I was recently asked to write a guest post for Dr. Marie Thouin’s blog: What is Compersion?. It was a pleasure to have met Marie and learn about her research, which she completed as part of her Ph.D. studies. I enjoyed sharing my story with her along with my thoughts on this complex topic.
For those unfamiliar with the term compersion, it originated in the 1990s in the context of ethical non-monogamy to describe feeling joy or happiness at seeing one’s partner happy as a result of their connection with another partner. In other words, if I am compersive (read my post to find out if I am), then I should derive pleasure at seeing Viktor happy when he spends time with an FWB or a new paramour. This is a very simplified version and I would highly recommend that one check out Marie’s blog and research to learn about compersion in much more depth.
While Viktor and I have written about compersion before, this was an interesting exercise for me as I examined my current state of mind regarding compersion. In this regard, I found it useful to look at a broader application of the term because, for me, compersion can be applied to other connections and relationships beyond romantic partners.
This has been a busy and productive time for Viktor and me as we spent the past several months committed to ourselves and to our marriage. And, while things are great now, it took a long time to get that way.
In early November, we each broke up with our respective partners. Those first few days were rough for both of us, having cut off all contact with Justina and Alex. As we joked, it was an elimination diet as we went through the symptoms of withdrawal.
As we struggled to deal with our break-ups, there were times when we thought we were on the brink of divorce — not because we wanted to, but we wondered if we were really still on the same page. Did we both want the same things going forward? And if so, what were they?
When we first opened up our marriage, I never considered the possibility of either of us falling in love. I know that to many this might seem preposterous (if not simply naïve), but I had a very narrow view of love. To me, love fell into three different, and distinct, categories: familial love (love for parents, siblings, children and other family connections); friendship love (I will watch your cat for you when you travel even though I don’t really like cats) and romantic love (the all-consuming, heart, body, mind and soulmate love that I have for Viktor).
Consequently, when Viktor first told me that he was in love with Justina, I was devastated because I couldn’t understand how his love for her fit into one of my categories without eclipsing his love for me. This obviously wasn’t familial love; they were having sex so it went far beyond friendship love; so it must be romantic love and thus, a replacement for the love he had for me. I tried to wrap my head around it and to make sense of how these two things could co-exist simultaneously: Viktor’s love for Justina and Viktor’s love for Jeannie. I repeatedly failed and it continued to eat at me, causing significant pain, confusion and loss.
With Thanksgiving’s arrival, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head, food on the table and a life partner who truly loves me. Yet, it has certainly been one of the most challenging years of my life and not just because of the obvious pandemic stuff. Yes, that has definitely added to my strife, but it is almost beside the point.
No more rainbows and unicorns
So much of what I have experienced and endured over the past months has been censored from this site because I was afraid to share what I was feeling knowing that metamours and others were privy to my thoughts and feelings. I didn’t want to share these raw, vulnerable emotions with them, nor permit them to feel superior to me as I admitted my faults. In some ways, I still don’t — my pain and suffering is none of their business and yet I feel compelled to share my story; I want people to know that it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Accordingly, this is a bit of a mashup of unpublished posts and notes from February through November in an attempt to make sense of all that has happened over the past year and how we’ve come to this important juncture in our journey.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. In this regard, this past fall was a pivotal point in my life, but, at the time, I was unaware of precisely what was going on. In fact, it wasn’t until this past weekend, when I had a profound sexual experience, that I truly came to understand what has been happening for me in my body.
In late September, two important things occurred. First, Viktor told me he was in love with Justina, unintentionally inflicting pain. And, two days later, we had an amazing sex date, unexpectedly bringing me incredible pleasure as I experienced a series of intense, energetic orgasms. Then, in the weeks and months that followed, I proceeded to experience a self-proclaimed roller coaster of emotions (most of which have been discussed on this blog), finding occasional highs and moments of calm, but more frequently feeling depressed and even, at times, suicidal. I was making Viktor crazy and I wasn’t particularly pleased with how I was feeling and acting either. Unfortunately, when these things initially happened, I didn’t realize that they were connected…until now.
With May’s arrival, Viktor and I celebrated our second polyversary with a quiet night at home (of course, it is still a pandemic after all) and a rope scene (our first in months). While it is hard to believe that another full year has passed, I’m not going to lie – this was a tough year.
So here we are going into week six of social distancing. Like everyone else, we have had our share of good days and bad days, neutral days and a few “I am so fucking over this” days. Through it all, we have continued to nurture various relationships, including our own. And, while in some cases this is easier done than in others, we are committed to building connections in their various forms and functions.
Along these lines, my relationship with Alex continues to blossom. We text each other multiple times a day, often sexy texts, sometimes silly ones and always communication that bring us closer together. It has been amazing to see how we are building a deep emotional connection, while sustaining the intense chemistry we first felt at our initial meeting – all through technology. We have weekly video chats that include physical intimacy that, while virtual, is also very real and authentic. I have struggled with trying to name, define or quantify our relationship, but have given up, realizing that labels do not matter; what we know that we feel for each other does.
Traditionally, at weddings, one of the bride’s parents might be heard to quip, “I am not losing a daughter, I am gaining a son.”* In polyamory, the corollary might be, “I am not losing a partner, I am gaining a metamour.” In fact, depending on one’s current situation, they might be gaining metamours (plural).
For those unfamiliar with this term, your metamour is your partner’s partner. At the moment, I have three metamours – two with whom I have close connections and one whom I haven’t met yet. The two most prominent metamours in my orbit are Justina and Wendy. It has been interesting to see how these relationships have developed with time and how they have been helpful for me as I navigate the polyverse. [NB: If you are just joining us, Justina is Viktor’s girlfriend and Wendy is Cooper’s primary and nesting partner.]
As I shared in my last post, I have been embracing old and new technologies to build connection during social distancing. While the reality of the world generally sucks right now, it has been amazing to truly connect with people – getting to know them better, learning how they cope during difficult times and simply knowing that they are there for you, sending love and support from afar.
Along these lines, Alex and I have continued to deepen our connection as we progress in our beautiful courtship. We have cemented our emotional bond more firmly through exquisite texts and poetry, while concurrently fanning the flames of desire with our “lust letters” to one another. It is quite heady and deliciously arousing! I am pleasantly surprised by how close I feel to him and how much he turns me on from/despite the distance and lack of in-person contact.
With March behind us, we are just shy of a month since our initial meeting, but it has indeed been an intense month with much more activity and interaction than would have normally occurred during this same time period under usual circumstances. Of course, these are anything but usual circumstances. We are happily reaping the benefits of the slower pace of work and life and really enjoying the opportunity to deeply connect with one another.
So the world has been closed until further notice. These are unprecedented times and we have no way of knowing when (if?) the world will return to its regularly scheduled programming. Until then, we must find new ways of doing, behaving and communicating. Thankfully, we have the benefit of technology to assist with some of this, although I am finding that a return to low/no tech is also a welcome change.
On the technological side, earlier in the week, I was able to have an in-depth video chat with Justina to discuss our mutual concerns and otherwise share our feelings with one another. While we obviously approach our relationships with Viktor differently, we both have his best interests at heart and the more she and I can come together and talk, the easier it is/will be.
We also obviously have different perspectives and opinions on dating and poly life, so it was helpful to be able to explain to her why I am feeling the way I have been feeling. I think it was a beneficial experience for both of us and while I do still have wobbly moments, I am feeling better about things, taking it one day at a time and trying not to worry about what things might look like with her in our lives 6 months, a year or five years from now.