I've posted this at a couple of other poly groups and have
gotten some really interesting feedback. I'm still dealing with
this situation in my own life, so I continue to seek the
perspectives of others.
Caveat: People's worldviews are clearly too complex to be
classified into three types. The three worldviews described
below are merely convenient fictions to help pose the questions
at the end.
1. People have different worldviews about love and sexual
intimacy in marital relationships.
One worldview is that love implies an exclusive sexual
relationship. "If you love me, you will not have sexual
relationships with anyone other than me." This exclusivity
underlies the culture of monogamy to which most people in our
A second worldview is that love implies happiness when a partner
has satisfying sexual relationships with anyone else. "I love
you, so I'm happy whenever you have enjoyable sexual
relationships with anyone." This compersion underlies the
culture of absolute sexual freedom to which many proponents of
open marriage and free love subscribe.
A third worldview is that love implies companionship in sexual
relationships. "We love each other, so let's share our sexual
relationships with other partners." This companionship underlies
culture of couple-oriented or group-oriented relationships to
which many proponents of swinging and polyfidelity subscribe.
We can set these three worldviews on a continuum in terms of
opportunities for sexual relationships with extramarital
Exclusivity – no opportunity for sexual relationships with
Companionship – limited opportunity for sexual relationships
with extramarital partners.
Compersion – unlimited opportunity for sexual relationships with
We can also set these worldviews on a continuum in terms of
circumstances that give rise to jealousy and emotional pain.
Exclusivity – any sexual relationships with extramarital
partners provoke jealousy and emotional pain.
Companionship – sexual relationships with shared extramarital
partners do not provoke jealousy and emotional pain; but sexual
relationships with extramarital partners not shared provoke
jealousy and emotional pain.
Compersion – no sexual relationships with extramarital partners
provoke jealousy and emotional pain.
It is unlikely that people adopt one of these worldviews based
on logical arguments. It is more likely that people adopt one of
these worldviews based on a combination of their cultural
upbringing, their personal relationship experiences, and their
biological makeup (e.g., natural variations in brain areas
associated with attachment, pairbonding, and sexuality). They
probably adopt the worldview that makes the most sense in light
of their history, experiences, and
predispositions. Consequently, changing from one worldview to
another worldview is not a simple matter; it requires
fundamental changes in how one makes sense of oneself and one's
intimate social relationships.
Since exclusivity is the only socially sanctioned worldview,
people often do not have sufficient opportunity to explore and
discover whether companionship or compersion better suits them
until after they have married.
This is analogous to sexual orientation. Since heterosexuality
is the only socially sanctioned orientation, people often do not
have sufficient opportunity to explore their sexual orientation
after they have entered an opposite-sex marriage. Many come to
realize their homosexuality or bisexuality after marrying
Since exclusivity is the most widely accepted worldview, and
therefore adopted by the greatest number of people, we most
often see examples where one partner has an exclusivity
worldview and the other partner has either a companionship or a
compersion worldview. Much has already been written about
this situation. But it also happens that married partners come
to realize one has a companionship worldview and the other has a
This poses a number of challenges to the marriage.
2. When one partner holds a companionship worldview and another
partner holds a compersion worldview, the partners can come to
view each other negatively.
Suppose Jack has a compersion worldview and Jill has a
companionship worldview. This difference can cause Jack and Jill
face to see each other as selfish individuals.
Jack sees Jill as unable to be happy unless she gets direct
gratification from the relationship. She is demanding Jack to
not become involved with extramarital partners who do not also
be with her. Jack sees Jill as selfishly denying him the freedom
to be with extramarital partners unless she gets her enjoyment,
Jill sees Jack as being uncaring about her feelings. Jack is
demanding to get enjoyment from extramarital partners no matter
how badly it makes Jill feel. Jack responds to Jill's feelings
telling her to exercise her own sexual freedom. She sees Jack as
placing his own selfish gratification above his primary
partner's feelings and taking an "I got mine, you get yours"
attitude about love and relationships.
Their different worldviews can also cause Jack and Jill to see
each other as psychologically inferior with respect to
Jack feels little or no jealousy. (Indeed, he may have adopted a
compersion worldview in part because it makes sense given his
general lack of jealousy.) Jack may consequently see jealousy as
something unnecessary and avoidable. If people just tried hard
enough, or just thought about things clearly enough, they
wouldn't bring the poison of jealousy into relationships. People
who feel jealousy have no one to blame but themselves. They
should get over it. People who feel jealous and seek sympathy
for those feelings are emotionally inferior to people who have
gotten past the whole business of jealousy.
Jill sees companionship as a key to successful, long-term
relationships. She grew up believing that couples who do things
together have a better chance at lasting relationships. "That
that plays together stays together," as the saying goes. People
who demand absolute freedom and independence have a naively
idealistic understanding of committed, long lasting
relationships. They should get real about what it takes to make
a marriage last. People who
insist on such absolute freedom have an inferior understanding
about what makes marriages work than people who understand the
importance of togetherness.
3. When one partner holds a companionship worldview and another
partner holds a compersion worldview, the partners can find
themselves in a conflict that pits jealousy against resentment.
Suppose again that Jack has a compersion worldview and Jill has
a companionship worldview.
If an extramarital partner agrees to become involved with both
Jack and Jill, no conflict need occur. Jack and Jill can both
enjoy the extramarital relationship.
If an extramarital partner wants to be involved with Jill alone,
no conflict need occur. Jill genuinely prefers to be involved in
extramarital relationships together with Jack. Besides, Jack is
with Jill having extramarital relationships by herself.
If the extramarital partner wants to be involved with Jack only,
a conflict will likely occur. Jack desires to be with the
extramarital partner. If he cannot be with the extramarital
partner because Jill will feel jealous, Jack may feel angry and
resentful over his lost opportunity. Jill, on the other hand,
wants Jack to turn down the extramarital partner. If he becomes
involved with the extramarital partner despite her feelings, she
will feel rejected and jealous. The conflict hinges on whether
Jack has to deal with feelings of anger and resentment or Jill
has to deal with feelings of rejection and jealousy.
(1) In marriages where one partner holds a companionship
worldview and another partner holds a compersion worldview, how
can the partners learn to accept their differing worldviews
without viewing each other negatively?
(2) In marriages where one partner holds a companionship
worldview and another partner holds a compersion worldview, how
can the partners resolve conflicts that pit jealousy against
Thanks for actually taking the time to read this far. I
genuinely look forward to hearing your thoughts on these two