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I am a bisexual man. I’ve nursed a not-so-secret crush on a woman friend (also bisexual) for several years. I’ve been serially monogamous with men and women partners during these years and have seen her socially and only accidentally.
Last year, we were both suddenly single. I had just been with a man and she with a woman. Both had been slated as ‘long-term relationships’. Both had ended. Her ‘term’ had far exceeded mine, during which she’d built a beautiful home with her now ex-girlfriend. They continue to live in this home to avoid the difficulty of dividing up years of shared memories.
Recently, we reconnected richly at another social event. I was thrilled that she asked to see me again. We did. It was wonderful. But now I feel unsure. I want to see more of her, but she seems generally unavailable. Her responses to my texts are few and far apart. Though they are effusive when they do show up. Should I pursue her? Is this a lost cause?
♥ ♥ ♥
Dear Perhaps x 3,
There are so many theories of how to get love, how to make relationships work, how to think positive and how to be realistic that really, you can take your pick of the one you want to believe in, and follow it up as you like. I say this only in response to your last question: Is this a lost cause?
That would depend entirely on what the cause is, perhaps.
Consider yourself in a slightly different situation. You are absolutely single. She is technically single, but in a sense, coupled up. You may or may not be in a kind of denial about that when you use the phrase “difficulty of dividing up years of shared memories,” where some might use, “unable to properly break up.”
The simple truth is this. If someone seems generally unavailable, then sure, it could be that they are very busy or preoccupied. But we’ve all been in love and deep in our hearts, we also know that it means that seeing you is not an urgent priority for them, or something they don’t feel prepared to do for any number of reasons.
What could be this person’s reasons? A very simple way to find out would be to ask – make a coffee date or even write an email. But you might feel like it’s ‘too much.’ On the other hand, we could do what we all prefer to do, for it’s nicer to postpone truth than confront it, and try and guess the reason for the unavailability.
One reason could be that she isn’t ready for something serious yet. That her old relationship, still physically and substantially present in her life, even if it’s not romantic, is in a complicated place. And she doesn’t want to mislead you into thinking things are unencumbered when they’re not.
She could sense that you are much more focused on moving towards a relationship – from everything you say, you are monogamously driven. You’ve also been single longer, so you may feel very ready and rather keen. So, while she seems to like you, you aren’t moving at the same pace in your heads.
But it could also be that you are waiting for too many cues – and maybe you need to simply ask her out and talk about what you want and see where that goes. You may come out of this just as unsure – she may say she likes you, but is sorting stuff out and needs time. You may feel it’s too open-ended and so you don’t want to wait around.
Now, if you are a person focused on having the conventional shape of a relationship in your life – goal-oriented in a sense – and don’t want to commit your feelings too much unless you feel they are reciprocated on an equal footing, then I would recommend that option.
There is, though, another way of looking at this.
Sometimes we meet someone with whom we really feel that feeling of romantic love. As if we are connected in an inexplicable way, so richly sympatico. These encounters feel very refined, as if there is something that fundamentally makes you belong together.
Sometimes these connections never quite turn into full-boiled relationships. Perhaps because of timing or circumstance. You should be together, but somehow you are not.
And sometimes I wonder, maybe that is the nature of some relationships. This is the nature of the love, that it is felt but does not wish to be actualized into a discernible form. It is always somehow there, but not quite there.
Sometimes these connections even take on a form. They turn into relationships that don’t quite crystallize, or proceed in a slightly troubled or even tepid way. Sometimes one party may feel emotions with more muscularity and the other might be more wispy. This may feel unfair at times. Friends will tell you, you are taking shit from someone and shouldn’t. That you are being manipulated with ambiguity.
Sometimes you feel that way too. But you can’t help it – when you hear from that person, or stalk their timelines, you can’t help but smile. Something about that person, in a pure sense, makes you feel a glow inside, even while you are frustrated that they don’t seem to be moving purposefully to another, intensified level.
So I want to make the controversial, and to many, unpalatable, suggestion that this is just what the connection is – a glow, a loving admiration, a Very Big Crush that may be perennial. Some things just keep burning low and slow without becoming a very big fire. If one can embrace that idea, these relationships fill your life with a certain hum of love, without taking the form of conventional coupledom.
And every now and then they seem to gather some speed and suddenly tumble into a new place. They stop being the warm, wistful smile from across the room and become a tight embrace.
So it is possible for you to not decide the future of the relationship, but keep going with how it is, simply liking the feeling. You could do this and keep yourself open to anything else that enters your life, anyone else who knocks at your heart. Maybe something will, and you will dance away happily enough from this possibility for now, until the orbit of the dance brings you by each other again.
You could text or ask to meet this person whenever you feel like and just stay with the liking to see what kind of shape this liking wants to be – and then see if that shape is to your liking or not. This is not an easy choice, of course – it can come with some moments of disappointment or hurt.
But risking yourself slowly, rafta rafta, sometimes shows you a new way – that risking yourself too much too fast, or not risking yourself at all, so often keep obscured.