I recently met someone whose favourite source of compersion is when one of his partners writes him an erotic letter with juicy details of intimate encounters with others. He lit up talking about how much he appreciates those letters, and how in turn he happily encourages her to enjoy herself fully with other lovers. The conversation around this was rich. I believed that consent of all involved was critical for this. But I was also fascinated at how they had creatively found a way to help him to feel safe and included, which in turn helped him to feel authentic joy for his partner. Details like this definitely do NOT help me access compersion, if anything it can be challenging for me to hear – though sometimes my imagination can be a real turn-on. But I was inspired by their creativity strategy to cultivate compersion. It got me thinking about the many ways in which people access compersion. And then it hit me. Can compersion be treated as a verb?
Love as a noun. We have all felt love, all different kinds of love, even if only in fleeting moments. Poet, mystic, and intellectual alike have all attempted to capture and describe these feelings in thoughts, words or through art. A combination of emotions, hormones, sensations, thrill. Love is a state we aspire to, dream of, and crave.
Love as a verb. Through acts of love, we open doors that enable a deepening into love, the noun. The five love languages – acts of service, touch, quality time, gifts, and words of affirmation – all represent actions. These actions open our hearts, and incite intimacy, passion and deep appreciation.
I believe the verb of love is a portal to the noun of love. Relation-ships don’t drive themselves, those in it must select destinations and move towards them. Without the verb of love, the noun of love will steer itself, and may waver, get lost, or simply disappear.
In specific situations when compersion has not come naturally for me, I have sometimes found it by actively cultivating compersion. In this way, I perceive compersion as being a verb. I have had some great successes through these actions in finding my joy for loved ones.
Compersion as a noun. I have previously operationalized compersion (the noun) as being comprised of three parts: intellectual, erotic and somatic. I first introduced the concept here. I continue to find this classification useful for me in identifying feelings of compersion when I experience them. This then gives me a starting place for doing my work.
Compersion as a verb. When I feel intellectual compersion and know it is safe to work on igniting somatic or erotic compersion inside of me (safety – that is a different post, stay tuned), I have often found that treating compersion as a verb is helpful. Here are some examples of acts of compersion that work well for me:
- Reaching out to a metamour to let them know how much I appreciate that they bring joy to someone I love
- Collaborating with a partner/lover to make it easier (or possible) for them to spend time with someone else. This likely involves a conversation and some brainstorming together, and then me doing something like offering to rearrange my schedule to free up time for them to see their other lover
- Actively encouraging a partner/lover to do something with, or for, their other lover.
- “Hey look there is that bottle of wine she loves, why don’t we buy that so you can give it to her when you see her next?”
- “There is a fun party this weekend. Maybe we could invite him to join us?”
- “I was thinking of making dinner on Thursday, would you like to invite x and y?”
- “I baked cookies. Can you please bring some to her when you see her tonight?”
- “Did you remember to put her dance performance in your calendar? I think it is really important for you to go see her perform!”
- Engaging in the details of other relationships in a positive way. NOTE: This one isn’t for everyone – check in with yourself – are you asking about details to feed your compersion or is it rather feeding your jealousy?
- “How was the movie/performance/dinner/date?”
- “Did she like the cookies?”
- “What was your favourite part about your date?”
- “What are things about them you really appreciate?
- Share or exchange intimate details about other relationships. NOTE: This one requires consent from all involved in my opinion (it is ethical non-monogamy afterall).
- Actively initiating and engaging in heart to heart conversations with metamours.
The act of me initiating and supporting other relationships somehow helps me to feel included, empowered and safe, and it makes me feel like a good partner and metamour. Again, this is always a balancing act and I realize that the ways in which I actively cultivate compersion for myself need to support me but also all those involved. Everyone has different needs in terms of privacy and intimacy and how close metamours ultimately want to be. Cultivating compersion – compersion as a verb – best starts with inquiring:
- “How would she feel if I reached out to her on the phone next week?”
- “Would they like to meet me?”
- “How can I help him feel safe?”
- “Is there anything you would like from me to support you and your new relationship?”
Questions like these give me a framework, and from there I can get creative in terms of what kinds of things I can do to cultivate compersion.
Ultimately, compersion as a verb is similar to love as a verb. When I am actively generous, it not only supports others and brings them a sense of joy and safety, it in turn brings me feelings of joy.