Lesbians, Stop Pining for Unavailable Women

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There is something particular to lesbians about hoping against hope that their friend—particularly their straight friend—will fall in love with them. It’s the kind of thing that will make a woman answer the phone think of thoughtful gestures and pick said straight friend up even though it’s 15 minutes out of the way.

This is not unlike anxious attachment style—essentially expending a lot of effort into being helpful/emotionally available/kind so that people will see how great you are and then keep you. It’s setting yourself up as being willing to work for acceptance or affection, often with people who are not very responsive to your efforts. Many people that are anxious attachers are disinterested in people that are actually available to date them, and would prefer to court rejection with somebody who is a much more tenuous affection for them.

To all you sweet women throwing your time, your hard-won self-esteem, and both literal and figurative cookies after any barely-interested homo lothario: for the love of god, stop doing that.

There’s something in particular about lesbians that makes them love pining. I don’t know if it’s about an adolescence of not-fitting-in which made you more predisposed to moon over yearbooks and listen to sad girls with guitars rather than put on cute shirts and go on dates, but those habits follow. The habit of avoiding the potentially awkward confrontation of engaging a girl you like in conversation has made you really good at holding up that wall/barstool/coffee shop window, but it has not increased your chances of going on a date with her.

Pining over somebody from a distance is forgivable, even potentially endearing. Crushing on your barista or bus driver or the lady from down the hall is totally harmless. Most of us are not so far into dreamworld that we need to imagine a lengthy relationship trajectory with someone who knows as a “good-morning-two-percent-wet-foam-cappuccino.” But the closer in people get to our actual lives, the more dangerous pining becomes, because of the uneven intimacy in the relationship.

While some of us harbor a latent crush on friends or exes, these are relationships typically based on a mutuality of information and affection—you know what podcasts she’s listening to these days, she’s heard you do impressions of the accounting team at work who won’t stop harping on about the misuse of post-it notes and the budget for office supplies, and you get drunk at her house fortnightly and develop strategies for how you are going to go to the gym together, how she’s going to ask her girlfriend to marry her, how should you write an email to your mom about when you’re going to visit next.

The danger lies in the unevenness of affection for the girl you’re pining for. You talk through her frustrations, you know her petty foibles, you have heard about her lonely childhood, you know all about the relationship that she’s too torn up about to walk away from just yet, so you hold on, hoping. But she knows nothing about you—she does not listen when you talk about your dreams and frustration, she has no recall for the names of your friends who you went to college with or the ones you see every week, and she does not ask you how you are feeling except in a cursory way. She may even have occasionally said, “God, I’m sorry I keep talking about myself,” but the things she does do not change.

If you are somebody who is deeply in the habit of trying to prove your worthiness to people, you may not realize that you are engaged in a cycle of self-erasure. If you are a queer woman who has been desperate to find love, you may not notice that you have been so steeped in a sense of scarcity and worry about your own desirability that you do not wait for someone else to meet you halfway.

You deserve better, and you can’t make anybody love you by trying so hard. I’m sure you can’t imagine what it feels like to be met halfway in love, but you’re not going to find out unless you make it happen. How do you make that happen? By only offering your time, thoughtfulness, and emotional energy to people who are truly delighted by it, and can offer you some kind of reciprocity and resounding appreciation. Learn what that bigger love feels like.

Maria Turner-Carney is a therapist and writer in Seattle. You can follow her at seattlefeministtherapy.com/blog.

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