Dr. Frankie Bashan
Dear Dr. Frankie, My Lover Won't Define the Relationship
Dr. Frankie Bashan
Photo by: Susanne M. Schwarzer
Dear Dr. Frankie,
I became very good friends with a gal from work. (She is 45 and I am 58). We became very close and were both recovering from nasty breakups. My break up was from a girlfriend of 10 years, and hers was a breakup with her wife of 15 yrs. I have been single now for almost 3 years and she has been single for 1 1/2 years. Her ex is a doctor with a very dominating, controlling personality. This gal lives on her own and is trying to cope with raising her children, and dealing with her ex. About 3 months into our friendship she kissed me and things progressed slowly from there. We have now been very involved for about the last nine months. We are very deeply intimate, love hanging out with each other, and live separately. She has been clear with me from the first kiss that she cannot "handle" a relationship. BUT...we are in a relationship. We agreed we would just take all of this one day at a time, live in the moment and enjoy what was happening.
Sometimes she will call me her girlfriend, but we don't talk about that term too much. We have put no label on what is going on with us. As time has passed our love has grown and I feel like I want more. I would like to talk with her about being committed girlfriends in an exclusive relationship.
I do not want to lose her, but I also know I have to do what is best for me. I feel like being with her is what is best for me, but I also realize she is essentially running the show. I know that she is very scared by her past relationship and is trying to work out those issues. I sometimes wonder if she is using me? But after all we did say we would live each day as it comes and just enjoy the love. I am scared shitless to approach this with her. I feel like I am a bit invisible at times, like I am the secret girlfriend...back in the closet so to speak. I did tell her that, a few months back and she said, NO, you are not invisible and YOU are very important to me. She said, "What we have is very special, and you are not invisible"... If I am so important, then when is the right time to say “I need validation as to what we are, and who I am to you...acknowledge me, as your girlfriend”, ie: to friends, family
So...what is a girl to do...I am not afraid to be alone. Should I just keep doing what we are doing...but for how long? Please put it in perspective for me...as I have stated, I sure don't want to lose her, but I certainly don't want to give her an ultimatum.
It sounds like this woman makes you very happy. Keep things in perspective and remember it has only been nine months. I know in the lesbian world that means one of you should already be pregnant, but let’s take a step back. She recently came out of an unhealthy, 15 year relationship, and also has the needs of her children to consider (which come first). She is trying to work through her issues surrounding her previous relationship, which is a very admirable thing to do. Many people do exactly the opposite and rush right into the next relationship, hoping to avoid the often painful task of introspection. If you truly feel as connected to her as you describe give her more time. Maybe pick a date in your mind when you feel like you can’t wait any longer for more of a commitment. That could be six months or even a year or more from now.
If you absolutely can’t hold back from discussing your thoughts on this topic with her, consider communicating your feelings of eventually wanting more of a commitment. Explore the idea of if and when she might be ready for something more significant. Before you do this, you’ll have to carefully weigh the risk of this conversation. If you apply pressure, or even if she perceives you are applying pressure, you run the risk of losing her completely. And if you do apply pressure she may fear losing you and prematurely make a commitment that she is not ready for. Your best chance for success is for her to realize on her own, when she is in a better place emotionally, that it’s time to move forward in the relationship. It sounds as if you two are deeply connected, whether she likes to admit it or not. Take your own advice and enjoy each day for what it is. By doing this you are allowing things to unfold organically.
Dear Dr. Frankie,
I guess I am asking a question that has probably been asked before. Why are those in the lesbian community such serial monogamist? I might be overly sensitive but it hurts my heart each time I hear of a couple breaking up who have some years under their belt. It makes us seem unstable and driven by lust as my unsupportive family thinks. I myself haven't been able to make one work and feel ashamed in comparison to my three sisters who all have been with their husbands a long time and have kids. And those that break up don't even need time to grieve but just hop back into another relationship with someone who they "connect" with on so many "more" levels then their ex.
I feel I will never find anyone who is willing to commit to "’til death do us part". It is especially discouraging because I have spent the last few years holding out for Ms. Right with the help of a therapist to confidently set boundaries and voice my expectations.
I really commend you for your strength to stay true to yourself. I too see many women going from one relationship to the next without even taking a moment for themselves. My feeling is that women are nurturers by nature and we seek companionship and love. In the early history of humankind, we fared better in groups than as individuals. Our survival was more likely if we hunted and gathered in tribes than alone. Even though a vast majority of us do not rely on these skills anymore, we are social creatures and still fare better when we share our experiences. And most people simply don’t like being alone for very long.
