If you hang around polyamorous circles long enough, you run into the concept of 'compersion'. It refers to the state, when you and a partner are involved in multiple relationships, where a partner's happiness with another person brings you happiness because you're genuinely invested in their own well-being and you don't view that relationship as a threat to your own.
Whether it's a natural outgrowth of healthy polyamory or a general goal some people struggle towards is a matter of hotly debated opinion, and I'm not going to weigh in on it here. I'm here today to talk about a different type of compersion: the manner in which it relates to the people your partner loves but is specifically not involved romantically with. I'm talking about seeking compersion with your partner's friend group.
I am part of a large, caring, close-knit tribe. We're loud, loving, honest and heavily invested in our success as individuals and as a group. Many of us struggle with some form of chronic physical or mental illness, so we support one another on the bad days and celebrate the good ones. We've got a diverse skillset that includes domestic, medical, technical, literary, financial, and social skills, and each of us is happy to put those skills to use to help one another, so that we all benefit from what we each have. Without this group, my depression would have claimed me years ago; other friends would have failed in things they wanted or needed.
Over the years, some of the people I've dated have been intimidated by my tribe. They see this group of unfailing advocates as somehow arrayed *against* them, in competition for my time, energy, or affection. One poor fellow once told me, "Well, I just feel like if they don't like me, you won't like me."
He had it backwards. If I love you and they see that you love me, my tribe will look at you through that filter, and if they don't understand what I see in you, they'll try to find it, try to build a relationship with you, try to meet you on some common ground, because they want my highest good. They are invested in me being well and happy, and they consider anyone who is invested in me being well and happy as their ally. It takes a lot for them to say, "No, I'm sorry, I know that this person is important to you, but I can't accept them." And in most cases, that starts with a partner rejecting the friends, not the other way around.
The effects of having a tribe like mine have been twofold. The first was that I chose not to pursue a relationship with anyone who treated my tribe as adversaries, and I feel that I'm much better for it. If someone couldn't respect the people who love and support me as an important part of my life and necessary to my emotional health, then that person wasn't committed to my happiness. My partner, on the other hand, has been delighted to find that I had such a wonderful support system, and he has really enjoyed building relationships with them. Our wedding was a celebration of shared happiness surrounded by people committed to supporting it.
The other effect is that I view my partner's friends as MY allies in his happiness. He has a group of good friends, and I have made it a point to know and have relationships with his friends, because if they are the people he enjoys and loves, who share in his triumphs and support him in his troubles, then they're on my side because they're on his. When he goes out with them, and has a good time, I get the benefit of seeing him happy. When we hang out together, we all have the shared baseline of valuing my partner upon which to build our own friendships.
That's where, for me, non-romantic compersion comes into play. I have some interests my partner does not share. He likes to do some things I either don't have time and energy for or an interest in doing. If we tried to be everything to one another, tried to be the sole support, then we'd both be less happy. But I can see him come home from an afternoon of games with his buddies, or plan to go out with a friend to see a show, and celebrate the joy he has in doing things he enjoys. When we have separate experiences, we have things to talk about together. Even in our monogamous relationship, we can embrace the things and people outside our relationship that make one another happy, and take our own pleasure from it.
Too often, I see the partners of friends or loved ones look at established friendships with suspicion, as obstacles to be navigated or power struggles to be won. I've seen partners who treated friends as competition for a finite resource, and that hurts everyone.
Love is never a finite resource; time is. And you have the choice, in your relationships, to compete for that finite resource and ensure that someone doesn't get enough of it, or to share it with the people who, when your beloved's demons come calling, will stand beside you as you help to fight them.