I met someone wonderful! But...
January 13, 2018 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Met a lady. It's the instant connection everyone goes on about, and that I kind of didn't believe in until it happened. Everything's amazing and easy -- except she's recently out of a bad relationship and isn't done dealing with that. We're trying to figure out how to manage this.

Just to give more context: everything really is incredibly easy. We've only known each other a month (!), but we fell into daily contact immediately because it was just so much fun. She's the person I most want to share things with, and vice versa; it feels like play. (We jump started a little bit because of off time during the holidays, though of course we can't talk all day now that work is kicking both of our asses -- we're both really cognizant of our careers.) We're able to be completely honest and vulnerable with each other, to say if we need space or we're not comfortable with something, to ask questions, to take care of each other, to apologize if we screw up and to have that apology accepted with compassion. The sex is a goddamn wonder. We have fun all the time. Seriously, it's awesome and so full of joy. Neither of us have ever experienced anything like this before.

Neither one of us meant to fall into something that felt like this so quickly, and we've talked about all the dangers that can bring, but...it kind of just happened.

Except. She got out of that bad relationship only a month before we met, and she is definitely NOT done dealing with it. It was a really toxic situation with someone who was not really available to her, and it lasted for about 1.5-2 yrs. So. Not a fly by night thing, and it's left her wondering whether she can even do relationships at all. She is going to have a LOT to unpack.

Added difficulty level: this would be her first relationship with a woman. She's known she was attracted to women for a long time. We've talked a lot about all the extra stuff this brings along.

We are both in therapy. I trust her to be honest with me, and myself with her; we've handled it so far, even with stuff that was really hard. Basically I don't think we're going to avoid screwing up entirely, but I trust the connection we have and the people we both are to deal with it when we do.

Current state of play is: she knows she cannot enter into a relationship right now, and she knows we can't really casually date -- that's not how either of us feels. Neither one of us ~wants~ to cut off contact entirely, but also...she needs space and time to grieve and to process. I've had friends who've been in these sorts of situations, and handled it in various ways. e.g., I had a friend who left her previous partner for the woman she would later marry, and after she left that prior relationship she and her future wife decided on a three month wait period. They kept in contact, but they weren't dating, they didn't sleep together. I think the contact was limited. My friend did the work she needed to do grieving and processing and figuring stuff out, and then they got together.

So I know every situation is unique, but I also know these broad dynamics aren't unknown to the human species or anything. I don't want to try to have to reinvent the wheel if I don't have to. We're both enlisting our therapists mightily in figuring this out, but I want all the help I can get.

I'm interested in hearing about strategies and structures that worked for you or people you know. Did you go no contact for a while? Or were you able to maintain contact in a structured way? What worked, what didn't, what did you wish you'd done differently?

I'm afraid of sort of sliding into a relationship with her too quickly, because we're both falling for each other, and thereby not allowing her the space and time she needs to grieve and fully process her last relationship. And she's afraid of the same thing -- she doesn't want to be in a position a few months from now where she realizes she just can't be present in the way that she wants, or she can't be fair to me.

How would you MeFites handle this?

Sidenote: I am fucking DELIGHTED to have this as a problem. She's already changed my life for the better just by being in it, and I am really conscious of the fact that there needs to be space for all possible outcomes, including one where we don't end up together. I just want to get to a place where we can give each other an honest shot to see what we can be.
posted by schadenfrau to Human Relations (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
She has told you that she doesn't want to be in a relationship right now, and you are head over heels crazy about her. I don't really see how you can do anything but go no contact for now. I know it sucks, but I would just try to keep your options open in the meantime.
posted by cakelite at 11:53 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]

I totally missed what cakelite picked up on - are you guys together on the same page or not?

Maybe go together to therapy for a few sessions to figure out a structured plan? If I misread your Ask, then cakelite is correct that no contact is the right answer.
posted by jbenben at 11:57 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Ah sorry, clarification: in an ideal world, she wants to stay in contact while pressing pause on a Relationship, and so do I. But neither of us is sure of the logistics or boundaries of something like that. I floated the idea of going no contact for a while, and we’re both thinking about it. It’s not what either of us *wants*, but it might be needed. Otoh, I have those friends who managed the pause just fine. Hence asking the MeFi hivemind for input and experience.

