The Bonobo Factor: No Jealousy

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Read the introduction to this series of posts here.

Bonobo Love Secret 04 - Jealousy Isn’t Romantic

“Sex At Dawn” co-author Christopher Ryan writes:

While bonobos no-doubt experience unique feelings for one another, they don’t seem to worry much about controlling one another’s sex lives. Nor do bonobos seem to gossip much...

What does this mean for us?

Jealousy. Whew, it’s a big subject. Too many times, sadly, I have heard someone say that their spouse/partner/lover’s jealousy makes them feel more loved, or that their jealousy indicates the intensity of their love.

This is so opposite to our deepest desire to be loved unconditionally. To be loved for exactly who we are.  To be loved even if we stray outside expectations.

Love is, by its very nature, not possessive. Enter the bonobos. They share everything, including sex. They are free to enjoy each other intimately in whatever combinations they desire, despite having unique feelings of affection for particular companions.

Do you know what the opposite of jealousy is? The word used to describe it is compersion. Wikipedia defines it as:

An empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy.

The word is largely recognized to have originated from the Kerista Commune
that formed in the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco in the late 1960s, early 70s. Their community relationship model was described by another word they invented: “polyfidelity” (a group of equal male and female partners, all committed to be sexually fidelous within the group only). They used the word compersion to describe the happiness and joy experienced when one of their partners was sharing intimacy with another. (I’m sure the Kerista Commune will come up again as part of a future blog post.)

Just like bonobos, we have unique feelings of love for certain people. Within the framework of love, imagine not controlling your partner’s physical or emotional experiences with others.  Take a moment right now and imagine that you are watching your primary partner experiencing loving sexual pleasure with another. What are you feeling?  Most often, it is our worry about our imagined deficits that trigger jealousy.  We are scared to live without the traditional rules that appear to provide us with a sense of security.

But here’s what the bonobos inspire us to ask ourselves: if we truly believe our partner is a beautiful person, and we truly want whatever is best for them, why could we not watch them making love with another and feel compersion? That is, to feel joy and happiness that our partner gets to experience moments of beauty with another, and also to feel joy from sharing our partner’s wonderful traits with that other person.

The bonobos challenge us to look at a model of community that puts an end to jealousy.  They say, “Why not try open, loving sexual energy generated by the female sisterhood that keeps everyone deeply connected?” The bonobos tell us that compersion—not jealousy—is romantic.

Hmm... a community without jealousy and insecurity. Imagine that!

Read Part Six HERE