Michele O'Mara

Don't Move So Fast

Filed By Michele O'Mara | December 23, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: lesbian, relationships

I am 46 years old and have been with women for most of my adult live with many failed love.jpgrelationships under my belt. I've lived with four other partners. I've been seeing a woman for just four months now. She's 40 and two years out of an 18 year relationship (her ex cheated.) They have an 11 year old daughter who lives most of the week with the ex who is her biological mother, and two days a week with my partner. I know in my heart, my gut, in ever cell of my body that this is the woman I've been waiting for my entire life. So how long should I wait to start talking seriously with her about living together? I'm a flight attendant and gone a lot. She's a chef. We both have active lives outside of out relationship and are best friends to one another. And my sister, with whom I'm very close, loves her. She's gotten the thumbs up from my entire family and all of my friends. I've gotten the same on her end. I'm ready now to start talking and planning living together.

She's a bit hesitant because of her daughter. Her ex is now living with the affair. Am I being impatient? We spend every night that I'm in town at my place or hers together. I have two cats that she loves and checks on when I'm gone. I adore her daughter. Her daughter really likes me a lot. Help.

Congratulations on finding "the woman you have been waiting for your entire life." It sounds like you are enjoying one another, and sharing all of the free time you have in common. Life is good, right? It sounds like her daughter is warming up to you, and your cats are warming up to her. This is all so fantastic!

Now, what's the hurry again?

What is it that you will have when you live with her that you don't have now? If I were to guess, I would imagine what you want is a sense of security. You want to seal the deal under the lock and key of a shared home. If this is as important as you suggest it is, I have two very important pieces of advice for you, and I will be very clear and direct.

Advice #1: Slow down. Savor the moments you have right now. Recognize that you are already happy, that you have finally found what you are looking for, that more of it will not make it better. In fact, more may make it worse if you push too hard, too fast. If you are happy, be happy. If you are not happy about something, then look at the thing that is causing you discomfort. You love her. She loves you. You are getting to know each other. It's all good, already, right now! Enjoy.

Believe it or not, as soon as you begin planning for greater levels of commitment, you accelerate your movement through the natural stages of relationship development. The three stages of relationship development, according to the Imago Relationship Theory developed by Harville Hendrix, are: 1) Romantic, where it seems you are right now; 2) Power Struggle, which is where you will be catapulted when you move in together; and 3) Real Love, which is the goal (conscious or unconscious) that we all have when we partner. (I'll include a brief description of the stages of relationship development at the end of this article just to expand a bit more for you.)

Advice #2: Honor the needs of her child. That her child likes you is a wonderful starting place. That can change on a dime if decisions are made too quickly and without consideration for her and what she needs.

She has likely suffered a very painful experience with the separation of her moms. And while she may like you, and like spending time with you, she may not be ready for another big change so quickly. She may not be ready to share her mom with you full-time, even if she already does. For the first nine years she had the security of her moms to come home to. For the last two years it seems she has had to share one of her moms with someone new and is now facing this with her other mom. It sounds as if her other mom's relationship moved quickly.

Trust your partner's intuition about what is right for her daughter. Your partner's ability to be loyal to the needs of her daughter and balance that with loyalty to her own needs will serve her well and will serve your relationship well in the long run. Give her the space to figure this out. Let her know that when she's ready to take that next step, you are ready, and then simply wait until she brings it up again.

Life is good, right? Focus on that. Focus on what you already have, not on wanting more. Focus on the joy of what already is, rather than the desire of what isn't. When you allow yourself to see that you are already in paradise, then you will find comfort in the realization that things will unfold as they need to, when they need to, and it doesn't have to happen any faster than it is.

Big love to you and your new family. Enjoy it all.

A brief description of the relationship stages of development are as follows:

Romantic Love

Romantic Love is the period of attraction that brings two people together, often with passion, intrigue, excitement and anticipation. Our bodies are flooded with a natural feel-good neurotransmitter called Phenylethylaline (PEA) which is also present in chocolate. This neurotransmitter has the ability to heighten our sense of pleasure. Consider the start of some of your relationships--the initial weeks and months of spending time together.

Can you recall the food you tasted, the music you listened to, the places you spent time, the smells--all of your senses come to life heightening the pleasure you experience in everyday activities. PEA can last anywhere from 3 minutes to one year, but inevitably it fades. The Imago theory of relationships suggests that PEA is nature's way of bringing (often incompatible!) people together long enough to commit to one another. And once the commitment occurs--whether that is a decision to live together, to share finances, to have a child, to have a commitment event/marriage, or something else, the power struggle begins.

Power Struggle

Interestingly, 60 percent of all heterosexual relationships end in divorce. The rate for gays and lesbians would be nearly impossible to determine as there is no systematic measurement in our society that allows us to measure relationship commitments among same-sex couples. Of the 40 percent of heterosexuals who remain married, about 5 percent actually make it through the power struggle without an intervention such as counseling. While we are in Romantic Love, all we want to focus on is our similarities. However, as time progresses, so too does our understanding of one another, and our differences naturally emerge. When these differences surface, the power struggle is on.

Ironically, we often pick a partner that has a difficult time meeting our needs. If we crave closeness and connection, we are likely to be drawn to the partner who struggles with intimacy and contact. If we need a lot of distance and space, we are likely to find ourselves with someone who is desires a lot of closeness and who is maybe even a little clingy. What one partner most needs is often what the other partner most needs to learn to give.

It is in this exchange, the meeting of one another's needs, that the healing begins to occur. In the less common case where our partner does not match what is familiar, we will provoke it! And to no surprise, the more energetic the Romantic Love is, the greater the Power Struggle is likely to be. Unfortunately, most couples spend their whole relationships in this stage, never progressing beyond the struggles.

Real Love

Real Love is what we have come to associate with unconditional. This unconditional love, however, includes unconditional giving, receiving, valuing, and it leads to a spiritual intimacy that is deeper and more stable than that of romantic love and romance. This comes from really knowing ourselves, and really knowing our partners. Real Love is a non-defensive way of relating which evolves from feeling safe, and good enough, and healed with our partner. Real Love allows us to live with full aliveness and joy. Real Love involves no expectations in the way we relate. It is a natural connectedness and oneness that respects the individuality of each partner without moving to change one another into clones of oneself. Real Love is spontaneous and free. It's the greatest gift we have to give one another.

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You really do have to wonder why someone wants to move faster if they are right in saying that they're happy where they are. Then, though, if they do get to where they want to get, they'll probably be just as happy there as they are here.