Should I not be a serial monogamist with the one waiting in the wings?
April 25, 2009 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Lesbian monogamy filter: I am really just a hopeless romantic no matter how hard I try not to be? Should I not move right on to the one waiting in the wings?

I am a 30 year old lesbian (if that matters, but please, I'm interested in all perspectives) who just ended a 3 year long monogamous relationship. My former partner and I ended on largely good terms. We experienced "lesbian bed death" and it sort of devolved into a friendship.

Because we got together when I was relatively young, I sort of feel like i missed out on a lot of the fun of being young and single. Since always, I've pretty much gone from serious long term relationship to serious long term relationship. Being able to be single was a big part of wanting to end things for me. Also exploring relationships with men, possibly.

The thing is, I've also gotten involved with a good friend of mine. She's someone that I've known since college, and though I've always had something of a crush, I never knew it was reciprocated. Anyway, we were never single at the same time so it didn't really matter. She became single about a year ago and had been dating around, nothing too serious, and as my relationship with my ex wound to a close, we wound up becoming physically involved and this has continued on and off since the breakup, which occured about 3 months ago. FWIW, she is not a close friend of my ex.

We have both said that this is not a thing with relationship potential, just a fun physical thing to fill the gap. But because of our years of intense friendship, the sex and the relationship itself has become more and more intimate. We both say that we're dating other people and even talk women we both know as potential dates for each other, but this never seems to happen and when we do actually express real interest, we both feel jealous and sad, though controllably so.

I am becoming more and more passionate about this person, and I think she feels the same way about me. We're definitely experience pair-bonding. I keep thinking about our future together, about how maybe this was meant to be all along, about how I might be "in love" with her. The only stopping me from pursuing a relationship with her is my promise to myself NOT be a serial monogamous, to have fun, to date. Right now, though, I feel like any dating I did would just be perfunctory with the hopes of coming back to her. That being said, I do think that if I decided to let go of this thing that I could commit to it, get over her, and really start having fun, I could do it.

That being said, I am not totally aware of how she feels. Because of the way our sexual relationship started, we are both very guarded about our feelings, even though we say how much we love each other "as friends" all the time. I can't help but think that she, like me, is feeling ambivalent and also trying to protect herself from getting hurt. She is younger than me and seems just as invested in playing the field before getting into something serious. I also think that she is still getting over her last relationship.

We've both express interest, in the abstract sense, in the prospect of having an open relationship. But we also both recognize that even if we *said* we'd have an open relationship, it would probably not really be in practice.

If I "follow my heart" and we wind up together, am I going to regret it? Is it bad to lillypad like this? Should I make an effort to make single happen? How can I find out what she is thinking without making myself vulnerable?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If I "follow my heart" and we wind up together, am I going to regret it?

Let me understand... if you follow your heart and end up with this woman who you enjoy very much, and who treats you very well, and with whom you are happy.... are you going to regret it?

Um... maybe?

But so what? If you reject everything good because there might be something better, you'll never be happy, by definition. Following your heart isn't wrong here, and probably not ever.

Then again, I am most definitely a hopeless romantic, so take my advice thusly salted.
posted by rokusan at 10:17 PM on April 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I ended up marrying my Oh Yeah, We're Nothing Serious, It's Kind of an Open Relationship, because no matter what we said it was, it sure as shit wasn't an open relationship-- that requires at least some time where you're seeing other people, after all, and we weren't actually doing that.

Talk whatever game makes you more comfortable, enjoy what you have, see where it goes. It might all blow up tomorrow, you might end up walking down the aisle in five years, or you might go in some completely other direction. What's important is that you two make the choices that make you both happy.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:49 PM on April 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Go for it. You like her, you like being with her, you have good sex, and you know what? Dating around and having fun and all that shit is fine if you're not involved with someone. But you are. Don't bog yourself down with labels like "serial monogamist". If it feels right, it's right.
posted by bedhead at 10:55 PM on April 25, 2009

Oh, who cares about the "fun" of being young and single? What are you really worried about there? Sit down and talk with yourself about what it is you're really worried about (some mythical state of single partyhood? other people's labels? getting tied down before you get to travel?) and address that in context, and see whether it's worth throwing away what could be your lifelong partnership for it. (That is, assuming that's really a possibility here.)

