I'll admit it. Even though I've been in an open marriage with Steph since August of 2006, I can be a bit of a polyamory newb sometimes. It was only this past winter when having dinner with S (guy I dated last summer / fall) that he mentioned the term compersion to me, assuming that I was very familiar with it. Truth be told, I don't think I'd heard of it before, but I know now that it's very key to any successful non-monogamous relationship while remaining one of the hardest things to master.
According to our faithful online friend Wikipedia: Compersion is a term used by practitioners of polyamory to describe the experience of taking pleasure that one's partner is experiencing pleasure, even if the source of their pleasure is other than yourself. The feeling may or may not be sexual. Quite often it's not.
In simple terms, it means that I would be happy if Steph is hanging out or fucking or who knows whating someone else, because he's happy. Sounds logical. Happy equals happy, right?
He and I were discussing this last night. His happiness has always been influenced by mine as he's a bit of a mood sponge. In fairness, I'm a bit of force when feeling any emotion, and it's hard to not get caught up in it. When I'm down, he's generally down, and when I'm up, he's generally up. Perhaps it's because I'm a woman, perhaps it's just because I'm me, but my life is often a rollercoaster of emotions, at least thankfully a lot more good than bad. If you lined up our emotional graphs on top of one another, his would be a pretty consistent straight line with mine moving up and down like a feather on the wind. Think Forrest Gump ending scene. Ah, such pretty music...
Moving on. During all of our relationship, but especially noticeable now, is how truly happy he is when I'm happy, no matter what I'm doing. I've been dating people, or doing strange, kinky things that make me smile, and even though he might not understand it (you like being slapped where??) sometimes he's so amazingly easy going it blows my mind. Keeeerrrblaaammo.
And then there's me.
I like to think that most things I do in life I do while considering if someone else's happiness is going to be effected. I hate causing bad feelings and sometimes I worry too much about other people and forget about myself. Not so much the case with Steph dating. It took us quite some time to get to the stage where we both were good "compersioners".
In the past I would try to be happy for him when he'd head out into the dating world. It's not that I wasn't slightly content; I was glad he was getting out and meeting people - not much of a social butterfly, my husband - but there was a part of me that wished he would maybe make some regular, male friends first. You know, good ol' regular bromance.
I found it impossible to be 100% happy for him enjoying someone else's company while he was still doing things at home that either hurt my feelings, drove me crazy or weren't consistent to the life we were making together, in my opinion. He, on the other hand, was always able to separate our home life from our dating lives using his master skills of compartmentalizing. I know now that it didn't have very much to do with the people he was seeing, or the things he was doing, but issues that we had together that needed to be resolved.