The Hook Up: Is my inexperience a deterrent to women?

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I am a 40-year-old woman. I had never been with a woman up until recently, though I had developed crushes in the past. So I can not really categorize myself in known terms. But three months ago, I met a woman. She is my neighbor. She is married to her long time boyfriend. She is gorgeous and has a heart of gold. She told me she fell in love with me. And I fell in love with her.

Eventually, though, she freaked out. The secrecy, her husband, her thoughts of us leaking into her real life made her face the reality that she was a cheating wife. She held me responsible for allowing things to get out of control. Finally, she asked for us to find a way to stay together without doing the things that make her feel guilty. My way of solving this was asking her not to call me for a month because I need to deal with the feeling of rejection even though she is not rejecting. I can’t say I totally get myself…

I know that hanging around her is going to hurt and I am as helpless as a young teenager facing the break-up/staying-friends dilemma with her first-time lover. I am trying to be an adult about it but all these feelings and pain is not letting me. She is hurting now as well, I was not the only one in tears. Me disappearing would be the best but I think I need a few words from you to build and reinforce a resolve in me such that I don’t give into negativities the next time I see her. I participated in a wrong behaviour and want us to come out of this with as minimal damage as possible, if possible. Thank you so much. —First-Timer

p.s. I read all your articles. Thank you for writing them 🙂

Anna says: Dear First-Timer, Navigating a situation like yours requires a tremendous amount of resolve, willpower, and a conscious decision to break your own heart. You love this woman. She loves you. And yet, you can’t be together. At least not as it is now, with the sneaking around, the lying, and the pesky matter of her husband.

Allow me to quote a story from Amanda Palmer’s memoir The Art of Asking. In it, Palmer’s friend and mentor Anthony tells a story about a farmer and his dog:

“A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out with his dog. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from the dog.

‘What’s the matter with Ol’ Blue?’ asks the friend.

‘He’s layin’ on a nail that’s pokin’ up from the floorboards,’ says the farmer.

‘Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?’ asks the friend.

The farmer deliberates on this and replies: ‘Don’t hurt enough yet.’”TangledPandas

illustration by Natasha Miren

The painful, and perhaps painfully obvious moral of the story is that when something truly and finally hurts us enough, we will get off the damn nail. That moment, I think you know, has come, FT. Do it even though you love her. Hell, do it BECAUSE you love her. Do it now, because if you don’t, you’ll eventually start to resent her. And because you deserve to give your heart to someone capable of taking it fully and unequivocally.

I think your decision to take a one-month break was a good one. In truth, it may take far longer, but one month is a start. It will give you both some much-needed distance and time and reflection. If the month comes to an end and you still feel your heart burst and sway at the thought of her, take another month. Take as much time as you need—until you feel like you can be around her platonically without it shattering you.

You might slip up. You might try to sit back down on the nail once again. That’s OK. It happens. Just remember that truth is not always the same thing as honesty, and that, at least for a while, untangling yourself from heartache is always going to hurt more before it hurts less. In the meantime, take the best care of yourself that you can. Call in reinforcements (friends, family, confidants) to help you. Feed and nurture yourself. Cultivate a fierce self-compassion. Don’t shrink from the harshness or the pain. Let it wash over and through you. It’s the surest way to the other side.

I see you on that shore, FT. It’s time to get off the nail.

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a writer living in San Francisco. Find her at annapulley.com and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your The Hook Up questions at [email protected].  

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