I married the second person I fell in love with, and while I regret not travelling the world (for example) when I was younger and unattached, I would absolutely not trade that for the excellent partnership, love, and friendship that I have now. No way.

(I don't think you can find out what she's thinking without making yourself vulnerable, alas. But I think that territory's been covered here before.)

Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 11:52 PM on April 25, 2009

Go for it. Dating around is not really very fun, especially if you tend to get attached emotionally to the people you sleep with.
posted by fshgrl at 12:38 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm completly convinced that the so-called retroactive "Fun" of being single is mostly a way for people to make the whole thing seem not quite so unfulfilling. I mean, sure, it can be fun for a while, but it doens't exactly get you through the week...

Just sayin', you're not missing much. I'd dive in with both elephants, if I were you.
posted by jaymzjulian at 2:38 AM on April 26, 2009 [6 favorites]

(how did i confuse feet with elephants? wtf? in any case, do what actually makes you happy, not what fulfills some fucking image of "fun" that you read about somewhere :)
posted by jaymzjulian at 2:39 AM on April 26, 2009 [5 favorites]

I married the second woman I ever dated. My uncle married the first woman he ever dated, and they're still together more than three decades later.

I don't think desiring a monogamous relationship is a bad thing at all. I am constantly thankful I'm not single and I don't have to devote all that time and effort to going out and meeting people and getting through the painful awkward steps and so on. I never had any fun being single, and I don't think there IS a whole lot of fun to be had if you're inclined, like I am, to settle down and start nesting almost immediately.

(Mind you, my wife and I are both highly introverted. That probably has a lot to do with why we'd rather just be together with each other than go out and meet people.)
posted by Scattercat at 3:06 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's bad to lilypad from relationship to relationship when you do it to avoid being alone. Is that what you're doing? If not, if you're really crazy about this person and don't really want to be with other people, if you, in short, want to be with her, then I don't think you'll regret being with her. If you get to a point where you do, then stop being with her.
posted by Polychrome at 3:16 AM on April 26, 2009

The "fun" part of being single is whatever it is you need right then. If all you need to do for a while when you're single is date around, and you do, then it's fun. If you don't need to date around, and instead you say you're taking a break from dating for a while and just hanging out with friends, then THAT is what's fun. If what you need is to backpack around the world, then THAT is what's fun.

If you make yourself try to do somehting that goes against your nature just because you think it's something you should do, then that's not "fun", that's denial.

But seriously -- there are no rules when it comes to how to conduct relationships, except the ones you set for yourself. And you can rewrite those rules as many times as you want. Case in point -- after my last breakup, for a few months I only felt like closing myself up in my home for a month or so and devoting myself to work. Then after that, for a few months, reconnecting with my friends was what I needed to do. Then for a few months, I went through a phase of collecting friends with benefits -- the first time in my life I've ever wanted that, mind. I'm now entering a phase when that's not enough, where I think I may be ready for actual dating. It's all good -- I just decided that each different thing was what I would do as I was ready for it, and that was that.

You may simply not be wired for that kind of casual stuff at this specific moment -- you were okay before. But now you're not. And that's fine. Go with your instincts. Your instincts are telling you that this is what you need -- you need something serious because you think you could have it. Go for it. It'll be honest to yourself, it'll be more authentic, and -- it could be fun.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:45 AM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

It already is what it is: a good friendship, with sex, and some passionate feelings on both sides. That's nice!

To be honest, it does sound very much like the lesbian serial monogamy routine, but the "awesome fun singledom" notion as flipside is part and parcel of that – those are the two major modes that most dykes I know operate in, reacting to one feeds into to the other, and you should do that if you enjoy it, but stop and get comfortable with the idea being (romantically) alone for a bit if you don't (it's not like you won't be able to continue to enjoy the friendship of your friend, or the sex – both of those things are clearly working for you, it's the "maybe I'm falling in love here...and we should make a go of it?" thing which is dubious). Because I think all of that "falling in love with our friends because we Did It and it was hot/making the scene in the name of an idée fixe of what fun is/I'm still friends with all my exes" foofaraw wards off (and even isolates) nifty people whose lives aren't anchored in complicated lesbian emotional constellations.

