Compersion: Love as Space

There are good reasons compersion feels like such a radical idea; why for example feeling good about your partner’s relationship with someone else feels so different. To most, the notion seems unconscionable. There are the ordinary ones: we �don’t want to think about that kind of thing’ or we equate monogamy (or the appearance of monogamy) with loyalty. That loyalty is the razor’s edge between being �with someone’ and �being alone’.

But let’s say you’re willing to go past the primal fear; you’re willing to think about it, even willing to feel it, and it starts to make sense that your partner is free and part of that freedom is opening the space inside yourself and in the relationship for them to have any experience they want. Let’s say you figure out that logic leaves you no choice.

What is so loving about attempting to define, limit or control the emotions or experiences of another person? Nothing at all; we just call it love to make it sound nice. Not all monogamous relationships have this as their basis, but we tend to see and experience this dynamic pretty frequently.

Continue reading at Book of Blue

21 thoughts on “Compersion: Love as Space”

  1. victorialynn,
    what a breath of fresh air! this has been a fascinating discussion, but thank you for bringing it all back to the simple truth that all love is good, given or received, and that it starts with ourselves. it’s such a beautiful mission to be on on this planet, and so easy to get distrcted from. i feel like i’ve been too busy to really feel certain things lately… time to make some space for myself & sit with it all awhile.

  2. Eric wrote: “Here is what I am getting at – compersion is self acceptance.”

    Waaay down in my original post I was feeling this myself when I wrote that I have experienced compersion, but not in relationship with polyamory.

    When I was a lot younger, a lover’s comments about past sexual experiences would often times send me into the arms of the green-eyed monster where he would stroke my hair and fill my ears with such questions as: “Does he compare me unfavourably with his past lovers? If so, I must fall far short if he is still thinking about these experiences…” and so forth. It was all about me, worrying that I wasn’t measuring up…not about how my lover was experiencing positive feelings.

    Which was stupid, because I had had wonderful experiences with other partners that didn’t distract from my current experiences…just added to my ability to be immersed.

    As I grew older it became easier to accept and embrace the ripples behind myself and my partner that gently pushed us into a common pool. When I think back upon the times that I felt truly beautiful inside and out, I feel a warm, sparkling connection stretching between myself and my past partner (s). I consciously take the time to be grateful, to send out positive energy his way, to ask the universe to uplift and enfold him wherever he may be at this time, and hope that he is still expressing himself joyfully with his current partner and that he is being touched in return with love, physically/spiritually.

    I hope the same for my current partner. I am grateful for the positive experiences he had in the past that made him feel loved, for his past partners that allowed him to express himself meaningfully. I am grateful for those lovers in the past that helped him to discover who he is, so that he can be more of himself with me.

    It does come back to self-acceptance. When you love and accept yourself, no matter what is going on in your external circumstances, then you are free to send love outward. Love is positive energy, no matter what shape it takes in your life, and it never detracts from other instances of expressed joy/love. Expressions of love can only uplift us, which is a good thing, right? So, if we truly love those special people in our own lives, we should want them to feel uplifted just as much. There are enough outside forces trying to make us afraid as it is, we don’t need to add to them.

    Early morning musings…VL

  3. demi du witte

    yes. yes. yes. the gravity at the core, the quality of the light, one’s perception of what a human being is, all change at that core sanctum.

    at this point there is no way on God’s Green and Blue Earth or the Goddesse’s Golden Ocean that I would attempt to impose monogamy to me on a partner. along the way I am making a conscious yoga of being open to receiving that commitment.

    monogamy is a choice made freely, not a thing imposed, and the choice is so deep and so intuitive that it can hardly be called a ‘decision’ in the conventional sense. what we see so often is the parody; the mockery of the real thing.

    the real thing still exists, but now it exists along with many, many evolutionary necessities: such as the need to rebuild community; the need to have relationships that do not isolate us socially, spiritually, economically, or in any other way…

  4. When one bathes at the fountain in the *inner* sanctum one shall never be diminished. In touch with one’s creative force, it matters little what transpires outside. You need trust nobody else, once you truly trust yourself – this is not an act of ‘believing’ but an act of alignment.

