If a relationship lasts long enough, it is inevitable that you will eventually experience The Gap – and the gap gets in the way of so much of happiness. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before we take a look at all the problems the gap causes and what the heck we can do about it, we must first define it.
The gap, friends, is that pesky difference between who you first imagined your partner was and the person who is actually sitting in front of you. The gap happens for sooooooo many reasons. To read more about all of the reasons and how you can help couples, click here.
- Romantic Projection – you are told so many stories about what love is supposed to be, that it colors the way that you look at a potential partner. In order for them to meet the romantic fantasy of being a perfect match, you only see the parts of them that fit into that picture, or, if you are quite good at magical thinking, you manage to see those parts even when they aren’t there at all!
- Marketing – at the beginning, your partner was putting their best foot forward. Because humans are social creatures who know what people usually want in a partner and a potential partner can also read all the signals you put out about what you like and don’t like, when you met they emphasized the things about themselves that fit into this image. In other words, they tried very hard to be what they thought you wanted them to be so that you would like them. Marketing can include hiding the parts of themselves they think you won’t like, slightly exaggerating traits you seem to like about them, or just straight up lying to win your favor.
- Circumstance – whenever, however and wherever you met, the activities you were engaging in or they way you were living your life made you seem like you were more compatible than you really are. For example, you met in school where you had so much in common because…you were both going to school!!! Now, you are out in the real world and it turns out that your interests, or how you like to spend your time, or how often you have energy to have sex have completely changed.
We are sure now that you are thinking about it, you can come up with some of the problems the gap causes. It can cause you to think that you were tricked or that your partner used to love you, but doesn’t love you anymore. It can cause you to go on a partner improvement spree, where you try to get your partner to be all the ways that you thought they were. It can cause you to feel like you made a wrong choice and, if you just keep looking, you will find the person that meets all of these needs.
We’d like to offer a different approach – we’d like you to Mind the Gap, by which we mean, keep in mind that the Gap will be there in every relationship. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wholeheartedly enjoy the beginning where everything feels perfect -being so doped up on hormones and projections that your feet don’t touch the ground is one of the funnest parts of the whole adventure. We suggest you enjoy the shit out of it! At the same time, remember that the Gap will show up eventually and, while we wholeheartedly support you allowing yourself to feel all the feelings, and have all the tantrums (for more on how to have a good, connected tantrum with your partner check out our book Making Love Real) you need to have, we also encourage you to not make the Gap mean that your partner doesn’t love you or that you just haven’t found “the one” or that you can get back to how you (never really) were if you just try hard enough.
Yes, we want you to be Mindful of the Gap, to watch the insidious way that the difference between who you thought your partner was and who they actually are can get between the two of you. Instead of twisting it into some horrible tragedy, we want you to learn how to step over it be accepting the person who is actually sitting across from you and experience real love.