What is compersion? My understanding is that it is the opposite of jealousy. It is gaining a sense of happiness through witnessing another person’s happiness, particularly a lover’s…even if that happiness doesn’t directly involve you.
Advocates of open relating often cite compersion as one of the fundamental elements necessary to make such relationships work. In open relationships, sure there is jealousy. Yes, there are fears. But those who choose to enhance their relationships in this manner don’t see jealousy and fear as the end of the road. They seek to grow beyond them.
Those who have been truly successful at open relating understand something that many of us still have not fully grasped: that love is not limited, and that true love intends to set the beloved free to live a full, limitless life.
Have you heard about compersion? According to one HuffPost article, it is a principle that can be aptly applied in monogamous as well as polyamorous relationships. So even if open relating is not your thing, opening up to an idea that will allow you to more effectively align your thinking with your partner’s needs could be a big help. Ya think?
I hope I haven’t completely scared you off with talk of open relating and the idea that you may want to at least consider releasing your death grip on that fear of being alone. Why not check out the first couple of episodes of “Compersion”, a new web series from Enchant TV on YouTube. I’ve been glued to the first two episodes so far, and I think they’re doing a great job of exploring this topic with a great deal of maturity and taste. I love how it juxtaposes the ordinariness of a typical couple’s life with the events surrounding their very extraordinary decision to open their marriage.
You can’t choose who you fall for, but can you fall for who you choose?
I’m pretty convinced that Love is a choice- one that a person makes to wake up everyday and be dedicated to the well-being of another person. “Falling in love”, on the other hand, appears to be something that is completely outside our control. It’s something that catches us off guard and can attach us to the most unlikely people under the most unlikely of circumstances. Sometimes it seems to attach us to people and situations that aren’t best for us, and we have no choice but to walk away.
At the end of the day, most people would agree that “Falling in love” is a somewhat illusive feeling, and it is certainly not one that can be contrived. You either got it or you don’t. And yeah, you can live without it… but do you want to?
I hate to break it to you, but, more than you may realize, your feelings and actions are being dictated by a brilliantly-designed machine. That machine produces and responds to stimuli at amazing rates and may sometimes even seem to trap you in a never-ending cycle of biological cause and effect. That machine is your brain, and here’s why it makes breaking up so hard to do.
Love is a drug. That’s right. Love is physically and mentally addictive. It literally triggers the same addiction centers and produces some of the same responses in the brain as heroin.
So that’s why the breakup feels like withdrawal–because it is. Chemicals are at the center of it all. Isn’t the mind-body connection amazing?
It’s been a whirlwind six months since the initial release of my debut novel (Pretty Little Mess: A Jane Luck Adventure) in eBook format. Since then I’ve added about 10 new chapters, several new supporting characters, developed the story for added depth and realism, and prepared to release the new edition in eBook and Print formats. The decision to produce a second edition so quickly seemed strange to me at first, but became a no-brainer when I considered the rewards: 1. a better story upon which to build The Jane Luck Adventures series; 2. better relationships with readers; 3. more control with the decision to go independent.
Not to mention the fact that the new editions are being released under MY IMPRINT!!! How exciting is that?
I’ve gone Indie, ya’ll, and it’s definitely been an adventure. It’s a lot more work, but I’m now much more knowledgeable and in control of my own destiny as an author. That way seems to work best for me, at least for now, and I’m looking forward to great things. Hang with me and find out what’s coming next.
Opposites attract. I hear people say it all the time. I’ve said it myself. I can relate. Though my husband and I have some things in common, we also have quite a few fundamental characteristics that are opposite. Because of this, in many good ways we complement one another. It’s like a natural system of checks and balances within the family unit. Opposites indeed.
But are we really all that different? According to some spiritual thought derived from the Tantric and metaphysical traditions, like attracts like. In many ways, what shows up in our lives is an indication of ideas, beliefs, or expectations that we hold on some level. In essence, we attract what we are. And though you may sometimes seem very different from the one you love, the two of you very well may be two sides of the same coin.
I’m a big fan of Carl and Kenya Stevens, relationship coaches who believe that the purpose of relationships is growth. According to them, we begin to reap the rewards of our relationships when we understand that our “mates are our mirrors” and we do the work of developing our character as a result of the reflections we see. So, for example, if you attract a mate who has problems with honesty, you yourself may have some hidden difficulty with being honest with yourself or others. You may have a subconscious expectation of dishonesty from a partner. You may be a doormat who condones dishonesty on some level. Your ideas, beliefs, expectations act like energetic requests and the universe simply responds with your order. Like attracts like. Birds of a feather… you get it.