    Belle, as a famous voice once said, “Where are you?”

  5. Belle… who did the translation? this is really lovely! and somehow MJ’esque, too, isn’t it?

    I am humbled by your estimation. And at the same time, know full well that you’ve got more than “an eighth” (interesting number, that… the very seed of power) of your own Wisdom.

    I love reading from you! keep running these strands through your fingers, how to weave them is your own gift and art.

    Gauri – it has always seemed to me that jealousy is the other side of a high energy that overflows love. That devouring, delicious, gottahaveit craving stuns everything it touches. Try taking the ‘person’ out of it and having another look. What you find might surprise you . . .

    (just a thought – it’s hard to talk without rhetoric, but I am really not trying to change you)


  6. Hi all

    Everyone’s comments have made great reading – thank you!

    All I can add to it is that, for me, compersion is personal: there’s no unwieldy one-size-fits-all formula, no real rule book. It’s a continuum, and where you fit along that continuum is, I guess, a unique mix of who you are, what you believe, how you choose to live your life, who you choose to share your life with, and how you choose to share it with them.

    My experience of compersion is one person at a time, spreading out in ripples, until that feeling spreads to encompass everything – allowing people to be who they are, no matter what they choose.

    Yes, language is inadequate. It’s when you stop thinking, and sink into your feelings, that you get the experience of it. And that experience grows and evolves all the time.

    — S

  7. I find your writings on this subject fascinating, perhaps more so because this is far beyond what I’m capable of. With a Venus-Pluto square natally, I can be extremely possessive. I cannot even begin to tell you what I experience emotionally & viscerally even with the thought of imagining the person I’m emotionally involved with, being with someone else sexually. I’m glad that there’re people out there who can do this. But it’s not for me.

  8. Belle…” My lower mind is pulled into the darkest hemispheres of remembering being cast aside like an old shoe when my husband felt the urge to openly explore beyond our marriage and me keeping up the brave front of appearing less the cuckold wife and more the understanding partner. ”

    Right. I have several male friends who have suffered through that position as well. Dignity is a huge issue. This is why it is important to learn to *feel* with your moral sensibility, not just judge with it. Feeling your way through (possible) happiness *long* before the tormented delights of longing take you out of your reflective powers.

    The ‘cast aside’ feeling (and goddess do I *know* this from upsidedowninsideout) comes from within. There’s never any satisfaction in controlling another persons perimeter if you don’t have this fact in hand.

    Not to say there isn’t a precipitating story somewhere that you will at some point encounter and deconstruct, but until then, keeping your finger on the subtle thread: ~this comes from me, not him/her/it~ will allow you to get closer to the node, where you can solve it.

    And having watched this dynamic from puberty on, I can say that the point of resolution comes from engaging the ‘new other’ – letting them show you how vulnerable they are, how grateful, how powerful. There is MUCH dignity in that conversation.

  9. The assumption that traditional forms of relationship are more stable than any of these options is pretty sad. As an astrologer for 14 years I have heard little other than one devastating heartbreak after the next, entirely from people invested in conventional partnership models. The product does not live up to the advertising in Cinderella. Most and I mean a very large majority of women are still waiting for Prince Charming, even into their 50s and 60s. The idea of all of these forms of relationship is to facilitate people who are so inclined to exist within a framework that gives us more room to move, to be authentic, to bond in the many ways we are capable of bonding.

    Part of what we need to address in this conversation are what you could call “poly basics” – including the basic misconceptions. There is something between all and nothing. The days are gone when the Beatles had to break up because Paul McCartney put out a solo album. There is a notion that we have just two options, real monogamous relationships, or leaves blowing in the breeze. There is a world between, and I think we all know it in our hearts.

