My first thought is “Why should you?” What’s wrong with indulging in fantasies for an unavailable woman? After all, that’s how romantic relationships start, with that lovely combination of attraction, desire to be close, and poignant longing. This wonderful woman seems to embody love and passion. In the beginning, she’s a fantasy, and it’s like foreplay to daydream about her.
Then reality sets in, as you begin to see how available she is–or not. Maybe she’s raw from a recent break-up, and can’t handle too much emotional intensity. Or she might be enjoying newfound freedom, and doesn’t want to feel controlled, or invaded. Maybe she’s already involved with someone else. Or she could be less interested than you in an emotionally and physically intimate relationship. Or maybe she has an unfolding substance abuse problem. It takes time to see these dynamics more clearly, and to process the implications for your heart.
At some point you may realize that one of you doesn’t think this is going to work. It doesn’t really matter which of you feels that way, because if it doesn’t work for one of you it won’t for the other either. And if it isn’t going to work—for whatever reason—how long should you hold onto the dream, and how do you let go?
Letting go involves grieving, finally accepting a loss, acknowledging this will never work, and intentionally moving away from the other. It can feel almost unbearably sad, and most of us avoid those feelings as long as possible. Staying lost in thoughts and dreams about her keeps her alive in your mind, and close to your heart. For awhile, sweet fantasies can actually help you get through this, so it’s not a bad thing—for awhile.
The problem begins when the fantasies and longing keep you stuck in an unproductive cycle: fantasizing about her, longing, frustration, more fantasizing So what happens after you recognize this cycle, and decide to give up a fantasy about someone you can’t have? You may want to go back to your previous “real life,” but that’s not so easy. How much joy and fulfillment were you experiencing before this happened? If you were single, how was that going for you? And if you were partnered or married, how was that relationship? What were you missing, or needing, or wanting, that led you to this place?
It may sound right to say “Give up fantasies, get back to your real life!” However, that may be the problem—real life wasn’t so good. Going back to a safe, stable life after a whirlwind of passion sounds incredibly depressing. It reminds me of the movie “The Awakening,” where people who had been dormant for years woke up, enjoyed the pleasure and excitement of being alive. Then they had to go back to sleep. I think that’s what it can feel like to give up on a fantasy-relationship and try to settle back into pre-fantasy life. Like choosing to go back to sleep.
So what’s the alternative? Start with taking your fantasies seriously—they’re trying to tell you something. Another person can’t bring passion out of you if you don’t have it in you, even if it’s been dormant for years. So this is a good time to ask yourself if you want to stay awake to this part of yourself. And if you’re already in a long-term relationship, you’ll need to ask your partner if she wants this too. If you agree about this, you’ll probably know the steps to take. But if you don’t, there’s another problem.
Many lesbian couples stay for years in a non-sexual relationship which feels fine for both of them—until someone meets someone new, and suddenly remembers that she used to love sex and wants more of it in her life. For awhile she fixates all this hot chemical energy on this new person, and if/when this burns off she may try to rekindle something with her old partner–but if that doesn’t work, it’s harder to push this issue back under the rug. And the option of going back to sleep isn’t very attractive either.
It’s no wonder that we can live in fantasies for so long. Letting them go forces us to look at our own lives more closely, and to make conscious choices about how to live, and love. Sadly, sometimes that involves painful losses.
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to have a horribly depressing ending. Falling in love, feeling passion and longing, reminds us of who we can be, experiences we can have—if we can muster up the courage to go forward instead of trying to step back.
Glenda Corwin, Ph.D is a clinical psychologist who specializes in lesbian sexual issues. She is the author of Sexual Intimacy for Women: A Guide for Same Sex Couples (Seal Press, 2010). Dr. Corwin writes for the Huffington Post: Gay Voices, Epochalips.com, as well as her own blog on www.DrGlendaCorwin.com. She presents frequently at professional conferences, and is a regular guest on Barb Elgin’s LesbianLoveTalk radio program.
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