It’s in keeping with the idea that we truly are not separate from the world around us. Everything is connected, there are no (or there are at least very few) true dichotomies. Take Jesus and the Devil for instance. (I know that’s a loaded one, but take a walk with me for a minute just to test the logic.)
Christians believe that Jesus is the blessed sacrificial lamb, the one who has taken the blame for all of humanity’s sins and made it possible for us to be in good standing with God. This is “Good” – Side one of the coin.
However, Satan has also been the one upon whom humanity has symbolically heaped the blame for all of its “sins”. He is the horned one, the scapegoat. This is “Evil” – Side two…of the same coin. Opposites, but not really…
See, we have all this polarity in our lives, in our relationships, in our society. We love to cling to sides, favoring labels that pit one extreme against the other: gay v/s straight, religious v/s nonreligious, republican v/s democrat, rich v/s poor, victim v/s villain. Too often, we don’t take the time to acknowledge that there is a spectrum that exists in the middle of these binaries. Most importantly, we don’t realize that the shared life experiences of the gay and the straight, or the shared zeal of the religious and nonreligious, or the shared pain of the victim and the villain make them all two sides of the same coin. We’re really not all that separate. We’re really not all that different.
So which is it? Do opposites attract or does like attract like? Call me crazy but I think it’s both. Look into the mirror and find out why.
“You can’t hide from yourself. Everywhere you go, there you are.”
No wonder so many of our parents and grandparents had separate beds. Some of them had separate rooms. For all their “traditionalism”, they had some good ideas about how to keep relationships balanced through the manipulation of distance–ideas that some consider to be progressive nowadays.
There is truly something to be said for the “man cave” and the “she shed” where he or she can escape the confines of unrealistic marital expectations for a head-clearing spell… and libations.
Kerry Bradshaw kept her own apartment in Sex and the City 2 where she could hunker down and work on her writing if she was in need of a short retreat. I always thought that was the shit. I just hated the way she got all stupid when Big suggested they make taking “breaks” a regular occurrence. That might have actually kept her from getting so bored and annoyed with him so quickly.
But she had fallen for the same bad idea that most of us seem to have about love and marriage— that love equals proximity, and that if you love someone you have to be grafted to their hip, close enough to watch their armpit hair grow during every waking free second of your life.
I’m exaggerating, but not much.
In a 2007 NBC News article written by Judith Newman, she claims that in 2006 (according to US Census data) there were about 3.6 million married couples out there who didn’t live together. Now, of course, some of those couples were, for all intents and purposes, apart but just never did the legal untying. But there are many others for whom distance is a helpful, even vital element in maintaining their relationships.
It’s not a new concept. She includes Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera (artists), Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir (philosophers), and herself and her husband to the lot of married couples living happily apart. I’ll also throw in Grace Jones and Jean Paul Goude who shared a child but were smart enough (in their case) to live apart.
I’m sure this idea sets many people’s insecurities alight. The first thing that comes to people’s minds is that the distance would tempt a person to cheat or that it could erode intimacy. Because of course, people who are living right up under each other’s noses never cheat.
Have you checked out the numbers lately? As far as I know that divorce rate applies just as much to couples who have lived together. And intimacy? Please. This idea of the sexless marriage is a cultural norm. There’s a reason some guys treat weddings as if they’re on par with funerals.
Judith says it best:
“The notion that two people can live apart and still be in a traditional marriage, neither celibate nor throwing key parties, seems to make folks’ head explode. To which I can only reply, in my own head, ‘That’s logical. We have separate places, so we must never have sex. Because as everyone knows, the thing that makes for a hot sex life is proximity.’ It’s not as if most people feel more intimate when they share a space.
“…If you live apart from someone and trust him, you have intimacy without that incestuous feeling that comes from too much information, which can lead couples to stop having sex.
“…To us, living together in the same physical space has nothing to do with living in the same emotional space. In my more hippie-granola moments, I like to think that there is a certain purity to our arrangement. I am married simply because I happen to love the guy.
“…Simply put, we don’t live well together. Does that mean we can’t love each other or the kids? So far, the children don’t seem to think much about it, especially because Dad is always around for dinner and to tuck them in. They talk happily about their uptown and downtown houses.
