Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.



October 27, 2008

"Compersion for Beginners"

Tango magazine

The heart of polyamory (pun intended) is, for me, compersion: taking joy in your lover's other loves. Couple-love is wonderful by itself, but when the energy gets flowing freely among three (or more), things become transcendent in a way most people never imagine.

But the word itself? A lot of people hate it. They say it sounds clinical or stuffy or made up. The latter is certainly true; the word was invented during the 1970s in the legendary Kerista commune in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, with the aid, according to those who were there, of a Ouija board.

Me, I like the word (just don't get me going on woo-woo Ouija-board nonsense). To me it sounds like a blend of "compassion" and "person" (appropriate!) and carries a ring of weight and awe (also appropriate).

Some years ago a group of people in England were sitting around saying how much they disliked the word, and as a joke they made up a nonsense word to take its place: frubble. They didn't mean it seriously, according to one of the group who's currently around on the lists. (Hey, if you're reading this, wanna comment?) But apparently there was a real demand for an alternative word — because "frubble" caught on and is now widely used in the poly lexicon. It is synonymous with compersion except that it has less serious, more cuddly-bubbly overtones. For instance.

Compersion is often called the opposite of jealousy. "Jealousy" is supposedly the only emotion-word in the dictionary without an opposite, at least when it's used in the context of romantic love. This says two things right off: that a new word was indeed needed, and that an innate aspect of human nature has been widely overlooked.

All this is introduction to a recent article in Tango magazine for people who've never encountered the concept:


Compersion for Beginners

By Koko Taylor [undated]

Amidst a crowded dance floor, a slender blonde woman leaned over to whisper in my ear. "You're a very attractive couple," she purred. I smiled at her — an ego boost is always nice — and continued dancing with my boyfriend. The man with her gave me a high-five and kept flashing smiles my way. Was he trying to hit on me? It could not have been any more clear: I was there with my boyfriend.

For the next half hour every time I looked up, I felt one of them trying to make eye contact with me. When we left the bar my boyfriend asked if I'd noticed the couple. "I think they were trying to hit on me," he said.

"No, they were hitting on me," I replied. Then it dawned on us: they were hitting on us as a couple. That's funny, we both thought. And then he looked at me and said, "I don't want to share you with anyone."

"Neither do I," I replied. Exclusivity with one partner is where I'm comfortable in a romantic relationship.

The model for romance in our culture is so dominated by the monogamous male-female relationship that most people subscribe to it without stopping to consider the alternatives. But not everyone is uncomfortable with sharing his or her partner.

People in open relationships often feel joy or pleasure when their partner has romantic adventures with other people. This feeling is sometimes called compersion....

When Shara Smith started dating Brian Downes, he was already in a relationship with someone else and he wanted to be careful about respecting Stephanie, his first partner. "He wanted to take all the right steps, and that made me more attracted to him," said Shara, who describes compersion as a "positive emotional reaction to a lover's other relationship."

"I love to watch his face light up when she calls because I know how much he cares about her." Shara doesn't view other partners as competition. "Every relationship is unique and nobody can replace me, because they are not me."...

"It's like a parent watching their children spread their wings and fly," says Anita Wagner, of the joy she feels when someone makes her partner happy....

Birgitte Phillipides, president of Polyamorous NYC, feels "glorious and wonderful" seeing someone fulfill the desires of her partner. Recently the spouse of one of Birgitte's partners told Birgitte she loved her in a platonic way. "It doesn't get much better than that in this relationship style," she says.

..."It does require a fair amount of emotional intelligence and maturity," says Anita. Her path from monogamy to experiencing compersion in open relationships took some "emotional stretching."

All three women stated directly or indirectly that you can avoid or overcome jealousy and insecurity by making sure that everyone's needs are met and that all partners are equally happy. Achieving that balance seems essential for people in open relationships to experience compersion....


Read the whole article.

P.S.: American Buddhists have pointed out that the traditional Buddhist term mudita encompasses the concept of compersion, though much else as well.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Bitsy said...

Nether of these word appear to be in the OED, or in the appeals list. It might be wroth sending somehting in. http://dictionary.oed.com/readers/research.html

October 27, 2008 2:34 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

"Compersion" sounds too much like "compression" for me, a very unpleasant spiritual experience. I don't like the way my mouth cramps and squishes in on itself when I say it.

I was thrilled to find "frubble", not only because it feels friendlier to me, but because it's more flexible. I can feel "frubbly" far more easily than I can "comperse."

Thanks for the link, Alan.

October 27, 2008 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Jake said...

I was introduced a few months ago to the concept of mudita, and I find it to be much more satisfying than compersion. As mudita refers to taking joy in the joy of others, it is more like an antonym of schadenfreude than of jealousy, but it is still much versatile and useful a concept than just compersion.

December 25, 2008 8:08 PM  
Blogger Marcos said...

I like the idea of a term that moves us away from the jealousy (monogamic concept). I think compersion or mudita are terms that are platonic in nature. I other words provide the end of a roadmap or a state of mind. To get there, I think we all find our ways to balance empathy and generosity in such ways where compersion or mudita is possible.

March 18, 2009 2:45 PM  
Blogger Marcos said...

I like the idea of a term that moves us away from the jealousy (monogamic concept). I think compersion or mudita are terms that are platonic in nature. I other words provide the end of a roadmap or a state of mind. To get there, I think we all find our ways to balance mpathy and generosity in such ways where compersion or mudita is possible.

March 18, 2009 2:45 PM  
Blogger Adrian said...

It will not mean much to english speaking people, but just for you information, in my language - Croatian, the word for jealousy is LJUBOMORA, which means "that what kills love". Writing recently my book about polyamory, I came up with new term LJUBOŽIVA, which means "that what makes love alive". So, at least we are equiped with a nice domestic term for compersion!

May 26, 2010 4:10 PM  

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