In the poly community we spend a lot of time discussing compersion – the feeling of joy for your beloved when they are basking in their love for someone else. Contrasted with jealousy, compersion is a delicious experience, where the feeling of love grows exponentially in a relationship instead of creating a sense of competition and zero sum thinking. Much time has been spent in books and blogs exploring whether compersion is something that just happens or something we cultivate through practice and hard work. But what about grief?
If you’re living the poly life for long enough, you are bound to be with a partner who is going through a break-up. Like the twin flames of compersion and jealousy that rise up when we see our partner in love, we often have similar conflicting emotions when our partner is grieving. Part of us might be jumping up and down for joy that we get more time and attention from our partner, while another part of us feels guilty for that. Our heart breaks seeing our partner in pain. At the same time, we have trouble reconciling how they can be crying inconsolably at the loss of another, while we might be immersed in NRE.
In the mononormative world, a couple is likely to go through elation and strife together, feeling the pulse of one relationship as it slides through phases of first meeting and then the ups and downs of longevity. In the poly world, you and your partner might be in very different places with your metamours, and while one of you needs comfort and solace, the other is busy being excited for new love.
How do we honor our partner’s grief, or our own, while not letting those emotions subsume all the good stuff? Self-care is crucial, whether it’s you letting go of someone or your partner who’s grieving. Take the time to nourish yourself as well as your relationships. Cultivate compassion, while also keeping healthy boundaries. Try to enjoy the weird paradox that grief and love can coexist side by side.