So yes, we are on the same page. We’ve talked about all this, I just want more opinions.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:06 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

Hmm. Counter-suggestion. Have a Relationship (how can you be in touch and not?) that gives her the space she needs to do the emotional work she wants to? "Hey I think I need the weekend to myself," that sort of thing?
posted by salvia at 12:49 PM on January 13 [11 favorites]

I'm with Salvia and that was my original thought. Do the relationship but with conscious communication. Be flexible for each other. Try not to take necessary distance personally.
posted by jbenben at 1:12 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

You already know what the answer is. She's not ready for a relationship, so you end things, go no contact but remain open to starting one if /when she has processed her last relationship, keeping in mind that she may never come back. I wouldn't sit around waiting for her either, that just puts you in limbo. Live your life like she's gone for good(because she could well be) and be open to meeting other people. I'm not saying this to crush your hopes, I'm saying this because she's been clear she's not ready and it's unfair to you to put your life on hold.
posted by Jubey at 1:13 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

I've been here. I really think you have two choices:

1.) Try to stay in light touch, wind up hurting her feelings or her hurting yours when you mess up and hook up, because this whole thing is an emotional powder keg, and have some good times and some bad times until you ultimately sully the connection because it cracked under the weight of the massive amounts of expectations you both have for people you imagine you'll turn into eventually... or you find a way to support each other and wind up happy together? It actually could happen, but she's said she doesn't want this, so hoping for it is not a good plan, and disrespectful of her and you.

2.) Go no contact until the limerance fades, wait a while longer than that, date someone else or someone elses, move on with your life with good memories of this time, call her up in a few years and see where she's at, keep at this until you both happen to be single and wind up together, or you or she winds up with someone else that is the right one.

Note how fuzzy these outcomes are. Because there is no best strategy to help force the outcome you want... just humans and their emotions and the march of time. The best strategy is loving kindness and respect for yourself and for her! It is tough... but also beautiful.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:16 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

she knows she cannot enter into a relationship right now, and she knows we can't really casually date -- that's not how either of us feels.

...so, you’re not in a relationship. Not until she’s ready to enter into can maybe be friends, but that might hurt too much. I think you need to take a step back from this whole situation.
posted by RainyJay at 1:28 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]

It's not like it lasted forever, but I've had a relationship with a woman that started at a very not-good time work out basically fine in those terms (it ended for totally other reasons and we're still close) that basically just was allowed to start as "we are Very Very Good Friends" and did not get defined as more than that until we were both ready to say it was a good time for that. If space is a thing she needs, maybe what you guys need is not to fuss more about how to label this, but rather to establish that at any given time, you're, say, going to message her not more than once a day if you want to initiate talking to her or hanging out, and that she doesn't need to say she needs space, she can just reply to that message or not according to how she's feeling. I don't know how this is for guys, but for queer F/F relationships, I don't think it's really that weird for things to start as "this is my new BFF who I'm crazy about" but wait a bit to get to "this is my girlfriend who I'm in love with and physically intimate with".

Basically, I think waiting for physical stuff is a good idea, but I think the worst you're risking by staying in contact without that is just that it doesn't work out, and... I mean, sometimes things don't work out, you'll be okay. Just figure out a way that she'll feel comfortable opting out if she's having a bad night, figure out how much of her ex drama you're okay with hearing about regularly, establish boundaries around THAT stuff instead of around talking to her at all. You don't need to set up all the exact parameters of this immediately, just the bits that are actually immediately relevant.
posted by Sequence at 1:40 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

I’ve been in this situation. His divorce was recently finalized, it felt like play the whole time we were together, we were both in therapy, etc, etc.

I eventually broke it off with him. It still stings. In many ways, he was a really great match, and we were great together. But I had so much love for him that I realized I was the one stopping him from fully processing and grieving and doing the work to get to a better place. I let him go so I wasn’t keeping him from becoming a better person, and I didn’t want to be in any way hindering that process. I didn’t leave any sort of, “in a year, we’ll try again,” because who knows who he would be in a year? Who knows who he’d be when he had more fully realized who he could be?

And to be honest, the waiting and hoping was killing me too. I self-sacrifice (part of the reason I was in therapy then), and the uncertainty ended up not being worth the pain.