“…We do find each other essential; it’s just that, like many couples, we find each other deeply annoying, too. The only difference with us is that sometimes we can breathe a deep sigh of relief at the end of the day and say: I love you, honey; now get the hell out of here!”
But man, when touch is bad… it’s just a hot mess! Pandemonium can result, particularly in romantic relationships. Literal physical, emotional and mental chaos!
See, when you have a casual tactile encounter that is lackluster, you can simply walk away. But what if the offending party is your wife who still hasn’t figured out how to “tuck her teeth”, or your husband who insists on grabbing your lady parts with all the force that he might use to strangle a dog? What if it’s your partner of twenty years who still hasn’t figured out that you hate feathers and ear blowing almost as much as you despise the smell of hot breath and saliva in the morning (which he/she also generously heaps on you while trying to get a little before work).
LOL!!! This is what the people are saying in these streets, y’all!
Few intimate experiences are worse than having to put up with an inept, unskilled, impatient, or selectively deaf partner in bed. You know you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve even been an offender yourself. Stop it! All of you–bumbling sexual idiots and cowardly silent endurers alike. This must end.
Because it causes people to shut down. I’m hearing about too many sexless marriages out here, people! And it’s likely not because people are prudes–which is the easy answer that is typically assumed. I’d wager that oftentimes it’s the boredom and mistrust that compounds after enduring someone who ignores your needs, desires, suggestions, complaints, time and time again. It’s no longer wanting to hit the brick wall of your girlfriend’s ego when you try to give her some pointers on her reverse cowgirl. It’s muscles that automatically tense up from the muscle memory of painful thrusts. Or, it’s knowing your partner is not enjoying intimacy and watching them remain silent, making no attempt to give you any clue as to what would please them.
Check out this article from MakingSexEasy about Enduring Unpleasant Touch and how it erodes intimacy in relationships. Unfortunately, many people behave in long term relationships act as if it is their right to touch their partners in whatever way they want. It’s another one of those damned expectations. They figure the chase is over and that they can coast from here on out. Their ring, marriage contract, joint deed to the house or whatever is like their relationship proof of purchase, and they can now do with their toy as they please.
They do not take criticism or suggestion well. They think if a certain technique worked once or with other partners, it should be employed ad nauseam, forever, til death. They have no understanding of timing or of the fact that sexual tastes can be varied or that they can change. They don’t recognize that since this person is their highly regarded long term partner, that is all the more reason to be that much more sensitive, considerate, attuned to what they want/like/need–to work continuously to develop a true connection and sexual skill that is compatible with this unique individual.
Others sit by like little mice, afraid to rock the boat. Sex has become such a drag that they keep a few bottles of wine on hand just for a quick buzz to help them get through it whenever they decide to give in. They feel unfulfilled, and bored, and pathetic, and afraid of upsetting their partner. Stop playing the victim and open your mouth!
To communicate, I mean.
Here’s a novel thought: you do not own the person you are in relationship with. They still have the right to consent, say “yes”, “no”, “I like that”, “get the hell out of there with that”–and you don’t have the right to make them feel guilty or inadequate. It only works if people communicate AND listen to each other. When everyone knows that they will be heard, and develop memories of actually being fulfilled, increased desire naturally results.
Why is this kind of trust-building mechanism not the norm with sexual relationships in general? Trust is essential to the exploration of intimacy and it is not free. It has to be earned and maintained or things will devolve. Before you know it you’ll be checking your calendar to see how many months til your birthday in order to find out how much longer you’ll have to wait until your next booty ration!
(SIGH!) I don’t know what it’s gonna take people, but if the setup you’ve got isn’t working, you gotta do something different. Even Pavlov’s dog wised up at some point. Get a clue!
Someone once told me that while detachment can be a very useful survival tool in certain situations, it should not be a way of life. Yet I’m finding that there are some circumstances and people with whom I have had to adopt a lifetime strategy of detachment. Well maybe I’m not employing the strategy of detachment so much as I’m just learning to accept people as they come.
Sometimes you simply have to do away with unrealistic expectations in order to enjoy better relationships without the baggage of resentment or the negativity that comes from simply throwing people away. Clearing away the webs of expectations that we use to keep people within our reach can give us the clarity of vision to see (and be thankful for) the good that exists in them.
