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Sneaking Around in Southfield

  • Posted on December 6, 2015 at 5:00 am

Dear Christine, 

I am a 37 year old lesbian who has only been deeply in love one time when I was 23.  She loved me too and it was so intense.  She had a lot of pressure from her family and religion and eventually broke my heart and hers and she left me and married a man.   I have tried to move on and I just haven’t been able to feel that strongly about anyone else.  Recently I met someone who I could see myself growing old with.  There is love and comfort although not the same deep passion I once felt.  I am on the verge of having a good life with a good person and then,  “the one” finds me out of the blue.  She is married, has 3 kids, super active in her Baptist church, and apparently has never stopped thinking about me either.   She will not leave her husband, tell her family or let on to anyone at all that she still loves me but wants to see me “privately”  We did spend one amazing afternoon together and the passion is still there.  Unlike her, I can’t keep the wife and have a mistress. I know this sounds nuts and in my mind I know the right answer is to not be tempted by empty promises.  Do I choose a life sneaking around to have the love of my life in bits and pieces, or do I choose safe and comfort even if I may never feel the intense kind of love again.   I seriously think I may make the wrong choice.  Thanks for listening and if you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear from you. 

Signed, Sneaking Around in Southfield

 

Dear Sneaking Around,
Wow! Look what you have created!  Yes, you are in charge of your life and you can make your life work for you the way you want, or you can drift from one happening to another, being victim to other people’s actions.  You didn’t expect your ex to reappear, but here she is, creating earthquakes in your otherwise calm life.

How wonderful that you have had that incredible passionate love experience at least once in your life.  That’s an amazing feeling, but you know by this point in your life, it never lasts.  It is hormones, chemistry, timing and is fleeting.  It’s also a lot of projection:  putting your hopes and dreams of the perfect relationship on a human being you don’t know well who is frail, contradictory and has faults that you are not seeing or acknowledging yet.  The Japanese call it “love psychosis” and if it lasts 3 years, that’s unusual.  During that passion, you have an opportunity to form a deeper emotional connection with that person from shared values, trust, honesty, openness and vulnerability and mutual goals.  Or the passion fades and the relationship cannot be sustained.
So, your choices at this point are:  What sort of relationship do you want?  Passion that is hidden?  Being someone else’s mistress? Cheat on your partner you are growing old with?   Trust your ex who broke your heart  and promises nothing of substance now?  Honesty with friends and family who care about your happiness?  Or sneaking around, taking whatever crumbs of passion your ex has for you, all the while keeping a huge secret from your partner, and everyone else you interact with?  And if you choose your ex, what happens when her husband or your partner learns the truth?

It’s all in your hands.  Who you choose reflects your values and your character.  Be fully yourself and be confident in your choices.  Write me again and let me know what you decide.
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Worried in Washington

  • Posted on October 11, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Dear Christine, 

I am a 20 year old man dating a 45 year old man.  I am very independent and mature and have lived on my own since 17 supporting myself.  I grew up on the streets and in foster care and my friends just think I’m looking for a daddy and that I’m being used.  That’s not true. My man wants to make it legal and marry me.  The age difference doesn’t worry me like it does my friends but what worries me is his relationship with his ex.  They still communicate a lot and when I ask him about their relationship I don’t seem to get answers.  He just brushes it off.  I love him and can’t imagine not being with him but are my friends right to worry?

Worried in Washington

Dear Worried,

Good for you for your independence and supporting yourself at just 20 years old.  You know that you can always rely on yourself to survive, and these skills and experience will be resources from which you can draw in future trying times.

As far as marrying at 20, what’s the rush?  How long have you both been together?  How did you meet?  Do you share common values, goals and trust each other?  Do you communicate well with each other? (I see a red flag here regarding your man’s ex).   Have you discussed what sorts of things would be crossing a line for each of you that might end the relationship?  Do you know those about each other?  Everyone has a limit somewhere.  Before marrying, first you need to know those things about your own self, first of all, and secondly you need to make sure he knows what those non-negotiables are.  And he needs to be clear with you.  If those limits are not identified and discussed, there’s another red flag.  And if you don’t trust each other to be honest with each other about this and other topics, a third red flag.

There’s nothing wrong with his wanting to be friends, even close friends with his ex.  But there’s nothing wrong with you not accepting that friendship either.  What matters is that you each know yourselves as individuals well enough to communicate and negotiate these issues.  If you can’t agree on this issue, that red flag waves in the gale.

