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Advice – How can I feel compersion?

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/u/KAMalosh on /r/polyamory asks…

“My fiance and I are relatively new to polyamory. We talked about it on and off for years. We met a few people, including a couple who are dating as a unit while were open to dating separately. We both liked both of them, but they decided that they wanted to just date him (you can see how I felt about that here.

From that other post, you can see that I felt some compersion at first, along with other feelings that I am still working through (I’m mostly through them). However, last night they had a boundaries talk (I was invited but chose not to go due to my own anxiety about the situation) and that became something of a date. I found out later that there was no hand hold, kissing, etc (they’ve all agreed to take things very slowly), but I was becoming a nervous wreck at home. It didn’t help that I asked my fiance when he’d be home and got no answer for a couple of hours. I wanted to feel compersion last night. I wanted to be really happy that he found not one, but two people, who are interested in him and share his interests and are attracted to him. I didn’t. I just felt anxious and envious.

I know these are normal things to feel and I’m trying not to feel guilty for them, but I’m just curious how others the first time your partner went on a date without you. How long did compersion take to set in?”

Dear KAMalosh,

Let’s first define the word compersion. Compersion is defined as any positive feelings that you might gain from someone else’s happiness. Compersion can be felt when you hear that your sibling has gotten recently promoted. That promotion does not directly impact your own happiness, but you are happy anyway on behalf of another’s success. This relates to ethically non-monogamous relationships in that you can sometimes feel the same joy and pride over your partner having successful relationships on their own. To me personally, compersion in the context of polyamory feels a lot like pride and validation. Pride in that I feel proud of my partners for creating and maintaining rewarding relationships of their own. Validation in that others can clearly see what I love about each of my partners.

Now let’s talk about what happened with you. It sounds like you felt some pretty intense anxiety and insecurity when your partner went out to meet the couple that were interested in dating him. I also took a look at the post you linked in the body and a lot of the same themes emerged. I believe that your current situation goes deeper than just not feeling compersion. You mentioned in this post and went into further detail in your first post that this couple decided to date just your fiance and not you. So you just had experience a pretty intense rejection. In any other situations you get rejected, it’d be easy to cut them out of your life and move on. But since your fiance is going to continue to date this couple, you have to retain them as metamours even while you’re experiencing your pain. That is really difficult to do.

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on Pexels.com

So let’s try to reframe our mindsets here. I don’t always feel compersion and sometimes not even within the same partner’s immediate polycule. So for example, I could feel compersion in regards to my girlfriend’s husband, but not her girlfriend. I can see where your head is at. You are feeling pretty bad about what happened, and you’re anxious to put that pain past you. So you are anchoring in the concept of compersion as a way to alleviate the pain you feel right now. My question to you is why are you so anxious to avoid the pain that you feel? You are going through a lot. I advise you to be a little bit more patient with yourself. It sounds like your fiance and his new partners are taking things slowly for themselves. So take this opportunity to take things slow for yourself and be kinder to yourself about the pain you feel. Rejections always hurt, and they hurt more coming from the people we care about. Take the time to get over that loss before you open your heart for more. There is no rush to feel compersion. It’ll come soon enough.

You can also aim to seek some support from your fiance here. While you are directly responsible for handling your own feelings, it doesn’t mean that he can’t be compassionate with you and help you process out loud the feelings you’ve been experiencing.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com. If you liked my advice for this post, please subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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