The Aspiration Gap

***Okay.  This one is long, really really long.  I’m sorry.  I had a bit of a crisis and rethought everything.  Feel free to skim or skip.


I’m thinking about the aspiration gap. We take our hopes and wishes and expectations and compare them to reality.  The difference between what we want and hope for and what actually exists determines in great part how happy we are, and this is the aspiration gap.  There is a good article here describing this idea in more detail.  The really short version of this is that researchers measured happiness and expectation and found them to have an inverse effect, meaning that when people have reasonable or low expectations they were happier.  It seems that the happiness with what actually happens is less important than how it measures up to what we thought or hoped would happen.  If we expected $100,000 a year and got $90,000 we were less happy than when we expected $50,000 and got $60,000.

This is so damn true.

How many times were you surprised by great little things and tickled by the smallest things and saddened by the rewards that came and were actually great but not really what you’d thought would happen?  I’m just adjusting my expectations and taking stock.  I’m finding that I’m loved and supported, exactly as I want and need, and more, but maybe not how I pictured.  I had some of this wrong.  And you know, fuck judging myself for having feelings about that sometimes.  I am allowed to feel this stuff.  It’s okay to want and need.  I can fuck up.  And I can admit when I’m wrong and apologize.

So this weekend Traveler was talking about all of his plans and such and I was enjoying talking to him about all this, as I do.  And I noticed something I never noticed before.  I wasn’t in his plans.  I don’t think much about that most of the time.  We really aren’t to the “building stuff around each other” place.  But he was talking specifically about his living arrangements and his home.  And he has this like 10 year plan.  And I’m not in any of that.  So I asked.  “How does this look for you.. your future living plans and your.. maybe.. like.. hopes or whatever?  Is there.. other stuff in there?”.  Hemming and hawing ensued.  I was trying to tread lightly.   Eventually I cleared what I was asking and he said he just really hadn’t thought about it.



I thought about our conversations about little mystical futures and the way he’d said he’d like to co-habitate with partners maybe, and when he could see a plan that had us all growing older together, talking about himself and Quinky and me…and that this might be nice and it makes a lot of sense.  We’d been fuzzy about how.  But we’d talked about this.  I thought he was talking about me when he talked about living somehow with another partner.  He wasn’t.  He said it.  “I was just kinda dreaming then.  I just never thought about it with you”.  I tilted on the axis.  Wait.  This is.. what happened to… how… wait.. what?

He doesn’t want this life with me I thought we were making so slowly and so well.  That’s not what he meant?  He doesn’t want that with me?  He’s not thinking of any of that?  Oh my God.  Oops.  So dumb.  Big dumb dog!  Shit.  Back pedal.  Why?  Why doesn’t he?  Oh no.  Why did I think he meant… wait.. what had he actually said?  Did I just misunderstand?  Did I hear what I wanted to hear in what he’d said?  I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter.

Big dumb dog!  Stupid slobbery wanting dog.  You read into things, didn’t  you? big dumb dog



Traveler doesn’t want that.  No.  Traveler doesn’t want that with me.  He and his last partner talked about living together.  He’d been madly in love with her.  He’d been crazy about her.  I’m not part of his picture.  I was so embarrassed.  How had I gotten that so phenomenally wrong?  What the hell did he mean when he talked about sharing our lives?  What the hell did his response mean when I asked him over these last months if he’d considered living with other partners somehow?  If he’d considered me?  What did he mean when he said the things he’d said?  Does it matter?  I can’t believe I got that so wrong.

He asked “you didn’t think the three of us would live in a house, did you?”.  I laughed and said of course not.  And I hadn’t… exactly.  Not that I’d move in with him and Quinky Girl.  But yes.  I thought that when he talked to me about his dreams, and his openness, well.. I thought he’d thought about living with me… or sharing time somehow.. or something.  Or like we’d live in houses on the same street or next door or I’d be in a small house next door or something.  Don’t laugh at me.  I can’t believe I did that to myself.  And I don’t think he had the faintest fucking clue what I’d done there.  For a long time now I thought we were sort of slowly slowly working toward something that it seems he’d never thought of.

