How to Feel More Compersion

Apr 22, 2022
A giggling, paint-splattered femme face

~ 6 minute read ~

What is compersion

Compersion, a term first coined by polyamorists in the 1990s, is a feeling of joy for another person’s joy. Compersion was first meant to describe a feeling of generosity and joy when our romantic partner is experiencing joy with another partner. Compersion doesn’t need to be limited to open relationships, though. 


Compersion is a yummy feeling, if you don’t know if you’ve ever felt it before, think about a time when you saw a little kid eating an ice cream cone. Even if you didn’t have one, even if you’re lactose intolerant, you probably felt a warm, pleasant feeling simply watching that little person enjoying their treat. 


Boom- that’s the sensation of compersion in you. 


If you don’t like kids (I get it, I have 7, kids can be uh… trying) how about watching a dog with a puppucino? It’s hard not to feel joy for their glorious pleasure!


Let’s keep it simple. Compersion is the feeling of joy for another’s joy.


The opposite of jealousy

Compersion is an antonym of jealousy, which is a feeling of fear that the connection we have with someone we care about will be interrupted. 


Some folks push back when I say that compersion and jealousy are opposites. “They aren’t opposite, you can feel them at the same time,” they holler at me. 


Yeah. I know.

We can feel more than one thing, even things that are opposite to each other, at the same time. 

Like when you feel happy and sad at the same time.

Like when you feel tender and angry at the same time.

Like when you feel ambitious and lazy at the same time.


Feelings are GREAT at coexisting, we just have to get on board and allow ourselves to recognize that we are complex and our feelings don’t have to make sense in a linear, mathematical sort of logic. 


Jealousy is my primary area of academic research so I feel very comfortable saying that yes, jealousy and compersion are opposites and yes, you can feel them both at the exact same time.


I have a lot to say on how to decrease the intensity of jealousy and how to use jealousy for what it is best at but for now, let’s focus on increasing compersion.


How to feel more compersion

To foster compersion, start with tuning into your body’s sensations.


How? Slow down. If you are an over-achiever, a people pleaser, or have a history of rushing to fix stuff, let yourself off the hook from trying to feel compersion. Trying too hard is exhausting and sometimes brings up other tough feelings like shame or frustration for not feeling compersion easily.


Instead of trying to start with the feeling, work on creating conditions that let you recognize compersion in your body and build on it. 


Step one: Identify what compersion feels like in your body

You experience body sensations all the time and a lot of the time you probably don’t pay them much attention. When you want to have more moments of compersion, you’ll want to be able to identify your specific compersive sensations.


Common sensations described by my clients and research participants: warmth or opening through the chest, softening in the belly, gentle tingling, relaxation in the jaw. Your body is unique- pick an easy target, like a little kid, a puppy, or a friend who is having some joy. Scan your body, what’s going on in there? Get clear about one or more sensations-not emotions-and name them out loud. 


It might sound like this:

“I feel my belly relaxing and my chest/heart area feels warm.”


Saying it out loud helps bring you deeper into connection with the sensations of compersion. 


Step two: Build on small moments of compersion 

Now that you’ve identified a couple of compersion sensations, curate an opportunity to let yourself feel them again. 


That’s right- I want you to manufacture a chance to feel compersion easily. 


When I see clients frustrated with a lack of compersion they almost always want it to begin with something big like feeling joyful when their partner is out on a date or having sex with someone else (totally consensually, of course- remember we’re talking intentional non-monogamy here!)


But just because you’ve consented and REALLY WANT your partner to have a great time doesn’t mean you’ll spontaneously feel the warm fuzzies of compersion when they get some juicy time with a new partner. 


BUT.. you also don’t have to wait for the magical compersion fairy to arrive!


Start More Gently

You can practice noticing and enjoying compersion when your partner is enjoying their favorite music, a delicious dessert, or they get a massage.

Pay attention to the sensations of compersion and fan those embers.

Let yourself feel good. Compersion is joy for another’s joy–-you get to feel joy here–that’s the point. Enjoy these sensations. Revel in them a bit–or a lot!


Booster ingredient: Self-compassion

Now… before we move on, I want you to deliver a huge dose of self-compassion. Nurturing compersion isn’t a magic spell, it’s a practice. In the meantime, you’ll probably have some junky feelings too. Adding to the junk by beating yourself up for not feeling compersive fast enough


The difference between compersion and compassion: compersion is a feeling of joy for another’s joy while compassion is about being present and gentle in the face of your or someone else’s suffering or challenges. In your case right now, you are suffering the challenge of not feeling compersion, and possibly feeling some jealousy-related pain. 


