The last post gave an overview of comet relationships, so you might want to go back and read that if you haven’t already. Here I am talking about how comet relationships help with self-consent, so I’ll start with a working definition of comet relationships:
“A comet is a person that passes through your life repeatedly for short periods of deep and intense connection, followed by longer periods of distance. The relationship has little enmeshment and rarely contains ongoing obligations.” Sophia @loveuncommon
But what makes comet relationships so awesome for self-consent?
1. The structure of the relationship promotes negotiation between sexual/romantic encounters.
One great thing about structuring a relationship around periods of intense closeness and then apartness, is that it builds in time for negotiation when you’re coming back together. Often there is some excitement, and a period of reacquaintance. This helps people to remember to check in and be curious about the other person’s experience, something that can be lost in more traditional forms of relationships. This means that there are regular opportunities to talk about how participants can treat each other consensually, and prompts you to consider our own self-consent.
2. It is easier to accept big changes and to own up to changing desires and boundaries because of the structure of the relationship.
Related to the first point, there is some expectation of change built into a comet relationship, which is the polar opposite of most cohabiting relationships. In a comet relationship most people expect that the other will have done some changing and growing. It may be that they have a new partner, a new hobby or a new pet. It may be that they have discovered that they love a new sexual activity or now have a passion for something they didn’t before. The passage of time between contact normalises this. As a result, comet relationship are often more flexible and adaptable. This allows us much more freedom to express our changing selves and to be more in touch with these changes in ourselves.
3. There is less pressure to be someone’s ‘everything’ or to be into everything the other person is into
There is a common fantasy, particularly prevalent amongst cohabiting couples, that it’s possible to meet all of their partners needs. This fantasy is somewhat less prevalent amongst non-monogamous folks in general, but in comet relationships it would be ludicrous to think that you could be someone’s everything. You’re just not present enough. This really takes off the pressure and helps many people to be more authentically themselves and less tied to the pattern of being someone’s manic pixie dreamboat.
4. Divergent desires are less destabilising that they might be in a conventional relationship
Divergent desires can really undermine relationships, particularly where these relate to our sexuality. Lots of us are ashamed of aspects of our desire, and we fear bringing these into our relationships because we might be rejected. In comet relationships, the norm is that we share overlapping interests and leave the rest without judgement. For many people that makes it easier to disclose all of our interests and desires, in the expectation that we will enjoy areas of overlap and simply set aside desires that aren’t shared. This allows us to focus on what it is that we would most like, and to sit with our own desires, as well as helping us to feel more comfortable sharing them.
5. Less processing of needs, desires, boundaries has to be done in real-time, so there is less urgency and more space.
One of the things that commonly interferes with self-consent is urgency. In many relationships with lots of enmeshment, people lack the time to deeply consider what they want or need. Things happening in ‘real-time’ can carry us away like a river current in a flood. We can get swept along with NRE, or with a desire to please our partner or to be kind and generous. Our own needs can get put on the back burner until they become overwhelming. While comet relationships have one kind of urgency – after all the deep connection time is limited – participants usually have quite a lot of time before and after to sit with their needs and desires. These are often shared in advance, with quite a lot of negotiation to get on the same emotional page. The spaciousness of the structure of a comet relationship often gives participants time and freedom to deeply consider their wants and needs.
For me, these aspects of comet relationship make them really appealing, growthful and connected – a far cry from the disposable and commitment-free picture painted by the More Than Two Glossary. If you’re in comet relationships, I’d invite you to think about the ways that they help you to bring your attention to self-consent. If you’ve not tried this relationship structure before, I’d invite you to think about how your current relationships open up and close down opportunities for self-consent in the areas I outline above.