I tried to be cool and wasn’t.  I rolled over and cried as silently as I could for a while.  Until I broke.  There was so much shit in there.  There was shit in there about me and about poly.  What is wrong with me and can I really live this life?  I love the idea that there would be no primaries, but that isn’t really true, is it?  Is it ever?  Will it ever be?  And can I love like this when over and over and over and over… it’s not for me.  I listed it all off in my head.  Am I really so terrible.. so less than.. so crappy… that not only does EVERYONE want someone else more… always… always.. but nobody wants ME.  I KNOW!  I know how crazy this is, but this is the whisper in the dark.  It’s the bullshit in my head.  If you don’t get that, I’m so happy for you.  I had to untangle this.  Quinky helped.

dog outsideBut I asked myself, can I really live this life?  I can accept and understand not being first, and I’m proud of myself for getting that.  It’s not fucking easy and you know, fuck you if that sounds bad.  Try it.  It’s not that fucking easy and I got there.  I can totally accept and be happy not being first.  But can I accept not even being in there?  I’m not second or third or ninth.  What if I’m not even in there?  When he talked about the things he wanted he didn’t mean any of that with me.  I get to hear all the time how a lover needs to crawl out of my arms because she (the better one.. the real one?) has wants or needs.  Would he still throw me away if she asked him to?  Probably.  Fuck.  I’m too afraid to ask.  I’ve heard him talk about the women he was in love with and the things he wanted with them. I heard him talk about his dreams for the future and  I stupidly thought he meant some of it with me.  I can see in his eyes how much he loves me.  Every now and then he tells me because he knows I need to hear it.  But I thought we were talking about things we weren’t talking about.

You big stupid slobbery disgusting needy fucking dog.

This line of thought had me throwing out everything because I got part of it wrong.  And that is all me.  He asked me if I was unhappy with us.  And I told him honestly that no.. I am very happy with us.  And he asked if I was so unhappy where I lived.  And I said no.  I love my apartment.  And he asked if I was really so unhappy living the way I am.  Well…. that’s where it’s sticky.  I love my life.  I’m good.  But I have to admit I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being on the side and not really belonging to anyone or having them belong to me in some way.

I know.. I know… so much of this was my cynic.  I got one thing wrong.. one very big thing, and I was thinking maybe I got the whole thing wrong.  And that’s not fair or accurate.  Just because Traveler hasn’t imagined living some way with me doesn’t mean that our whole relationship is a ruin.  It doesn’t change where things are now and how happy I am.  I have NEVER had the affection I have with him before.  No one has ever held me like that, for hours.  He never gets tired of touching me.  He never pulls away.  And I see everything there in his eyes and his touch.  I’ll admit I wish he said more things sometimes, but he tells me enough out loud and everything else I see.  And I didn’t get that wrong because I got wrong the way I thought we were both dreaming about our future.  And for that matter.. I don’t think I got all of that wrong either.  He has said enough very clearly that he has dreamt of things with me.  I don’t think I understood the way he talked about cohabitation, but I didn’t dream up every little dream.  There is something more complex there.

But it still got me thinking about why I jump to the worst possible view.  Why is my cynic so powerful?  And why couldn’t I just say aloud to him “I thought you were talking about living with me somehow”.  Why am I SO FUCKING AFRAID of being the big dumb dog.  Why does it embarrass me so much that I crave some kind of small security?  And what about everything real and precious and wonderful here?  Would I ever want to give it all up if we didn’t share a living space of some sort?  Fuck no.  What is it really about living together that I need?  Can I get that security another way?

What about the fact that I’m already whole.  I don’t need any of this.  I HAVE NOW the love and support I want here.  And why is it so bad to say I wouldn’t be happy forever if I just can’t ever really be a member at my family’s table.   I keep thinking that Traveler is somehow telling me that I’m growing a little in his life and that I won’t always be his extra.  I keep thinking I can be one of his partners.  I keep feeling that maybe I am.  I’m not stupid.  I know I’ll always be less.  And there are degrees of that that I can be really and truly happy with and degrees of that where I will never be happy.  I know I will always be Cleveland’s side-piece and I know that one day this will not work anymore.  It’s just untenable.

I think to do well at poly I needed to learn to not need to be number one.  I admit this was one of the hardest things I’ve learned.  Please don’t judge me for having struggled with this obvious fact.  But I wonder if to be happy at poly I’m going to have to accept that I’ll NEVER be one of the number ones or the inner circle or whatever.  I’m not sure it’s a thing I even need to know right this second.


