personal! 

Fair enough.  Glad I could at least help to some degree, then.

I'll say that while it's probably possible to learn more empathy and less jealousy, I'd have no real knowledge of how to train it, and any experimental methods would require feedback as well as an accepted possibility of the chance of failure.