Right now you sound like a couple of lesbians, blurring the lines between friends and ex-lovers.  Even if the new girlfriend knows up front when she dates someone who is still “friends” with her ex, the new girlfriend may not find it comfortable.  So, your friends are right to worry, whether you are lesbian or not!  You are young and your friends are protective.

Remember, gay marriage is legal in Michigan and if this turns out to be a mistake, it can be costly to divorce.  I know a handful of couples that married in Canada on a whim over the past 10 years.  Marriage was romantic, but didn’t really mean anything, but now they are hiring divorce lawyers so they can legally marry their current (different) partner.  Good luck.

Christine Cantrell, PhD

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com

Red Flag in Roseville

  • Posted on September 21, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Dear Christine,

I am newly dating someone I met through Match and I must say, I am falling hard.  I am a romantic and have been deeply in love twice in my life.  In getting to know one another, we have talked about our past relationships and I have told her about mine and she has shared hers. The troubling part for me is that she is 47 years old and says she has never been in love even though she has had several relationships.  How can that be?  It makes me question whether she can fall in love and will she with me.  We have already talked about a future together and she seems excited about it.  I wonder if she just settles for less than.  I can’t and will not just settle and if we move forward, I want to believe she will be in love with me and not just settle.  Is this a red flag?

Signed, Red Flag in Roseville

 

Dear Red Flag,

Red flags are those things which warn you to move slowly and check out whether or not they are non-negotiables or whether you can be in the relationship without them.  Non negotiables are like water and air, or food.  You can go a month or more without food, but you can only go a few minutes without air, so some of these non-negotiables will weigh differently for you.  But they are those things you MUST have or CANNOT have in a relationship for it to work for you.

I met a 47 year old man several years ago who claimed to have never fallen in love, despite several relationships.  He recognized that he never really let himself feel vulnerable and seemed to keep 2 or 3 possible lovers on the side, so as to never be too deeply disappointed if one backed away.  Finally, he was forced with a choice.  “Choose me and me only or I’m leaving. ”  He thought long and hard, but finally chose that person, cutting off his back ups.  He reported feeling much more love than he’d felt before.  I speculate, however, that no one at 47 falls in love like someone who is 17.

First love is something ultra romantic, where we project everything we want on someone else, and since we don’t know ourselves very well, much less the one we fall in love with, the relationship is intense, highly emotional and when it ends can feel like the end of the world.  Through these love relationships and break ups, and just from living more years, we gain experience and self awareness.  And we learn to choose partners who tend not to be quite so completely opposite to our own personality.  Young relationships tend to be opposites:  one is extroverted, the other introverted, and so forth.  In older relationships, we tend to find someone who fits us more closely, recognizing that we have to each take care of our own needs and our own self.  The relationship works when we take care of each other only after meeting our own needs.   It sounds less romantic and more practical, but it goes deeper emotionally and intimately and has the more solid foundation to last the ups and downs of life.

So, you may be seeing red flags.  Do you need your partner to be as romantic as you?  fall as hard as you?  Or do you need a partner who can accept that you are like that even if she is not quite the same?  Remember that you can’t change someone else, and to change yourself is very hard work when you truly are committed to changing whatever you find flawed in yourself.  Trust her to reveal her true self to you, and if you don’t like what you see, pay attention!  That would be where the red flags wave!

Keep talking to her, as you are getting to know each other through words, which are symbols.  We all use words like “love” differently.  Ancient Greek had 6 words for love, and English has only one.  In Greek:  philia or deep friendship (Philadelphia), eros or sexual passion (erotic), agape or love for everyone, universal loving kindness or charity, often used in spiritual groups from Christianity to Buddhism), ludus, or playful love, laughing with friends,  pragma, (pragmatic) or longstanding love or the compromises made with patience and tolerance overtime, as in a marriage, and finally  philautia, which is love of the self.  There are two types of philautia:  the healthy self-compassion and narcissism.

Hopefully, both of you have philia and ludus and will be looking for eros, and agape, as well as creating pragma from both of you having healthy philautia.

I wish you both the best, where ever this shared journey takes you and however long or short it lasts.
Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD

To read more on these 6 worlds of love:http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/the-ancient-greeks-6-words-for-love-and-why-knowing-them-can-change-your-life