And I have to admit a lot of this is tweaked by a little gene.  If you were wondering why this is coming up for me, I think it’s this.  I have the BRCA gene and am waiting to find out how bad it is.  I found this out this past week.  My grandmothers and my mother had breast cancer, and one had both ovarian and breast cancer, and I got tested for the gene that is associated with this kind of family history and I have it.  This means I have something like a 60-90% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40-70% chance of ovarian cancer.  It will take at least a month for more answers and more percents.  But the cancer word stings.  I think I worry about what this will mean for my life and my loves.  This is kinda big stuff for dating.  It’s the thing Angelina Jolie had and why she decided to have a double mastectomy.  I don’t know that I will have to make this decision, but even on the low end of risk it’s something to consider.  On the higher end it’d be crazy not to.  Preventative surgeries can lower my risk approximately 80% across the board.

So what does that mean?

It’d mean some surgeries and in the end I’d have beautiful fake boobs and never have periods and have very very very low risk of ever having the cancers that made me not have grandmothers.  There;s a lot more to this, but here on my love, sex and relationship blog I’m wondering.. what does this mean for my loves?  What is reasonable to ask?  To expect? To hope for?  I don’t have a model for this.  So far my loves are non-plussed and sweet, except Quinky.  She immediately promised she would be there in a way I understood she meant fully.  I think she’d spoon feed me mush she made herself if I needed her to.  It’s so funny to me that if I were in the movie Jerry McGuire, she’d be in the elevator with me.

It’s not that I doubt that Cleveland or Traveler would be helpful or kind.  I love kind men.  But what does this mean?  The recovery time should be relatively quick, even with the worst case scenario.  Stuff like this makes you think about the big picture.  What will happen if we’re talking big things?  Traveler is not a dick and never would be. But if I got all of this wrong and this is just a beautiful love for now, and we’ll never have any kind of tangible commitment, what does that mean?

Traveler and I talked about things like commitment ceremonies and living together in some way and growing old together, and I knew that these were just our dreams for now, and these were far off things, but I thought we were sort of preliminarily planning, and if I got all of that wrong.. what does this mean?  Will it always be those I love, building lives and dreams with others, and will I always be outside looking in?  Nobody knows this.  Nobody has a crystal ball.  So I then ask myself… does this work for me now?  Am I happy and do I want to do this now?

That at least in empirically clear.  I love Cleveland.  I love being with him.  I love our chemistry and our hobbies and our talks.  I know it will end and that makes me sad, but I want to treasure it all now.  I am so fucking in love with Traveler.  I love our passion and connection and the absolute wonder of this thing.   I love his values and his affection and his mind.  I love the pure and utter good of him.  It’s crystalline clear that this makes me happy right here and right now.

So.. well.. I’m starting there.  And I’m still asking myself all the things this brought up about me and how I see my relationships and how I respond.  I’m still working a bunch of that out.  That’s a tangled mess.

Incidentally.. just for a laugh.. my repeated asking of “What does it mean” makes me think of the youtube double rainbow guy.  I just thought I’d try to leave you with a  chuckle.



  1. ARRRRRRRRRGH! Your posts have been so difficult to read lately because oh my dear Lord, I can imagine myself writing them. In fact, if I dug out some old journals I bet I could find some pretty similar words. Jesus. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that you feel crappy and unchosen and less-than. I’m sorry that being injured and finding out about your BRCA status leaves you feeling frightened and vulnerable…which makes you feel clingy and needy and demanding (bad dog!) Which also pisses you off because you generally feel strong and in control and sexy and alive and happy and you hate feeling so…weak…vulnerable…human…

    If it makes you feel any better (I can’t imagine that it will,) even the most wonderful, inclusive, lovingly-discussed aspirations and plans can go entirely off the rails. You can plan your cohab, merge your households, families, kids, pets, bills, furniture…discuss the where, when & how of your commitment ceremony…and have it all go down the shitter. Someone is terrified, someone is manipulative, someone is selfish, someone is abusive, someone gets left out. Human feelings and behaviors manifest and under the scrutiny of multiple partners with individual needs and opinions, little issues can turn into big issues and vice-versa.

    Your commitment to and belief in a poly lifestyle and your love, affection and passion for your partners can leave you saying “but overall, everything is pretty good” when it’s really not. And sometimes…you feel like the “bad dog” when you bring up your legitimate feelings because everyone else is cruising along having such a swell time and can resent you bringing up “un-fun” topics such as your needs, fears, desires, wants and hopes for the future.

    You have to do what’s right for you. Perhaps that’s focusing on your overall health right now – starting with the geneticist. Maybe the foot fracture was a means of opening your consciousness to thinking about how you might manage surgery (if you opt for the preventative mastectomy,) or a potential illness. You are so right to examine these feelings and to talk with your partners.

