Compersion Is A Muscle.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I have a sweetie who’s been touch-deprived for a couple of months now; they’ve been travelling solo and exhausted by illness to boot.

Last night, they hooked up with someone.

And I was really, genuinely happy for them. Which is a change from a decade ago.

See, a decade ago, a close partner hooking up with someone new would have sent flurries of anxiety thrumming through me. I would have freaked out about whether that partner was better in bed, I would have fretted about how this new person would steal affection from me, I would have catalogued all my deficiencies and then done endless calculations to see what I had to do to be worthy of continued attention.

Today? Nothin’. I’m just genuinely filled with that poly-feeling called “Compersion,” where I’m happy if they’re happy.

Yet that happy feeling didn’t come naturally to me. We had to work on it. And I say “We” because as I’ve said before, compersion is something that only flourishes in a safe environment. It’s hard to feel thrilled for someone’s adventures when you do know that every new partner means less space for you, that their New Relationship Energy will eat into your old-and-tired dates.

Part of building that compersion muscle involves having partners who genuinely value you – the people who, even if they’re seeing other folks, are still over the moon whenever they see you.

But more importantly, getting that compersion muscle all swole involves some self-reflection and analysis. Because yes, your partners can lavish you with attention, but if you’re so caught up in your stress-ball that you don’t see what’s actually happening then it’s all for naught.

Because I had to notice that yes, my partners were happy about the sex (I specifically asked for no specific details, because I personally can’t handle that shit), but their enthusiasm for other-sex didn’t touch the sex they wanted to have with me.

Or, more critically, the love they wanted to have with me. My wife didn’t want to watch obscure Oscar films any less with me, my girlfriend didn’t want to play videogames less with me, my sweetie didn’t want to cuddle less. All the nonsexual things I valued about being with them never waned – or if they did, it wasn’t because of the sex, but because of other emotional frictions that were causing damage.

In time, I came to learn that sex was important to a functioning relationship, but it was not the only thing that held us together.

And then the other necessary lesson: over the years I came to internalize that idea that sex was a person-to-person thing, not a universal experience.

Which is to say that I used to have this idea that sex was an exam, and I was doing well, maybe like 85%, but someone could come along and score a 90% and then why would anyone want to smooch up the B student when they could get an A-?

And since then, I’ve come to understand that sex is more like the intense variety of food cravings. What I get with my wife is very distinct from what I get with my sweetie Fox, and that sex is not graded on some objective scale, but rather a desire that’s as unique as a key to a lock. There’s not a competition to be The Best at sex, but rather an urge to find out what we ourselves can create, and that’s actually led to better sex because instead of whipping out My Moves I’m more focused on who’s with me right here, right now.

None of that means that I’m immune from jealousy, of course; some people might evolve past it, but I don’t think I’m one of them. But it does mean at least with my long-term partners, the ones who’ve earned my trust, I can hear about a liasion they desperately needed and not think OH MY GOD I WASN’T THERE but “I’m really glad they got cuddles with someone, and I know those cuddles don’t mean they don’t want cuddles with me.”

It’s a good place. Even if it’s been a hike to get here, lemme tellya.


  1. Anonymous Alex
    Apr 10, 2019

    Sometimes, being at a place is sweeter because you had to hike to get there. Happy for ya.


  2. Carolina Siquot
    Dec 22, 2020

    Thank you so much for writing this!
    Specially the part where you say:

    And then the other necessary lesson: over the years I came to internalize that idea that sex was a person-to-person thing, not a universal experience.

    My partner had sex with someone else for the first time the other day and I immediately felt insecure, as if he would loose interest in having sex with me now that he was “satisfied”. We’ve been on a dry spell for a couple of weeks, but just as you pointed out, it’s a result of damage from other emotional issues that we have to deal with in our own relatioship.

    I honestly feel so relieved!

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