Despite the fact that “There is no one right way to do poly”, or so people say, there are a lot of unwritten rules as to how one should have an open relationship, or what is the ideal. And one of those is built in the idea of “compersion”.
If you’ve not heard of this disastrous, ridiculous concept, it’s supposedly the “opposite of jealousy” wherein you are thrilled and wracked with excitement to hear that your partner is sleeping with or having relationships other people. The ideal is communicated in this word. I mean, who doesn’t want to be the opposite of jealous, right?
But what if when the fit hits the shan, you’re not that ecstatic? What if you’re upset? What if you’re feeling a mix of emotions due to the overwhelming message society has given you from day one which is that the only real and true love is that which exists monogamously between two white, rich, thin conventionally attractive heterosexuals?
Clearly then, you’re jealous! And jealousy is the scarlet J of the poly community. It’s the Worst Possible Thing one could ever be. Because to be jealous, upset or bothered that your partner is with someone is to be controlling, manipulative and clearly one of those roaming Neanderthal monogamous cretins unable to shake off their silly cultural mores and go back the ancient prehistoric now modern hispster groovy cool way of living and shagging. You poor thing.
And what if you’re like me? I’m demisexual and have never felt any which way about hearing about my partner’s exploits with others. The actual truth and reality of the information results in a shrug from me at best. But, the pressure to be super into hearing all the dirty raunchy details makes me feel uncomfortable. I hate feeling like I HAVE to be into something, or else.
For the longest time, I thought that my discomfort must be jealousy. And the only way to be One True Poly, surely, is to purge all of the jealousy out of my system like a Vulcan.
But then I realised that, although I don’t consider being non-monogamous as part of my identity, I’m actually not that bothered by the thought of my partner being with someone else. But, like I’ve experienced my WHOLE life when it comes to sex and which many folks on the asexual spectrum will attest to, feeling pressured to be into something is probably the least arousing thing ever. And when you have a culture set up to reward and cheer on people who get into their partner being into other people (not that there’s anything wrong with that) the only inverse result is that those who aren’t so into that can’t be as “good” at open relationships as everyone else.
Added to that, there’s a downcast and a silent tut at those people who choose to live the “Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” type of poly. Those who choose to go about their business but not tell their partners or even if one partner doesn’t want to know about it, aren’t really doing poly as well as everyone else, right?
I will admit that if you’re adamantly against facing the reality that your partner is going to date others… it’s probably not for the best. And any time I see people talking about having an open relationship where one partner is being pulled begrudgingly into it… I pretty much avoid that myself and tell them that they really need to reconsider it.
But here’s the truth. Not wanting to hear about every detail of your partner’s exploits doesn’t make you bad at open relationships. If it helps you to not hear about it, then don’t do it. If your partner wants someone who’s into them being into others, they might have to find someone else. But you can successfully have open relationships and also not feel “compersion”. You don’t have to force yourself to be friends with or hear every detail about your partner’s partners.
The only important thing to ask yourself is are you avoiding the truth? Are you forcing yourself to be in an open relationship when you don’t want to? And it’s okay to not know. It’s okay to want to try something and see if it works — and maybe it doesn’t. If open relationships don’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re jealous, controlling or subhuman. It might not be your cup of tea.
And that’s okay.
Don’t put stock in this creepy Stepford Wife “compersion” value. I’m happy if my partner is happy and finds someone new. I’m sad that usually that means spending less time with me, but I’m also happy because I enjoy my alone time. I want an open relationship because I’m demisexual and when the planets align every eleven years and I manage to be attracted to someone who also likes me, I want to take advantage of it! I’m also an Aquarius moon and I really don’t like being told what to do.
But I don’t think I’ll ever be ecstatic and want all of the details, just because it’d be weird. And if you find it weird, that’s fine.
Compersion is not compulsory.
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