Dear Ms. Behavior:
For the last year, I’ve dated a woman named Jean who’s in a relationship with someone else. I only see her on occasional weekends and she has to lie to her girlfriend to visit me, but I’m crazy about her.
Jean tells me that she loves me, but she’s careful not to make any promises and feels guilty that we’re having an affair. Her relationship with her partner doesn’t sound happy. This gives me hope that maybe she’ll leave someday. Also, we are compatible and have amazing sex. She wouldn’t be so free and ecstatic with me if her relationship were destined to last, right?
Jean recently said that she needs time away from me to sort out her feelings for her girlfriend (i.e. should she leave or stay) and that she needs my help; she can’t stay away from me unless I stop calling and e-mailing her too. If it’s so hard to stay away from me, isn’t it because we’re meant for each other? Why should I agree to leave her alone if I think the gods want us to be together?
Dear Second Fiddle:
If Jean needs help to separate from you, it doesn’t confirm that you’re her soul mate; it could just mean that the two of you are engaged in an obsessive pattern you need to break together. Lots of people need help to give up drugs, alcohol, smoking, Scooter Pies, or tasty extracurricular affairs. That’s what addiction is all about.
Don’t you want to give her time to get out of the muddled spot she’s in with her current girlfriend? If she doesn’t have some time to sort it all out, she may feel too guilty to be with you even if they do break up.
Ultimately, the best reason for you to leave Jean alone is a self-serving one; it increases the unlikely odds that you could be together someday. The trick will be seeing if you still want each other once you can have each other.
Dear Ms. Behavior:
My girlfriend Meg and I have had a semi-long distance relationship for five years. She lives 80 miles away, but I visit her every weekend. She never visits me because I still live with my ex, Jodi. I don’t have romantic feelings for Jodi, but Jodi has always needed me to nurse her emotional health, and I didn’t want to distress her by moving away. Meg has always hated this arrangement, because it meant that she couldn’t come visit me and I couldn’t move in with her.
Now Jodi has finally met someone and is moving out. As soon as I found out that Jodi was leaving, I offered to move in with Meg. Much to my surprise, Meg probably isn’t going to let me move in with her. She says that she’s gotten used to having her own space. (Even when I’m there on weekends, she piles my shoes up in the corner, stuffs my suitcase under the bed, and will not let me leave my makeup or toothbrush on the bathroom counter.) Should I insist on moving in with Meg despite her protests and sudden need for space? I thought we were heading toward the perfect life. Now I’m not so sure. What should I do?
-Suitcase Under the Bed
Dear Suitcase Under the Bed:
Meg might have been happy if you’d decided that you wanted to live with her based on a deepening of your feelings or commitment. But if your desire to live with her springs instead from Jodi’s decision to move out, that wouldn’t exactly make anyone’s heart sing. If anything, your commitment to Jodi sounds even stronger than that of the average merged lesbian ex. Inviting a former girlfriend to holiday meals and Super Bowl parties is one thing, but never-ending devotion (like, cohabitating with her until she’s married off) seems way more extreme.
Your old arrangement may not have given Meg everything she wanted or needed, but it sounds like she grew comfortable with it, and it allowed her to feel her desire for more. Unfortunately, she’s either gotten used to living with her longing or has found another way to channel it.
If Meg stuffs your shoes into a corner, she’s either a supreme neatnik, or she’s giving you a very clear signal that she doesn’t want your life (your stuff) fully integrated with hers right now. You might suggest the possibility of living in a new, larger place together, where Meg wouldn’t have to compromise the amount of space she has in order to live with you. But despite your wish to save your ex, please don’t bring her with you, even if her current relationship doesn’t work out.
© 2012 Meryl Cohn. Address questions and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.