Compersion is an emotional state that isn't widely discussed: namely, it's experiencing empathy and genuine happiness when you see your beloved share romantic affection with someone who isn't you.
It's one of those concepts that can seem pretty far-fetched if you've grown up being told that the only "real" relationships are monogamous ones and that a partner who gets a little jealous now and again is just showing that he or she cares. Sure, a person can go overboard with the whole jealousy thing, all the way from being clingy to being irrationally demanding to killling someone ... but it's just human nature, right? After all, the alpha male of any old-fashioned romance novel is a hot-tempered, passionate stud who guards his beloved from the eyes and hands of other men as jealously as any dragon guarding a hoard of gold. In the world of romantic partners-as-possessions, jealousy rules the day.
So compersion can seem like some real pie-in-the-sky hippie stuff at first. When my husband and I first became polyamorous, I was resigned to the notion that he would have girlfriends. The other relationships would be good for him, and for that I was glad, because I love him and he loves me and we want each other to be happy ... but to see him in the arms of some other woman? I figured that at best I'd be silently gritting my teeth.
In past unsuccessful relationships, I'd gotten used to playing second fiddle to my partners' careers, hobbies, families, TV shows, you name it. I've been okay with the idea of sharing since kindergarten. But when I'd found myself ditched and left out in the cold, I'd felt the fire of jealousy burn hot and bitter. In light of those remembered emotional conflagrations, I figured my odds of feeling compersion were as probable as my odds of finding a unicorn while walking in the woods.
But then, one day I came home from work and found my husband and his girlfriend curled up around each other on the couch asleep ... and they looked as cute as a couple of kittens. They were seriously adorable. They looked so happy ... and I realized I was standing in the doorway with a goofy-ass grin on my face. I was happy that they were happy and warm and cozy. It was compersion! This elusive four-leafed clover of emotions was real!
The key, I think, is being secure in your relationship and feeling that your own emotional and physical needs are being met. If you feel that your partner's other relationship is making your own life poorer, there's no damn way that you'll feel good about it. It just won't happen. Same if you've had a terrible day or are hungry or not feeling well. At best you'll just be gritting your teeth and silently bearing it as another emotional burden instead of celebrating your partner's joy.