  10. Storm!larue
    # stormilarueon 30 Jun 2009 at 10:44 am
    i’ve dubbed it “lost in textlation” when this happens …

    I’d better see this in a dissertation footnote somewhere! (CRACK!) Back to the desk(floor/table/bed/”text”) with you, young lady!

  11. Hmmm… Here are three bits that jumped out at me: ” two people to be mutually exclusive to each other and let no other form of commitment/agreement cross into the space of the marriage. Within the marriage itself, the partners are to support each other emotionally, spiritually and physically. ”

    There are constant plays through and around the marriage space from what I can see, but the question is, how much energy/space is available *within* the marriage zone? And at what point does the subtle demand of *compulsory* attendance begin to vitiate the so-called ‘free agreement’ of exclusivity? This is a huge issue, because the logical contradiction of it is at the core of marriage’s basic impossibility. You can’t have it both ways: both a voluntary, self-renewing wellspring of ‘just-hereness’ *and* if-you-fuck-elsewhere-you-are-dead-meat. The latter poisons the freshness and clarity of the agreement. Slowly but without exception.

    I have never seen a conventional marriage that wasn’t an exercise in profound loneliness, primarily because no one can see/feel this contradiction eating away at their delight in one another.

    “1) He’ll walk out on me. 2) He’ll decide that what’s good for me might be good for him too and we both have extramarital affairs/experiences.”

    There’s a third option, Belle, that he will find your passion runs through his own, that he will see himself in that brilliant, renewed touch. It’s in your court. Bring it back to the marriage bed or don’t do it at all.

    “Do I risk getting more intimate and attached to someone who might or might not be gone with the next breeze?”

    See here’s the Great Unknowable for people who are attached to the likes of us. What you cannot know from the )&*#*&#%&* language is that we are usually MORE faithful, more deeply attached, more passionately committed to our partners than you can imagine from within the fortress walls.

    I am in the process of courting someone I adoreadoreadore, and she is completely terrified, wall-eyed with the idea that I will ‘toy’ with her, blow away with the next breeze. It’s the Biggest Irony: open-lovers are often the ones who don’t get picked for the team, cause our skills are not in the playbook yet.



    This can’t just be an intellectual discussion. And it *is* damn near impossible. But so is conventional ‘love’ – as we have seen again and again. So I strongly suggest doing what you are doing, gathering as much information as possible, but watch carefully for the mindloops that cause you to color the potentia of true love with the failures of systems that are inherently broken. Let your self, your sex, your power, come here and breathe a bit.

    “We are such dreams as stuff is made of. . . ” (Tempest, improved *8^D)

  12. Victoria, et al:

    I am not a polyamory writer in the conventional sense. Other writers handle the “lifestyle” or “lovestyle” aspect quite well; I don’t believe that poly is a lifestyle, however; it’s a sexual and affectual orientation that to some extent all of us share – whatever we may profess as our dominant orientation.

    My chosen role has been to write and give workshops that focus on compersion and masturbation/self-relating. I recognize that compersion implies polyamory but that’s not always true. We can express compersion for our partner’s erotic fantasies as well, and come out of the prison of having to keep those secrets. Everyone experiences attractions. Do we talk about them or are we under siege, fearing that if we mention them we’re sleeping on the couch?

    I’m doing my best to be clear about applying compersion as an approach to addressing control issues, internal personal self-concepts and insecurity, rather than any kind of lifestyle or relationship model.

    Here is a polyamory FAQ from my friends at Loving More magazine:

  13. Belle(issima!) I’m totally “here,” dunno about the “o.” It’s weird – watching myself read your post, then wander off into ~oh I know what comes next~ without actually *reading* – ffttt- So let me go back and *R*E*A*D* it.



  14. Whenever I read one of Eric’s articles on polyamory I immediately think of the day to day aspects/trials that this lifestyle engenders. Because I’ve never lived in this form of relationship, perhaps my concerns aren’t grounded.