The first person that I ever learned to accept on his own terms was my dad. He was the kind of guy who wanted nothing more after a hard day’s work than to kick off his shoes, turn on the game, attach a beer to his hand, and have one of us turn out the lights on our way to our rooms from–which we would not bother him for the rest of the night. Sure there were those nights (which I’ll never forget) when we’d all sit around laughing at those crazy episodes of Cops or crack jokes during episodes of National Geographic safari or whatever. But usually, he kept his distance.
I spent my entire childhood being friendly to him, wearing him down with good night hugs until he had no choice but to hug back, and learning to small talk with him. Small talk with my dad made me feel like I at least partially knew him. It didn’t make him uncomfortable, because I never got too close.
As a teenager, I thought I could change the world, or at least MY world. So I had a talk with him hoping that he would hear me out and start spending more “quality time” with my mom, my brother, and me. I can still hear his response clearly after all those years. It was a bit of a rant, but the ending went something like this: “Fathers and daughters don’t need to be close, and I don’t need to be close to you. Stop trying to turn me into something I’m not.” In that moment I had a most potent experience of clarity, and I began to learn the art of detachment, which serves me well to this day.
Eventually I came to learn that getting the love we want the way we want it from others is not always the point in life. As much as I needed my dad as a child—his approval, his time, his interest, his opinion of the guys I dated—he was just as much in need, or even more so. He needed something just as badly as we needed him. As lacking as he was in parenting skills, it seems he had been equally neglected and even more so.
As much as I wanted an affectionate, talkative dad who would wear a wedding ring, stay clean after rehab, and accompany my mom, my brother and me to the movies on weekends, I eventually made peace with the fact that that simply was not the hand that fate dealt to me.
Furthermore, it wasn’t about what I wanted for him or from him. It was about what each of us were supposed to learn in our individual journeys. He’s not beholden to my expectations. I don’t get to decide the timeline across which he should learn his lessons and finally “get it”. I am not fully aware of all the circumstances, memories, demons he has to fight through on the way to becoming the person he needs/wants to be. And it’s no one’s fault.
Now our relationship has evolved into one where the small talk remains, but I can immediately interpret his tone, his insistence that I call weekly to check in, as proof enough of his love, of his pride in the people that my brother and I have become. When he does say he loves me, it’s sincere. When he calls, again, to make sure we’re coming to town for that visit we talked about, I don’t feel bad about the fact that the call only lasts five minutes.
I understand his personality and appreciate some of his tendencies more now. I appreciate the artist in him–I only wish he would draw or paint more. I admire the debater in him, the objective thinker who won’t simply give President Obama a pass on everything because he’s black. I’ve come to agree often with the independent thinker who always so vehemently resisted religious dogma. I understand his need to be free.
This was a situation in which I had no choice but to adopt a strategy of detachment and acceptance. The slash and burn, just cut people off who make you uncomfortable sentiment that seems rampant these days just doesn’t work on a parent. I only got one dad.
And I’m learning that even in the relationships that I’ve chosen, there’s still room for detachment from certain expectations. I’ve learned to recognize those fair-weather friends and simply appreciate them for the fun and breaths of fresh air they provide when they’re around. Instead of resenting them for being themselves and entrusting them with things that they cannot handle, I keep them in the proper compartments. And yes, I have absolutely no problem with compartmentalization.
For me, this thinking goes hand in hand with developing a more balanced and realistic perspective on relationships, one where we stop expecting other people to be our all-in-all (or to be what they do not have the ability to be), stand on our own feet, and learn to appreciate people for who they are. Of course we need relationships, we need those relationships to be healthy, and we need to back off when they are not. We can also learn to appreciate each unique individual for the small pieces of the puzzle that they bring to the table instead of expecting each person to be one completed 1000-piece puzzle that we can simply look at and admire. We are each in a continual process of refinement.
So long as our interactions are not toxic, we don’t have to toss out the people who aren’t the “complete package”. And we don’t have to go without the relationships we want and need. We can simply seek out relationships with others who fill in the gaps. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!
What do you think of this way of dealing with relationships? Some people may call it a form of settling or allowing others to get off “scot free” for doing “wrong”. But is it really our responsibility to police the behavior and emotional/mental/spiritual development of others? Aren’t our own individual plates already full enough? Does trying to get another person to “do right” ever work, anyway? Who gets to define what’s “right” for a particular individual for a particular point in time?
