Jealousy and Its Opposite

Taking joy in your partner’s pleasure sounds like exactly what a good lover does. However, it is actually the definition of a word that might be new to you – compersion.

An online source defines compersion as sort of like the feeling one might feel for a best friend happy in a romantic relationship. There is a word in Yiddish that is similar.  Kvel is something like pleasure and pride a parent might feel at the accomplishments of her child. Urban Dictionary defines compersion as  “a feeling of joy when a loved one invests in and takes pleasure from another romantic or sexual relationship.”

Wait!  What?  My lover in a romantic or sexual relationship with someone else? Enjoying that? So a rough approximation of compersion might be “the opposite of jealousy.”

There is a common belief that anyone in love is going to be jealous of his or her mate, possessive; that such jealousy and possessiveness is a natural integral part of loving.   The idea that a person need not feel that way, might actually enjoy the idea of his lover in the arms of someone else, is simply unfathomable.

I do not believe that love and jealousy are necessarily permanently entwined. I have seen that separation in others and experienced it myself. There are people who just aren’t jealous as part of their nature and there are those who can learn to eliminate that awful feeling from their emotional vocabulary. As a therapist I have been with many individuals, women and men, in their struggle to do just that.  (And yes, many have succeeded…most of the time.)

I have found that jealousy can be a sometime thing depending on the nature of the loved one’s outside connection and even more so on how the one who is left at home is feeling about him or her self.  If one feels secure in himself, secure in the healthiness of the primary relationship, there is no need to begrudge one’s partner’s outside pleasure.  A person can actually be pleased that the sweetheart is finding additional happiness in his or her life.  That all-encompassing good will feeling of loving generosity is compersion.  There are enough people who have experienced it that a word was created to name it.

The first definition of jealousy in the Oxford Dictionary of Current English is “resentful of rivalry in love”. If someone is secure in the knowledge that the principle relationship is not in any jeopardy, jealousy is not a given.  Further definitions of jealousy are “fiercely protective of one’s rights” and “intolerant of disloyalty”, both indicative of an unhealthy possessiveness to my mind.

And jealousy is unhealthy. It’s an awful feeling that roils one’s innards and grinds one’s teeth.  A jealous person is ever watchful and suspicious, growling at those who come near like a dog guarding a bone. It’s a mean and miserable way to live. Has anyone ever actually enjoyed feeling jealous? I sincerely doubt it.

Is everyone capable of compersion?  I really don’t know.  The idea has to hold some appeal to an individual for it even to be considered.  Somewhere between barbaric controlling cloistering of one’s (usually) wife and total indifference to what the mate does each of us must find our own comfort.  I, for one, would not vote on the side of jealousy or possessiveness.