Guest Columnist Ruby Bouie Johnson debates the concept of mandated compersion!
I've recently met someone who I'm interested in dating, and the feeling is very mutual. However, they told me at the onset that they require their partners to feel compersion when it comes to their extracurricular activities with others. While I do authentically experience compersion from time to time, I've also had many a successful polyamorous relationship without it being non-negotiable agreement. What are your thoughts on this? Do you feel as though compersion should be mandatory in a polyamorous relationship, or no?
This is a great question.
Compersion, the feeling of finding joy when someone else is experiencing joy, is not only a poly thing. I find joy watching a 3 year old run without a care in the world. I find joy when I witness the excitement of someone getting married. I smile with you. I believe it’s the “smiling with” the person that is the awesomeness with compersion. No one is requiring me or expecting me to have a certain emotion or feeling.
Personally, it is impossible for me to have a feeling on demand. For me, feelings and emotions are spontaneous.
With this being said, if compersion is mandatory for a relationship, these are few problems:
1. Having unrealistic expectations is a set up for resentment and conflict. What happens if you don’t have compersion?
2. This is a red flag for unhealthy boundaries. Are there other ones?
3. Viewing mandatory in polyamory is a mononormative way of thinking. It’s not allowing room for feelings to be organic and authentic.
So, to answer your question if I believe compersion should be mandatory in polyamorous relationships, I say “no.” For me, there are mandatory behaviors, such as no nonconsensual physical abuse or no verbal violence. I cannot guarantee that to have compersion for anyone’s choices, in advance. For some, compersion is an indicator of support; however the absence of compersion does not indicate a lack of support. There are so many other indicators.
Ruby Bouie Johnsaon is a sex therapist and educator in Plano, Texas. She serves clients who identify as nonmonogamous, queer, genderqueer, and kinky. She is a writer, blogger, and an active advocate that challenges injustices. Ms. Johnson’s expert opinion has been sought by Playboy Magazine and Women’s Health magazine. She wrote the forward for the ground breaking book Love’s Not Colorblind by Kevin Patterson which explores intersectionality and polyamory community. Mrs. Johnson received the Professional Standard of Excellence Award from American Association of Sexology, Educators, Counselors, and Therapist. @blacksexgeek & @polydallas on Twitter, @blacksexgeek on IG, Black Sex Geek on Facebook.