    I just wonder what it is like in practical terms. Say you have a relationship with another individual and you have joint financial obligations; maybe you own a home or a business with this person. Maybe you’re creative partners in some joint venture. Maybe you share a pet…or a child. Aren’t these “obligations” going to keep you from fully developing a relationship with another individual…for purely practical reasons?

    For example, I have young, twin boys living at home; their schedules and needs (not even talking about their wants) comprise a huge chunk of communication between my husband and I. Not too long ago our cat needed expensive surgery and we had to decide how to proceed, we’re making decisions as we work together on remodeling our home, we negotiate who is going to mow/weed the garden/take the peelings out to the compost pile. Big and little “obligations” keep us together on a “mundane” level. I don’t see how I could have another relationship, even out in the open and with my partner’s blessing, that could be anything more than a “few days here and there” which to me sounds like something more superficial than polyamory.

    So…where does the “poly” person enter into this? I have never had a full-blown extramarital affair, but I have had physical relationships between marriages and had an “emotional” affair during, and I can tell you, at least in my experience, that it is much easier to “spend” the time being intimate when the “relationship” is the only dynamic the two of you are jointly sharing. I can give more of “myself” when there aren’t life decisions also demanding attention.

    So, my question is: Do you have to live alone (no ties to another person) in order to be polyamorous?

    As far as compersion…I believe I have experienced this love in some instances throughout my life, though not as “pure” perhaps as what you have described from a polyamourous viewpoint.

  15. I know this is our (apparent) medium, but damn I am starting to think that language –written, spoken, gestured– is not up to the task that has been set before it. Or maybe I just don’t know how to listen!

    Belle, I am not understanding your question to E. “how this relationship dynamic works within the context of an established if unconventional relationship. For instance, you and I are in a long term relationship….is that relationship mutually exclusive to include other experiences, or is it at the mercy of them?”

    Mutually exclusive to include? The mind halts like a donkey and sits down.

    I could continue to babble from here, but would rather hear from you first.


  16. Mystes – right. This is not about “personal freedom” though that is involved. The big downside to any form of nonmonogamy is the incredible discipline involved. it is not as free as one might think, or perceive from the outside; there is a vigilance needed to maintain and sustain human interactions, particularly as a new way of doing this impacts all of our social constructions and even our concepts of self, time and space, as you suggest…

  17. Eric, I sense that Belle might be circling the question of love/intimacy-as-sacrifice. Or vice versa: sacrifice-as-intimacy. This is a powerful ingredient in the admixture of passion, and it is, of course, what *creates* time (file under: sacrifice as the basis of karma).

    That last phrase is a little deeper than we may want to go, but perhaps unlocking the creative capacities of sexual love involves seeing its tributaries to the Categoricals: Time, Space, Energy, Matter. This can create a very different rationale for liberation than personal freedom can justify.

    Broadcasting from the Rainy Skies in Austin (!!)



  18. Hello Belle, I think you know very little about my personal relationships, because I say very little about them here or anywhere public. Despite what I feel called upon to write about, I try to maintain the integrity of the containers of my relationships. However, the question, “is it really intimacy?” is a common critique of any form of nonmonogaous relationships.

    Intimacy is in the moment — it is not contained in a time structure, per se, and it’s not dependent on limiting intimacy with anyone else. It’s about what we bring to any situation, right now.

    I am also not saying it’s “wrong to have a monogamous partner.” I am questioning the basis of that exclusivity; I am questioning whether it’s really exclusivity at all, or just called that; I am questioning what else is required and sacrificed to maintain it; and I am questioning society organized on the basis of allegedly monogamous partnerships that are very often not really monogamous.

    At this time, I feel like I have the greatest intimacy of my life because I am free to be honest with anyone in my personal space, and they are free to be honest with me. Intimacy begins with being on the level with the people around us — not with a relationship model.

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