Go gently. Engage with your positive self-soothing tools. Mostly, just talk to yourself as gently as you would speak to a three-year-old. Jealousy is wired into our infant need for connection to caregivers, so at this moment, you are talking to a part of you who is very little. 


How do I transform jealousy into compersion?

You don’t. 


Everyone throws tomatoes when I say that.


It’s a popular idea that jealousy can transform into compersion, a bit of alchemy and whoosh, you’ll feel the sharpness of jealousy melt into the softness of compersion. And if this has happened for you, I’m thrilled for you, enjoy the f*ck outta that. But please don’t tell other people that’s how it works typically. 


The shadow side of the jealousy-to-compersion fairytale is shame. Big, gooey, sticky shame.


Pressure to feel something can easily turn into self-blaming, wondering what’s wrong with me if I can’t get to the good stuff. Before you know it, you find yourself in a shame spiral, self-recrimination and frustration filling up every quiet moment. 


The truth is, we can foster a shift in feelings but jealousy is perfect as it is.



Jealousy serves a purpose. It’s hardwired into our DNA and that’s a good thing. It’s served a purpose in early life, keeping us connected to our caregivers. Now that you’re grown it’s time to learn to use jealousy without lashing out, but you don’t need it to go away. It serves as an indicator we care about someone and we’d like to maintain a connection with them.


We don’t need to transform jealousy into compersion because both can–and often do–happen at the same time. 


And I’m not ruling out the possibility of transmutation of jealousy completely, I mean, people work in a zillion different ways. If that’s you, cool.  But I can’t see jealousy transforming into compersion, I can’t measure its transmutation with a jealousy jig-a-meter. You might feel this transformation, but counting on it just happening is likely to lead to disappointment and insisting that because it worked for you that it should work that way for others–nope, don’t do it. 


It’s okay if compersion take practice.


It’s okay if compersion comes in fits and starts.


It’s okay if compersion is an infrequent visitor.


Spontaneous compersion isn’t always available and that’s okay. You can nurture compersion in your life by following even little breadcrumbs of joy for other’s joy. Pay attention to little moments at first–the quick rush of pleasure when your partner is happy. Let it be enough. This isn’t a flaw.


Why won’t my partner just feel compersion for me?

I’ve seen people show up in my office certain there is something wrong with them because they can’t achieve the compersion their partners want from them. They’re usually several months (or years) into open relationships and deep in a shame spiral about their lack of compersion. Often their partner has an easier time accessing compersive feelings and they’ve heard a lot about how much better life would be if they could just be reasonable and feel compersion. 


First, I want you to get in your own lane. Your partner’s compersion is theirs to work with.


You might have heard that if you just think it through, compersion ”just makes more sense” so you should feel compersion. 


Don’t be that person. 


There is no moral value to compersion. Period.


People who feel compersion more easily or who have found a way to access it readily aren’t morally superior. 


If you act (even unintentionally) like compersion is better you are dangerously close to being an asshole. 


Feeling are feelings. They are valid and useful and wonderful. But they are morally neutral.


(BTW, jealousy is morally neutral too.)


How we act on our feelings is where our ethics and morals enter the picture. Have any feeling. Then choose your actions with care. 


So unless you want to frustrate the hell out of someone already struggling with compersion and jealousy, let go of your need for them to feel any specific way. Pressure to feel a certain way always backfires. Push for your partner to feel compersion and you’re much more likely to inspire hiding and performance behaviors than a change of feelings. 


This goes for open relationship & polyamory communities as well as between lovers. Going to a group meet up? Drop any inclination you have to boast about how easy compersion is, how much better it is, why others should feel compersion. Responding to a post on jealousy? Add a positive vibe that focuses on compassion and empathy.  We’ve got enough trouble finding acceptance outside of compulsory monogamy, let’s keep our community culture kind.



Get to know what the sensations (not emotions, stick with sensations) of compersion feel like in your body and name them out loud. Warmth, lightness, softening are common sensations reported with compersion.


Intentionally create an opportunity to practice compersion:

  1. Go for the low-hanging fruit- practice inviting compersion about someone who is not currently pushing your jealousy buttons. (And DO choose someone whose love you value.)⁠
  2. Think about how the two of you are different and all the ways you love their unique Self.⁠
  3. Imagine them receiving pleasurable feelings in an area that just isn't your jam. No need to start off with the idea of them getting their smexy on. 


Let your partner’s journey with compersion and jealousy be theirs by treating both feelings as morally neutral.

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