Smitten

Friday, September 19, 2008

Question

I'm a lesbian, but I haven't had a female lover for a year and a half. This is partly because I am in love with my best friend, who is straight. I've tried going out to the gay bars, but nobody compares with her. If she calls me, I drop everything and run to her. We've remodeled her kitchen and done other big projects together. Her friends tease her about how much time we spend together, and she sometimes jokes that we are girlfriends. When she does this, my heart goes into overdrive, and it's all I can do to laugh and pretend that's silly. She knows I am gay yet she is very physically affectionate with me. Is it possible that she just wants me to make the first move? I'm very shy. But this is driving me crazy. When I'm with her and she's paying attention to me, I'm on top of the world, but when she doesn't have time for me, I mope and sulk and sometimes I think I am getting depressed. One of my best buds tells me that all women are bisexual. Could this be true? She certainly doesn't seem to have any trouble getting straight women into bed! How do I know what to do?

Answer

Unrequited love is a very painful experience. If you get stuck in a situation like that for too long, you eventually start to feel really bad about yourself and yes, you do get depressed.

Before you put the moves on your straight friend, ask yourself why you would want to take yourself off the market as a single lesbian looking for other gay women to date. What was your last relationship like? Was that breakup so painful that you don't want to risk going through another one? Did it leave you with a sense of despair about making a same-sex commitment work? Maybe there are issues that go deeper than your last relationship. How did your family react when you came out as gay? What did you know about lesbianism before you realized you were one? Hidden negative feelings about being gay can sometimes get us sidetracked into an infatuation that will never work.

Unrequited love usually involves idealizing its unavailable object. I can guarantee you that six months into a relationship with anybody, you are sharply aware of their lack of perfection. I'm sure your girlfriend is a lovely person, but I don't believe she is better than anybody else you might find attractive. Your psyche is deceiving you, perhaps because it is safer to be stalled, even though you are not getting what you think you want. This situation has become very familiar. You know what to expect. A new woman—one who wanted you, too—would have her own agenda. She would be asking you to meet her needs and trying to meet yours. You would have to be intimate with her on a whole different level than the intimacy between you and your friend.

Is this ostensibly straight girl sending you secret signals that she'd like to be seduced? HellifIknow. The only way to find out is to try to seduce her and see how far you get. There's the somewhat ethically questionable method of taking her out to dinner, getting her smashed, and then taking her home and taking advantage of her lowered inhibitions. That has the additional benefit of giving her an excuse for doing something that's inconsistent with her stated identity. But you have a high chance of buyer's remorse the next day and a volcanic end to the friendship.

The more ethical method is to simply tell her you find her attractive and ask if she is receptive to those feelings or reciprocates them. She'll say yes, no, or maybe. I've seen a bunch of different things happen. Sometimes the straight woman is offended, tells you off, and withdraws. Sometimes she strings you along because she likes getting a lot of attention without having to put out. And sometimes it emerges that the crush was mutual, and the "straight" woman is actually gay or bisexual and has fallen in love as well.

The typical excuse for delaying confrontation is, "I'm afraid it will affect our friendship." Be real. The truth is, your sexual and romantic feelings have already changed the friendship. You are doing things for this woman that you'd normally only do with a partner. You are thinking about doing things with her body that friends don't usually do with one another. Unless you want to continue to go downhill, find your spine and tell her the truth. This friendship shouldn't continue the way that it has in the past. It's become toxic for you.

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