Let’s start at the beginning. ‘Comet’ isn’t all that new to the poly lexicon, but I’ve found lots of people that are unfamiliar with the term, so I’m going to start with what it means. The More Than Two glossary defines a comet as:
“An occasional lover who passes through one’s life semi-regularly, but without an expectation of continuity or a romantic relationship.”
I couldn’t disagree more with the second half of this definition. A polyamory reddit post contains a definition that I agree much more with:
“A person that passes through your life repeatedly who is intense and awesome, and when gone you are still in contact with that person in some way, but they are not a continuous partner.”
But it still doesn’t quite capture my experience with comet relationships. I see them as having elliptical orbits like comets in space. My comet relationships are with people that are important to me and with whom I retain an emotional bond and often a romantic bond irrespective of the distance between us, but we have no financial or practical enmeshment. When they come closely into my orbit (or I come into theirs), and we get time together either in person or by some sort of online method, our connection is deep and intense and wonderful. There is a beauty that comes with the knowledge that these moments of deep connection will last a relatively short time, and then we will return to being further apart. We spend most of our time much more distant from each other. Going on with our lives, other relationships, friendships and activities. This spaciousness does not diminish the importance of these relationships, rather it is their essence. Whilst there isn’t constant contact or communication, there remains a continuity within them – of affection, attraction, interest and desire.
I have had comet relationships from before I knew a name for them. My longest relationship takes this form. It is nourishing and loving and a source of joy. All of my closest people know the delight I take in that relationship and its importance to me. The idea that it lacks continuity or romance is ridiculous. It has both in bucket loads. It also has love, spaciousness and connection. I do not expect that every return will be the same in its intensity, or what we do when we come together. That depends very much on what we each bring to those moments and what we want. There are times when life throws difficult stuff at one or both of us, and we know we can turn to each other if that is what we need.
Another comet relationship is altogether different – we would rarely turn to each other if stuff was difficult because that isn’t a role we fill in each other’s lives. We still have chemistry and connection and intimacy around all kinds of things. We have a shared (and well negotiated) desire to spend some time together, that time varies from a meal to a weekend. Again, there is a continuity in our relationship, but it is very spacious. I see it a lot like breathing. When breathing in – we get closer, its full of excitement and energy and newness. Breathing out – we move apart, relax, come back to our lives. I value the depth of connection we have when we are together, and the spaciousness we have when apart.
For me, comet relationships are the easiest to negotiate. They typically contain few ongoing expectations or obligations and no financial or practical enmeshment. They are usually focused on the time we spend in person with each other. One of the most wonderful and scary things about comet relationships is the need to negotiate desires, fantasies and intentions. With time so short, it is really important to get to a shared understanding of what we want to create between us. How we will hold space for each other, how we want to feel, how we want to part. It is also very important to negotiate what comes next. I have a much greater need to check in after a period of intense togetherness than either of my comet partners. That means I’ve got to be explicit about that, and ask them for it. It is wonderful to have something so rewarding that pushes me towards my values of being authentically myself, and being curious about what we both want. You can read more about this in a future post about comet relationships and trauma.
Comet relationships bring variety and continuity. They are new and old at the same time. They offer me a way to explore myself in connection with someone that is slightly different to the person I connected with last time. They are spacious and flexible and nourishing. They allow me to be intensely close to people I could never live with or have more entangled relationships with because of incompatibilities that would arise. The most important healing of my life has occurred with the help of comet partners, and I would never devalue these relationships by suggesting that they aren’t ‘proper relationships’ or that there is no expectation of continuity. They certainly queer expectations of what relationships should look like, being a far cry from the ideal of monogamous marriage, but I think that might be exactly what I like about them!