Although the heterosexual divorce rate is above 50% and climbing rapidly, we do face our own set of unique obstacles in the gay and lesbian community. There is a lack of role models in long term, committed relationships. The void of such role models has trickled down to some of us as self-doubt that we are worthy and capable of having a great relationship. Some of us have internalized the homophobia concerning our inability to marry the person we love. Some of us also contend with having unrealistic expectations of our prospective partners. And to top this list is the societal epidemic of being driven by instant gratification. The inconvenient truth is that there isn’t always someone nicer, sexier, more understanding or richer just around the corner waiting for you with open arms. When our current relationship stops feeling perfect it can be tempting to simply start fantasizing about the next person. It’s much more exciting to crush out on someone than to work on an actual relationship based in reality.
Lastly, women tend to be more emotional than men and when we become intimate we can confuse our feelings of attraction and chemistry for love. This can lead us to make serious, premature decisions about commitment in a relationship. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released when we are attracted to another person. It is released in larger doses when we are physically intimate and especially after an orgasm. Oxytocin makes us want to spend every waking moment with our new woman after we become intimate. We also experience the secretion of serotonin when we are physically intimate. This makes us feel euphoric, and who doesn’t love feeling euphoric? Both of these chemical changes can drive an individual to jump into a relationship prematurely. And on the flip side, the longer one is in a relationship the less they experience the surge of these chemicals. So in my opinion there are emotional as well as physiological reasons that people, and perhaps women in particular, sometimes jump from one relationship to the next. I hope I was able to shed some light onto your wonderful question.
Hi Dr. Frankie,
I could really use some good advice on a situation that has got me completely turned upside down.
I met this girl through a mutual friend who had recently just come out. We hit it off immediately and ended up hooking up (not sex) the first night we met. I called her a couple days later to try to meet up with her (for a real date) and sort of got the brush off twice, so I just let it go. Then, I ran into her at an event a little while later and it was pretty clear that she was still interested in me, so we hooked up again. She blew me off again after that and I was like whatever. Even though she was sending me totally conflicting signals, I knew deep down that I'd never really connected with someone so quickly in my life (and I do not feel that way easily about people, trust me), and I was pretty sure she felt the same way about me. From the beginning and through each subsequent meeting, I learn more and more about how she's "absolutely terrified" of the whole gay thing, and is pretty religious, so I am sure that plays a huge part in her feelings about all of it.
A few months later we saw each other at a party and spend the entire night talking, flirting, and making out. Dinner turned to breakfast and we had just an absolutely incredible time together. One the one hand, she said that she's never felt this way about anyone before and it scares the s--- out of her, that I completely floored her in every way, and that whenever she'd be talking to other girls, I was always in the back of her head. However, she also said that she isn't ready for a relationship, and having just come out, she wanted to pretty much hook up with girls, no strings attached. She asked if we could, "hang out and hook up," which I assume meant friends with benefits, and I told her I wasn't interested in doing that, because I liked her too much to think that she'd be dating someone else at the same time. Anyway, she said she thought that when she came out that she would just be hooking up with girls, and that it would just be easy, again no strings. And when it came to me she said, "I wasn't supposed to meet you yet," as in, I really like you, but I am just not ready right now.
So, the logical side of me is like, if she really liked you as much as she says she did, she would do whatever it took to be with you and would never want to take a chance of ever letting you go. On the other hand, I can't imagine someone saying all those things to someone else and not really meaning it. Is she just scared that she's actually having real feelings for someone who could potentially change her life in a way that she doesn't know if she's ready for?
I am doing my own thing and dating other girls, etc. I am not waiting around for her, but she is very much in the back of my mind. Like her, I've also never felt this way about anyone before, so it's been pretty hard to let this one go. Despite her being incredibly confusing, she's one of the most amazing people I've ever met, and she said the same thing to me. So, I pretty much can't get her out of my head. At least until I figure out how I should be feeling about it. Right now, I am just totally confused.
Any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!
You’re doing the right thing by moving on and seeing other people. Waiting around for something that might never manifest does not sound like a good strategy in this instance. Don’t over think this. She is telling you that although she is attracted to you and has never had such intense feelings for anyone before, her behavior simply doesn’t indicate she is interested in a relationship at this time. She has found in you a good person with whom she shares intense physical chemistry, and is there for her when she’s interested in having a hot weekend. I would never pretend to know what her thought process is, but all signs point away from her wanting to be with you in a real relationship.
On a side note, I have met many people who are enamored with the thrill of the chase. There could be many reasons for this, such as the challenge of the hunt, one’s own fear of intimacy, or perhaps not believing one is capable or deserving of a real relationship. This girl has you on the ropes for her and resurfaces just frequently enough to keep her in your head. Try and imagine if she were actually available to you in a girlfriend sort of way if you would be so intrigued. When people connect on a physically intimate level, all kinds of brain chemistry kicks into high gear and actually changes the way you feel about that person and how you see them. In short, at this point in your interactions with this girl, believe her when she tells you she is not looking for anything substantial. You are captivated by a fantasy of what you think a relationship with this incredible person could be like. Keep seeing other people, have fun, and if and when she is ready for more she knows where to find you.
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