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Sunday, December 25, 2022

What is Compersion in Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships?

What is Compersion?
Compersion is wholehearted participation in the happiness of others.  

Compersion is the opposite of jealousy.

It's possible for you to experience compersion in any type of relationship or with any group of people.

Compersion: Wholehearted Participation in the Happiness of Others

Where Did the Word Compersion Come From?
The Sanskrit word called mudita goes back at least 2,500 years. We don't have an exact translation for mudita in English. The closest translation is sympathetic joy.  

The word compersion is a word that was specifically coined for polyamory in a polyamorous community in San Francisco, CA.

How Does Compersion Relate to Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships
Experiencing compersion in a consensual nonmonogamous relationship means you're genuinely happy for your partner's joy in other romantic or sexual relationships that you have both consented to in advance.

Compersion and Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationships

Those who have developed the ability to feel compersion in their relationships say that compersion occurs when you can let go of your insecurities and projections and work on experiencing compersion.

There are some people who identify themselves as being naturally polyamorous and compersion comes more easily to them.  They usually don't have many of the same challenges that other people have with jealous.

Most other people, who have successfully developed compersion, had to work on it to develop this ability. 

In addition to developing compersion, they had to work on becoming autonomous individuals in their relationship(s).

What Does It Mean to Be An Autonomous Individual in Relationship(s)?
Being an autonomous individual in a relationship means that:
  • You have self awareness and you have a strong sense of what you think, feel and want.
  • You appreciate your individuality even when you're in a relationship.
  • You have your own beliefs and your own path that you're following.
  • You're able to express to your partner(s) what you feel.
  • You're able to tolerate hearing what your partner feels without falling apart emotionally--even if your partner tells you something you don't want to hear.
  • You maintain your social support network, including your close friends and loved ones.
  • You maintain and develop your own individual interests and hobbies which are separate from your romantic and sexual relationship(s).
  • You're able to self soothe and take care of yourself when things aren't going well for you.
  • You appreciate alone time without feeling lonely or isolated.
  • You encourage your partner(s) to pursue their own interests and hobbies without you.
How Does Being an Autonomous Individual Relate to Compersion?
Compersion is a radical idea that not everyone can or wants to achieve, especially when it comes to being in a non-traditional relationship, like a consensual nonmonogamous or polyamorous relationship, or engaging in certain forms of kinky sex like threesomes where you and your partner(s) get involved with people outside your relationship(s).

Before you engage in a consensual nonmonogamy or in kinky sex, like threesomes or cuckolding, you need to be honest with yourself and with your partner(s) as to whether these choices are right for you.

Some people just know whether consensual nonmonogamy and kinky sex are right for them and others try it to find out if it's the right choice.

Special Challenges: Unresolved Abandonment Issues and an Anxious Attachment Style
Many people who are anxious, insecure, who have unresolved childhood trauma, including fear of abandonment or an anxious attachment style , have a great deal of difficulty being polyamorous, consensually nonmonogamous or engaging in certain types of kinky sex with others because it's too psychologically triggering for them.

Although more people are trying consensual nonmonogamy, the vast majority of people still want to be in monogamous relationships. So, even if you don't have a history of trauma, you might not want to explore these alternative relationships, and that's okay.  

Are You Considering Opening Up Your Relationship?
Jealousy is a normal emotion, so even if you're actively working on compersion because you and your partner(s) want to open up your relationship or you both want to try certain forms of kinky sex that involve other people, you'll probably experience some jealousy.  It's a matter of degree.

Many people who decide to open up their relationship have worked through issues of jealousy to achieve compersion, so it is possible.

There are also some people who aren't really jealous.  They probably have the easiest time with feeling compersion for their partners because jealousy doesn't get in the way of their feeling happy when their partners experience joy having sexual and romantic feelings for other people.

Working in Sex Therapy to Come Up With An Agreement For a Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationship
Compersion is based on trusting yourself and your partner(s).

Working on a Consensual Nonmonogamous Relationship Agreement

If you're considering a consensual nonmonogamous relationship and you want to build trust with your partner(s), it's important that you and your partner(s) have a written agreement that you negotiate together.  

Most psychotherapists and couples therapists aren't trained to work with unconventional relationships that include compersion.  

Therapists who aren't trained in sex therapy often pathologize alternative relationship choices, including consensual nonmonogamy and kinky sex, which will only confuse you.

Seek help from a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in modern sex therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and modern Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who is also a trauma therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.