balancing the “gap” in polyamory

When you discover a new term for something…

A while back, I’m speaking with a fifty-ish woman, sparkling silver scarf wrapped round her neck.  She’s a little shy, but attempting to open herself to connections.  Somewhat new-ish to kink and very much brand new to polyamory (yes, some of the conversation is embellished for the purpose of the writing, but more or less as it happened). She’s doing her best to understand my comfort with my partner being with other women, and him being okay with me having relations with other men (nobody wonders about my relationships with other women).

I want to ease her into understanding. I drop my soap box of “Why the hell would I leave monogamy just to go to a relationship where I can only be with one man yet again?” and “Why shouldn’t I be able to date whom I please? I’m supposedly a grown woman, you know, my body, my choice…except for who I actually love?” She just left a -very likely- toxic marriage, at the very least vanilla with little to no discussion on consent, sexual needs, etc; she’s attempting to push herself into something new and very scary. She needs soft.

“Well, I trust him,” I say. “We both know each other, our needs, our wants. But sometimes we want something that the other can’t provide. Or, sometimes, I just see something in someone, and I want a closer connection with that person. Just because my partner provides for a certain need, doesn’t mean I want him to be the only one that provides for that need.”

“Oh, okay,” she says. “So it’s fine to just meet and be with other people?”

“Sure, “I say, “Although…” I pause.


“Well, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes you end up with someone, and they end up being much better a match for you than the person(s) you are with at the time. And, well, even in polyamory people do leave partners for someone else. You have to be careful of..” and a word comes to me “…the gap.”

“The gap?”

“There’s always a gap between what you want someone to be and what they are. That’s being human. We always want more. It’s okay. We all do it. But in a healthy relationship, we accept a person for who they are. After all, we’re the same ourselves. So what? We aren’t perfect. Our partners shouldn’t have to be, either. Doesn’t mean we entirely stop wanting more, so…there’s the gap.”

Silver Scarf Lady nods in understanding.

“But if that gap is too big? It can be problematic. That’s how people end up leaving their partners for other people. That ‘gap’ between what they wanted from their partner and what they are is just too much.  I don’t know what that means for you. Maybe you’re okay with a larger gap, or maybe a smaller one. It differs with the person. But if you pretend that gap is okay and it isn’t? It will end up being a strain on the relationship. You’ll have relationship problems. All those stories you read about difficult polyamorous relationships? It’s not always the reason, but it’s a fairly common and rather avoidable situation.  People trying too hard to make themselves fit with each other. Round pegs in square holes. Maybe it’s due to the well intentioned but misguided belief that to really be polyamorous we should be able to love and make it work with anyone. I can love anyone, I think many can. I can find something beautiful in every human being. Still, the gap exists even then, because just because I love them doesn’t mean I can be with them. Or them be with me. Love, as my mother taught me, isn’t enough. Not on its own.  We love them, but that doesn’t mean we can be in a romantic relationship with them. Sometimes it’s the wrong person– for us.”

“Do you think the gap is insurmountable in forming a relationship?”

“No, but I think it makes it much more difficult. And when you’re engaged in multiple, emotional, physical relationships, it may be more than it’s worth to overcome in any particular relationship. We end up spending all of our time on someone who will never happen, while neglecting the ones who are more closely aligned with our values and goals. We only have so much time, after all, even if we have all the love to give.”

“I’ll keep on eye out on the gap,” she says, smiling.

“Sure. And hey, I’ve experienced incredible moments with folk with whom I had a huge gap. Completely untenable in a serious relationship. But not every relationship has to be serious, you know?”

“Absolutely,” she smirks.

She tasted a few of these, I suspect. The kind of relationships that last hours, days, maybe months. The grin on her face says everything.

She keeps chatting with me, explaining how she’s exploring, what she’s been up to. New people she’s met, etc. I don’t know if she’s one of those that will stay in my life forever, or not past this evening. Who cares? She’s fascinating in her own right.

It’s fun to come up with new ways to describe and understand people, relationships.

I’m glad I was able to talk to her.

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