    Love & Health to you!


  2. This weekend was rough with me too. My lover said he would be fine without me. He didn’t mean it like it sounds, it’s a complicated situation. My husband and I were fighting, my job sucks and I was talking about leaving, he meant it as he would be fine if I chose to leave, reassurance. He told me awhile ago he lives in the now but always says I am there when he pictures his future. However, he has made it clear how he feels for his wife, his children, and though I’m not second, I am not priority either.

    Part of being poly, I have learned is opening up. It’s hard for everyone. Damn hard. I finally admitted my feelings are stronger for my lover, though he doesn’t feel the same (everyone is equal but different). I feel like an idiot for letting myself think otherwise. You need to come clean with Traveler. I don’t believe he was forthright with you. I don’t doubt his love at all, nor should you but if you don’t come clean it will fester until your soul rots away. Your feelings are legitimate no matter how rational or irrational they maybe.

    As for your health, from 2 hat you have talked about these people love you and will continue to do so. Build your family. Build your relationships. Build your support. Don’t do this alone.


  3. Oh my words.

    There is so much going on with you right now, it’s a wonder you aren’t balled up in a sobbing mess!

    First off I just wanted to say great big hugs to you. What a plate full of doodoo 😦

    But you’re right, you need to get your health on track first and I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with this. It does make you vulnerable and needy in a way that nothing else will.

    Mix messages or reading into situations that you think you heard or misheard or did hear right but they never really clarified and kept general meaning that you could walk away thinking it was about you isn’t something to beat yourself up on.

    I think we all get swept up in the dream of something, it’s not always the reality – and we’re all scared to ask that question, is it with me?

    Remember how you’re already feeling vulnerable? Asking that question makes you even more open to being hurt so we all stumble at that one. It’s not just you, we all want to be wanted.

    I go through the same internal monologue as you when it comes to being poly. Will I always be the outsider to everyone’s inner circle? Even though I feel loved and desired and wanted, why do I always feel that it’s not enough? I don’t always want to live alone either. I think these are questions we all struggle with.

    I got invited to live in a household. The guy that asked me to marry him for years wants me to live with his now fiance – however due to the fact that we live in different countries marriage really hasn’t been an easy thing for me to agree to due to distance and the fact that I’ve seen him twice in 3 years. But I have reservations and I’ve been asking myself the same kinds of questions.

    It all boils down to unlearning this thing that has been hammered to far into our psyche that unlearning it is painful and hard. The thought that there’s one and then there’s everyone else. Or a hierarchy of some sort. All I know is that it sucks but please believe that you aren’t the only one struggling with these issues so reading about you going through similar issues gives me strength knowing that I’m not the only crazy one out there who hasn’t taken to being poly without a problem.

    And maybe put this one down to the learning curve of communication – maybe when dreams are being discussed it is the time to ask “with me?” … I mean, in order to give love and receive it, don’t we have to first make ourselves vulnerable and to trust the other person? Damn that cliff edge!

    Still sending you virtual hugs though because you deserve them all.


  4. None of us are 100% anything!! Relationships are hard no matter what- and hon- you have to open up to yourself and reach out for what makes you feel best. What you have with your loves is wonderful and special- but wanting to come first is completely understandable! Don’t beat yourself up for that! Wanting to hope and dream and plan the same plan with someone is completely understandable too!! If Harry did not love me the way does- completely, wholly and without distraction- and with no other partners- I would not be happy. That’s how I am- that’s what I need. And I AM living that poly life BTW- with Jack and Ellaria. Even their love would not be enough if I wasn’t the most special someone to somebody. My point is this: want what you want and stay open to the wonders and mysteries of the Universe so that love can find you when you are ready. You know where to find me if you need a sounding board. Xxxxoooo


  5. I’m rather struck by the fact that this particular blog entry which started with a sort of “feel free to ignore me I’m in a bad place” disclaimer from you, SPC, has a ton of LONG, heartfelt comments from folks who get it. Not only did we read what you posted, you touched us because sister, we’ve been there or we are there. Wow. Yay online community!


  6. Right? God I love that. I love that something like that would strike a cord and that beautiful people out there send such love and support. I wanna meet all of you. With cookies. And hugs. And cookies.

    I’m still thinking so much about this and the comments on this. So much good stuff to sift. Thank you. I’m so grateful.


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