earned compersion vs. “natural” compersion

“Compersion isn’t necessary in a relationship!” scream many in the polyamorous community.

I understand it may be a difficult concept, but the truth is I find that sentiment, bluntly received, rather crap. If I care about your happiness in your life, and, yes, romantic relationships, I expect the same consideration in return. Why should I care about you, if you don’t care about me? Why should I be with you when I can be with someone who is not only happy, but enthusiastic about my successes outside of the bedroom, and inside?

Sure, I require compersion in my romantic relationships, just as I require honesty, enthusiasm, and a number of other qualities. Don’t like that, don’t date me.

But maybe it isn’t so simple.

Of course, that got me thinking. I’m not compersive towards everyone, nor even towards all my partners, all of the time. Plenty of times my master will return from a night with someone else, and I feel nothing at all. I mean, a general satisfaction that he had a good time (assuming he did!). Or another partner of mine might mention a playdate that evokes little emotion from me. No, I don’t need compersion from everyone, everywhere, all at once.

For me, it’s something that I want, but also something I do feel obligated (in some ways) to earn from you. To prove worthy of compersion, so to speak.

I feel about compersion with my partners the way I feel about an audience and actors. It’s a give and take, the emotions. A tired troop of actors gives an audience little enjoyment; a bad audience gives the actors little energy to work with. I think that’s why I love little theaters so much. It’s so much easier for the actors to feed off the audience’s energy in an intimate setting.

Compersion works both ways, you see.

The more I am invested in your happiness, the more compersive I feel. I don’t really care about strangers, beyond a general sense of humanity. I care that they are happy, but I’d be lying if I said I felt anything near what I did when my master is happy. When my best friends are happy. It’s just not the same.

Furthermore, the more you are invested in your happiness, the more compersive I am. If you just go off to hook up with someone and you didn’t really have a great time? You’ve given me literally nothing to work with. But if you met this fabulous, elegant creature who sends shivers down your spine at the mere thought? I am absorbed in your pleasure, as much as if it were my own. That doesn’t scare me in the slightest, if anything, it’s a drug to me. I fall in love with them through you, even though I may never have so much as a smidgeon of personal desire towards that ethereal being that has captivated you.

Compersion isn’t a one way street, so far as I can tell. It’s not merely feeling good about other people feeling good. It’s something shared, built between you and that other person, over time.

And I find that utterly beautiful, and, yes, that I need.

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