I’m glad of the decision. I think of him still and silently wish him well. And even though I wish it could’ve been different, in the end, it was a kindness for us both.
posted by umwhat at 1:42 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]

I think you need to remind yourself that no matter how vulnerable and in touch you two have been over the course of one month, you really don't know her. Truly. And as lovey dovey as you feel, the bottom line is that you are essentially strangers. Of course, lots of relationships that last start with two folks who barely know each other falling for each other hard -- but in your case, the woman you're falling for is not emotionally available. That's a huge red flag that's not going anywhere anytime soon.

I vote for no contact and really just move on with your life. I would give it a year, at least. Tell her to contact you New Years Day 2019 if she feels like she's in a better place and still interested in getting to know each other. If you happen to be single, great. If not, thems the breaks -- and perhaps you could be friends. In the meantime, don't wait around for her. You deserve someone who's ready and able to actually date you -- and she deserves the time to heal. I really do think that the most loving thing both of you can do for each other, and for yourselves, is to walk away.
posted by Gray Skies at 1:52 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]

I met my spouse while I was on the rebound. We were friends for a few months while he was having a hard time maintaining that on his end. He didn't pressure me to change the nature of the relationship but clearly wanted more while I wanted to move on my own time. It can be done.
posted by crunchy potato at 2:29 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

However as others have said a month is nothing. Limerance will convince you of all sorts of things. Take it slow.
posted by crunchy potato at 2:31 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

The way I solved this was by getting into the relationship anyway. We said we would "take it slow" but what that really meant was that I waited about a month to start calling him my boyfriend. That was almost fifteen years ago, we are now married. This might not have been the *best* solution but it worked fine for us.
posted by mai at 3:34 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

You said "the sex is a wonder." So you've slept together/are still sleeping together, out of curiosity? Iiii would personally put that on hold right now while she sorts her emotional shit out, if you haven't already done so.

Hm. It seems to me like the main issue here is that she has a lot of baggage about this previous thing that "wasn't available to her." I've done the same long-term weird crushing on a woman who was sort of available and sort of not and things were Weird and it fucked me up--and I actually wound up in my relationship with my current partners as part of my processing and healing from that, and it has worked out well. The fact that you guys are queer women is... actually, I think, surprisingly relevant here, even if this is the first relationship with another woman she's ever had. Maybe especially if this is the first relationship with another woman she's had.

If I was speaking to her, I'd ask her what she's afraid of, what her worst case scenario for the future and the relationship might be, and think about planning for that. I'd ask her what's making her scared, what's making her happy, and where she feels uncertain about what she's feeling. And I'd encourage her to set boundaries around the things that are definitely in her comfort zone, which maybe involve talking to you but not sex and not dating and not labels--or which maybe involve a defined not-dating time period, or a defined absence of contact, or something. Because with a thing like that, it's pressure before you're sure that makes things go sour, in my experience.

Obviously I can't be in her head, and I'm speaking to you. And you clearly know that for all the limerence in the world, you both gotta tread lightly here. (I'm a touch hesitant to comment, because I don't experience limerence; I build slow and I attach slow and I let go even slower, so I tend to process things in a different way. But there are echoes in what you've described that remind me of baggage I've had when contemplating starting new relationships, and I'm sort of dying to talk to your lady and compare notes. Heh.

So, speaking to you, the thing that sticks out to me is that the thing most likely to trip up your relationship is also totally out of your control. It's easy to get invested and imagine all the wonderful things that could happen and build dreams out of ideas and focus very heavily on this lady, which is what will hurt worst if things fall through on you.

For you, I would say the best thing is to be careful not to let yourself be too excited, too enthusiastic ahead of time--that comes back to the pressure I mentioned earlier. I would let her set the pace unless you feel like you're moving too fast. And I'd look for other outlets for your enthusiasm and try to find a few other things to focus your head on, so you don't get so wrapped up in how exciting she is and how wonderful and how enthusiastic you are about this lady. I'd figure out if I could shove my headspace into "Lady and I are FRIENDS for right now, dammit, FRIENDS" and try to drain off some of my energy into other places, so I didn't wind up being too pressury at any specific point. I say that because my personal trap in relating to people tends to be getting overexcited and pushing pushing pushing past the point where anyone wants to listen, and the only way out of that dynamic is to get the more enthusiastic person to ease off--it's a very push/pull kind of thing.

