In her former life, Emily “Gynomite” Gordon was a couples and family therapist licensed in 2 1/2 states. In this life, she’s a freelance fighter of your emotional woes with Ask Gynomite. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org- all emails stay confidential. Today, Gynomite takes on dating while pursuing careers.
How’s it going? I’m in a bit of a feelings-pickle, and I’m not sure where to begin. I’ll try necessary info – I’m a guy in my mid-twenties with a history of being way too nice to people without putting my feelings first. I’ve been working on that.
About three months ago, I started dating somebody – a girl I’d met a few times through mutual friends & gotten along with really well. She asked me out & we started dating. Both of us had gotten out of pretty serious relationships months earlier (her more recently than I) so we tried to take things slow & that actually worked, for a while, until the Honeymoon Phase kicked in and we couldn’t get enough of each other – still, we both had busy jobs & lives otherwise, so 2-3 times a week was the maximum possible for hanging out. I’d honestly not expected to get much out of it, having been very anti-dating after the last shitty breakup, but she turned out to be very sweet (I usually date girls who aren’t very nice to me, so that was new) and easily the most compatible person I’d ever become involved with, and she reciprocated my feelings just as strongly. We both had our heads in the clouds, but that wasn’t a problem until a couple days ago.
We’d each gone to our different homes for the holidays, and immediately upon returning I noticed a new kind of emotional distance from her. We talked about it, and yeah, she needs to focus on herself. I do, too, it just took me a second to realize it – we both have big personal goals (on top of our actual jobs & existing commitments) that we’d sort of shuffled to the wayside to spend more time with each other – the plan to “take it slow” fell apart pretty quickly. I don’t want to sound like the naive dumpee but it genuinely felt like it wasn’t personal, like she’d be saying that to whoever she was with at this point in her life, and how close we’d gotten only made it much harder. I knew she’d had a lot less time to spend on herself than I had recently, so it didn’t blindside me. We agreed to stop dating.
I feel like I get it. My problem is that I’m still totally in love with her. I know I can get over her, and I’ll be okay, but right now the version of me that’s over her sounds like an evil bodysnatchers twin. I’ve never had feelings this strong for somebody after such a short amount of time, and she seems to still feel the same way. I think we just started moving too fast, in spite of our best efforts – again, this all started just three months ago. But I’m not really sure how I should proceed, if at all. We already have plans to hang out again next weekend (her idea). I want to back off & give space, but I also really want to keep seeing her – though part of what got us moving too quickly in the first place was my diminishing ability to turn down a chance to hang out with her as we got more into each other.
Part of me wants to go nuclear & cut off all contact to get over her, another part of me thinks this could still work out with space & time & the right priorities, and yet another part thinks I should just chill out and be friends (which sounds like the most difficult option, believe me). As I said, I can be nice to a fault, so a lot of this could just be me being gullible/hopeful – but it really doesn’t feel like it. I don’t know if I’ve given you enough to go on here, but… what do you think?
This is a tough situation- you guys tried to be smart and take things slow, but you got swept away in the romance of it all. I feel like you’re trying to punish yourselves for this very natural thing, and I don’t think punishment is necessary- just a little bit of retooling.
First off, there is a chance that she doesn’t want to be with you anymore, and if this is the case, I would strongly implore you not to keep hanging out with her, with her keeping you at arm’s length by hanging out with you here and there. She can’t have it both ways- she can’t not date you because she wants to focus on her, but have you around just enough so that you are also focused on her.
But that’s me being cynical. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if the breakup happened for genuine “focus on my stuff” reasons, versus “I’m just not into you but this’ll do as an excuse” reasons.
Here’s the thing: people think that they cannot focus on more than one thing at a time, i.e., a relationship and their careers, and that’s just not the case. It takes work, but it is doable. Why can’t some of your dates involve three hours of writing at a coffeeshop, followed by a reward of snuggling? Why can’t both of you talk to each other about your aspirations and goals and give each other thoughts on how to reach those goals? I’m not saying that you two become part of each others’ careers, but just like working out with a friend makes you work out more, doing self-motivated career stuff with a friend makes you more focused on getting things done.
What I would suggest to you is that when you two hang out as friends, you do something that is somehow work-focused. Going to an event with networking opportunities, getting inspiration from an exhibit, working together at a coffeeshop- show her that it doesn’t have to be all Netflix and Thai delivery with you, and you’ll both be better for it.
My husband and I are both workaholics, and when we started dating, we loved hanging out all the time but both felt guilty about it too. So we would just set aside two hours blocks to get shit done, separately, and started competing with how much we could get done in that period. Soon our careers became these things that we both cared for and nurtured- separately, but with an appreciation of what the other person is doing.
You guys can do that too. Maybe as friends, maybe as something more- but that whole thing of the lonely artist making sacrifices to be married to his/her work- that’s not a necessary reality. That’s just a choice.