Let's Talk About Compersion

What is compersion and how to develop it.

Let's Talk About Compersion

The thing about growing up in a monogamous world is that everything is colored by the expectations outlined in monogamous relationships - what is known as compulsory monogamy (read more about it here). The trajectory of our relationships, the way we communicate, and even the way we are supposed to feel is governed by the idea of sexual and emotional exclusivity between two people.

When doing open relationships, many people often feel feelings they have never felt before - that have not been explained by the experiences of monogamy - and the only thing scarier than big feelings are big feelings you have never felt.

Jealousy can feel keener, anger can feel different, and sometimes there are even unexpected good feelings that sneak in there! Compersion is one such good feeling. Compersion "is our wholehearted participation in the happiness of others. It is the sympathetic joy we feel for somebody else, even when their positive experience does not involve or benefit us directly" (Thouin-Savard, 2021).

The experience of compersion is not relegated to only open relationships; however, this term did originate within open communities and it perpetuated within them as well. That being said, monogamous folks can also feel compersion. It is important to note here that if you do not feel compersion, the lack of feeling does not mean anything about your relationship structure. However, you can build toward feeling more compersion.

The first step in developing feelings of compersion is identifying when you are feeling good feelings at someone, anyone else's joy. This might be when a friend gets the new job they have been wanting, when you child scores a goal on their sports team, or when your favorite game show contestant wins whatever prize they were vying for. Make note of how this feeling feels in your body. Maybe you feel warm in the cheeks or your stomach feels light. Take a moment and write a description of where the feeling lives in the sensations of your body.

Then, start to seek out that feeling and amplify it! Pay attention to the warmth when it arises. Really lean into the sensation of lightness. Then also make a note of instances where you are more inclined to feel it. For some, this might not naturally occur in your romantic relationships. However, what we pay attention to has the opportunity to grow.

Seeking to develop compersion does not mean that your emotional range for other feelings will decline. For example, you might still encounter jealousy while attuning to compersion. Feeling two emotions at once is totally normal and acceptable. I know that doesn't make it easier, but it does make you human.

If you are interested in learning more about compersion, Dr. Marie Thouin has online resources available. I also delve more into the complexity of communicating emotional experiences in my book, Use Your Words - my book on communication in open relationships.

Until next time, in curiosity,

Dr. S. Kay Webb


Thouin-Savard, M. I. (2021). Compersion in consensually nonmonogamous relationships: A grounded theory investigation. California Institute of Integral Studies.