Now, if everyone is like.... full speed ahead this is lovely gung ho I am enjoying everything and I feel sad at the idea of drawing back, stay where you are. If no one is feeling worried about actual emotional responses as opposed to like, theoretical emotional responses? Roll with it. It doesn't have to be bad.

Just watch out for one or both of you getting overwhelmed and needing a breath.
posted by sciatrix at 3:39 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]

Often people will do almost anything to escape the pain of a break up. The merry widow syndrome, didn't come out of nowhere. It is important for the person who is not just out of a break up to realize they might be a speed bump / analgesic, for someone who is in horrible pain. You will inherit her pain if she decides this relationship is something she just did to get through a break up in another relationship.

I have seen it happen where people did not feel the gay relationship was a real relationship, and walk away from it when it is no longer useful. You should protect yourself, and be with this person after they have sorted everything out. You may feel awesome about her, and you will feel the same way after she has resolved her pain, and whatever else. You will feel the same about her, but she might be different. It is better to start on a more even playing surface.

I know of one relationship between middle aged women, which included children, and everyone was in the closet. One partner didn't even tell her parents about the relationship, over years. Then she walked away taking the kids, there was no marriage. Anyway, watch out for yourself. One month? She is not even out of shock yet.
posted by Oyéah at 4:36 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]

P.S. they always warn about the instant relationship. Always.
posted by Oyéah at 4:42 PM on January 13

Hey here's another idea: she doesn't take time out and you don't spend time apart and she doesn't give away her hapiness today to dwell on what happened yesterday.

I met my husband a month after I broke off a seven year relationship. He existed a relationship to be with me. We were both adults and we understood the timing was messy and were compassionate about that. I'm sure I called him by my ex's name at least once, probably while having sex. He cried over his ex in front of me. We accepted this was par for this course and enjoyed the hell out of one another.

Do not delay happiness.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:24 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]

Love is amazing. Love is the best, and it makes you giddy and happy and gives you a Reason. I smiled just reading your post. But I also thought after reading: oh nooooo.

I'm a lady who also loves ladies and I've in been in this situation 12312x, and so I'm ultimately rooting for you Schadenfrau.

The thing is, you won't really listen to what we say. I'll say it anyways but it's very, very hard to structure love and limerence. You just want her and her to be with you and she will say things that you kind of hear but then don't and vice versa. And then a year will pass and another and it will become way more clear. The ultimate answer is time.

I can't predict what will happen. Or advise on how to go no contact. Or how to go contact and structure it to speak only one hour every Sunday and then wait the next week to talk again (which by the way, sounds like a terrible way to live).

Because the biggest problem is that she's not in the picture when you asked this question - I mean, literally, we have no idea what she is thinking. We only know what you say to us through your lens of what she says to you. She says she doesn't want a relationship. She says she is very broken or working on being less broken. And it's a lot when a woman is with a woman for the first time. She sounds confused. She won't know the answers for a while. And you both know the answers more than we do.

So ultimately my advice is to ride the roller coaster. It's going to be beautiful and ugly and you will have to make a decision every day and every time you talk to her. I wish you luck on this journey but, finally, I wanted to congratulate you -- this is an amazing part of being alive, and it's a hell a lot better than repeating your routine day in and day out without connection.
posted by pando11 at 8:24 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]

Don't conflate lust with love. "Love at first sight" is often just that, lust.
posted by GiveUpNed at 10:36 PM on January 14

So I did something like this. Fell in love and got involved with someone while still married, then put a pause on the new relationship while I went through a very painful, messy separation and ultimately divorce. From the day I decided on the divorce to the day I physically separated from my husband was about 5 months; in that time period, we went very low contact – no texting, a brief check-in email a couple times a month, a couple phone calls, a couple meetups (and yes, slept together those times). Importantly: it was up to me to initiate all our contact.

We also talked honestly about what the future looked like, and the time frame. He agreed to wait a reasonable time for me to get out of my marriage, and I agreed to work towards that as quickly as possible. We both WANTED it, and that was key. She has to actively want this new relationship. If she’s at all confused or unsure, you should probably mentally let her go. Be happy if she comes back, but don’t have hopes or expectations.

Because of how we started, most people did not think we would last. But we’ve been together almost 4 years now and it is better than ever. I wish you luck!
posted by puppet du sock at 11:56 AM on January 15 [3 favorites]

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