I do think there are dykes who honestly fall in true love with their friends, and I know a number of women who are sincere and prolific sluts and I salute them for it, but this is also a recognizable pattern of the subculture and it might not necessarily be for you.

My name is Your Time Machine Sucks, I'm a lesbian, and I think a couple of my exes are total asshats.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 6:23 AM on April 26, 2009 [4 favorites]

I believe that the feelings you feel for her are coming from a real place, but I also think you're scared shitless of being alone. I would give it more time, if I was you.

You've experienced regret about missing out on youth, and now you're compensating for that by sleeping and bonding with someone from your past. But you haven't seemed to really look forward at all. You definitely need to take a look around you and spend some time figuring out how you've grown since the last time you settled down with someone and where you'd like to end up. Otherwise you're going to repeat your same tendencies and much of your last relationship with this person, consciously or otherwise.
posted by hermitosis at 7:54 AM on April 26, 2009

I'm a straight male, but I have two things in common with you;

1. I'm a hopeless romantic and have been since, I suppose, the day I was born.
2. I'm hopelessly attracted to lesbians. It's not even on purpose - I honestly can't count the times I've swallowed ten gallons of courage to ask a girl out only to have her tell me she's gay. I'd say it's probably just a nice way to be rejected and not true if I didn't usually end up being really good friends with the girl and, consequently, her girlfriend.

Anyways, my therapist told me last week that there's no such thing as a perfect love and that hoping for it or aiming for it will only lead to heartache. Learning to accept that there'll be problems in any relationship and that the true way to happiness is learning how to iron out those kinks with kindness, love, and understanding - mostly, by listening to each others desires and then finding ways to make sure your both getting what you need.
All that aside, seriously, you and I have the exact same problem (serial monogamist). I'm married now, and the girl I married I started dating about 2 weeks after I broke up with a girl I'd been dating for 3 years. I haven't been single for any substantial amount of time since I was 17. It's been a hop, skipping from bad relationship to bad relationship. If there's any suggestion or advice I could possibly give you, it's to learn to be happy by yourself. Take some time off, read some books, take some classes, ride a bike, whatever makes YOU happy that doesn't involve being with someone else. This isn't a fun way to spend life, trying to mold yourself over and over again from relationship to relationship.

That's my two-cents, anyways.
posted by Bageena at 11:35 AM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you feel obligated to do something, it's not fun.
posted by paultopia at 11:41 AM on April 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Doubt and fear are not always "signs", but rather obstacles. Sometimes the right person comes along at an inconvenient time only because your "plan" was to do something else. Your choice is to accept what is in front of you and see where it goes, doing your best to still go out and enjoy being with friends, meeting people and having an active life that is fulfilling while exploring your new relationship OR you can follow your "plan" and be single (do all above except date this woman) and hope that you make the right decision.

Our world has changed so much that there are singles of every age out there dating and and having fun. If you take a chance on her and it turns out that in a year you're back on the market, whatever.
posted by anniek at 1:03 PM on April 26, 2009

One note of caution and this may not entirely be relevant. As a *non-couple* you'll never be exactly on the same page and you might risk the friendship altogether.

As a straight male, I had a friend/fuck-buddy way-back-when who I hung out with, talked on the phone with and even got relationship advice from when we were in relationship. She used to call me about what her BF did for her...what she liked...disliked..all with great detail. When not in relationships at the same time we fooled around several times, but it always was of the "that was fun" and not the "that was special" variety. Anyhoo, one day, I simply told her I went home with a date and she exploded in tears confessing she loved me all along and that I was being cruel to her telling her this. Sorry for the convoluted story, but open relationships are usually more open for one of the members.

Advice: commit to exclusivity or stop having sex.
posted by teg4rvn at 10:05 AM on April 30, 2009

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