I love Bill Maher and all unabashed commentators like him who know how to sum up bullshit. Take, for example his comments regarding Addyi, the new “female Viagra”:
“…the new female sex pill, Addyi. Yes, that’s right. There’s now a pill that makes women want more sex, but can also lower blood pressure and put you to sleep… It was invented by Bill Cosby.”
Maher goes on to explain that while Viagra was invented for men who still desire but simply cannot engage in sex physically, Addyi, while masquerading as a female equivalent to Viagra, is actually a mood enhancer intended tomake totally physically capable women want more sex. And herein lies the problem…
Who gets to decide what is “satisfying sex”? The people paying actors to feign orgasm, the ones who have perpetuated the notion that sex isn’t sex if it isn’t loud, explosive, a reenactment of some porn scene, or tied to notions of happily-ever-after? Many a wayward soul has diagnosed her level of satisfaction as abnormal based upon these fantasy-land notions about sex.
Who has decided what constitutes “normal sexual desire”, and that millions of women don’t have it? Clearly, the people who created this pill and their cohorts. They may insist that it is absolutely the prerogative of the individual woman to decide what is normal for her, and they would be right. But the very existence of this drug (and the campaign to market it) reveals some skewed thinking regarding women’s sexuality and autonomy–or ANYbody’s sexuality and autonomy, for that matter.
When women began to emerge, en masse, from their kitchens, delivery rooms, from behind ironing boards and mops to enter voting booths and colleges in droves and to kick ass in business, many people stood up for the right of women to explore and enjoy their sexuality as well. They rejected the notion that a woman should be coy, “hard to get”, or act as if she had no interest in sex in order to appear pious or demure. No problem–if coy and demure is not that individual woman’s natural disposition. But somewhere, we failed to develop a balanced perspective.
Now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, and it seems that any women who is not ready to swing from a chandelier (or a shower curtain) at the drop of a hat wearing a thong and a cat tail is labeled with a sexual disorder.
I call bullshit.
Here we are “medicalizing a woman’s natural mental state” all over again. I understand that the organization Even the Score had a hand in pushing for the invention of this drug. They considered it unfair that so much attention, expertise, and resources were being pumped into the creation of a drug to help men enjoy better sex while it seemed the girls were being neglected. They failed to recognize that a medical prescription is probably not the best long-term solution for most people’s intimacy/sexual issues (whether male or female).
Micromanaging sexual urges based on arbitrary standards of normality doesn’t make for better relationships. In some cases it exacerbates the problem as people race from one opinion/therapist/prescription to the next hoping to find a fix to their so-called dysfunction, which really was never a “dysfunction” to begin with. In many cases the problem is simply boredom. Boredom, the need for novelty, and the need to develop more realistic expectations around sexuality and more flexible relationship structures. No prescriptions or pills. Just a shot of reality and an adventurous spirit.
Sexual autonomy is the freedom of the individual to operate comfortably within their sexual truth without undue meddling and criticism from others–whether that personal truth is a very active sex drive or a “once a month will do me fine” disposition. Once our society is mature enough to handle the kind of honesty that will make this freedom possible, there probably will be little need for these placebos, I mean prescriptions. Until then, the drug pushers are going to hold down the block with blue pills for the boys and pink pills for the girls.
No, I haven’t been—only Jane Luck, my alter ego has. Yes I’m dreaming again. I’m picturing myself there.
It’s a little game I like to play called Pretending–that’s Pre-intending. I’m setting the scene in my mind, just the way I like it. Sooner or later, the Universe will have no choice but to plop me smack dab in the middle of Bermuda where I’ll suddenly find myself darting around on Vespas, wallowing, on the pink sand beaches, wading among the towering limestone rocks, eating fish chowder and hot cross buns, and drinking swizzle.
But then what? I don’t mind a little resort area life, but I’m eventually going to want to chill with some people and get into some adventures that aren’t connected to the ministry of Tourism or it’s aims.
Local flair. It almost sounds cliche, hearing some tourist in hiking boots and a backpack say they want to go “off the beaten path” or “meet some locals”. But who wants to travel all the way to another part of the world just to stay in “little America” and watch dance performances at the “cultural museum”?
The best thing about travel is meeting the people who live in the place you’re exploring, having them show you how they live, and discovering just how different and alike you are.
So, Bermudophiles, where are you? What exceptional activities do you recommend? Any popular, local characters I should meet? Is there some tucked away bar or restaurant that shouldn’t be overlooked? A little known spelunking site that’s worth a peek? Lemme know!