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Dear Mary: I miss my first lesbian love


Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column

Question: I regularly read your column and find many of the issues people write to you about to be universal and your responses helpful. I am writing to you as I am struggling internally at the moment. I am in my mid twenties and I ended a relationship with a girl back in February. It was my first serious romantic relationship where I had deep feelings for my partner. It was also my first same-sex relationship, and the first time that I had been sexual with another woman.

I now regret breaking up with her, because I miss her terribly and feel her absence daily. I don't really speak to anyone about how I'm feeling, and my friends assume I am long over it and didn't really love her that much to begin with.

I felt at the time that I needed to end the relationship because I felt overwhelmed by the intensity of her love for me which she declared very early on, and I felt suffocated at times. She could be very needy at times and if I couldn't be with her she would claim that I didn't love her or would start to cry. I felt like there wasn't much of a balance in the relationship and that we rushed a lot of things, for example, sleeping together, even though the sex was very passionate and sweet.

Another major reason for the relationship not working out is that I did not feel ready to tell my family about our relationship. She pushed me a lot to start 'coming out of the closet' and to spend time with her family from very early on in the relationship and I felt rushed into doing these things that I wasn't ready for. She has been openly gay for a couple of years now after ending a long-term relationship with a man.

The thing is, it is months since the relationship has been over and I don't know how to move on from it. It didn't work out, and even if we reconciled, which is highly unlikely, the same problems would be present. I have had no contact with her for several months but I am tormented in my mind from seeing her image all the time and feeling remorse and regret for not doing certain things differently while we were together.

I had considered writing her a letter but I'm not sure if this is a good idea and if it is better not to contact her at all, given that she might be seeing someone else now or is not interested in hearing from me. I am moving abroad to start a new life soon and feel like this is still hanging over me and all I want to do is feel free of the pain of this failed relationship. I have tried dating other women but I have not felt any connection to them and have felt worse after these dates. I just end up comparing them to her.

I am worried that I am still going to be thinking about this ex in years to come, and regretting letting her go. I never loved anyone I dated or was in a relationship with until her, but it didn't seem like it was enough to hold us together. I am not sure if it is relevant but she comes from a very happy, stable family background where the parents and siblings are extremely close and so happy at times I found it sickening. My parents have a very abusive relationship and it's been that way for as long as I can remember, and it surely has been damaging on myself and my siblings to some extent. Our family is not close, and at times I would love to not speak to some of them ever again - or at least distance myself to a point where I only have to see or speak to them a few times a year.

I am considering speaking to a counsellor because I don't want to continue to feel this way. The relationship lasted only six months. I appreciate you taking the time to read this correspondence.

Mary replies: People forget that those who end a relationship also suffer, sometimes greatly, and yours is such a case. You are correct in saying that if you were to get back together the same problems would no doubt exist after the initial excitement of the reunion. She would still be very needy and you would feel suffocated, and she would also be pushing you to come out to your friends and presumably ultimately to your family also.

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However, you are stuck with not being over her, and it is not good for you to be constantly thinking about her, and this, together with all the regrets that you are experiencing, is preventing you from moving on with your life.

You have made the quite dramatic decision to move abroad and so I think it is a very good idea that before you do you try to have some closure on this relationship. I believe that there is nothing to prevent you from remaining friends if she is amenable. After all, you were an important part of each others' lives for six months. I think you should write to her and tell her of your plans to move abroad. You can then put into words the regrets that you feel, and say how sorry you are that things did not work out but that she will always have a special place in your heart. This is very true because it was your first serious relationship, and your first lesbian one too. Try not to worry too much that subsequent dates with other women didn't work out - somebody else will come along when you are fully over this relationship and ready to move on.

When you are established in whatever country you are going to it would be a very good idea for you to see a counsellor in order to help you work through both your family of origin issues and any questions you may still have relating to your sexuality. I wish you all the best in your new life.

I'm not sure I want to live with her

Question: I have a big problem. I'm in my late twenties and  met a great girl (of the same age) on holidays in Spain two years ago. We have been maintaining a long-distance relationship since then - we live at opposite ends of the country.

I have enjoyed it all - we went on holidays together last summer and have been to a few weddings together and have had many weekends together. But now she wants to change jobs, move to where I live and move in with me. Suddenly, I'm not sure. I think I love her but want to be sure before making a move as definite as this.

Don't get me wrong - I like her enormously, she's fine to be with and we get on very well together. I have met her family, and like them, and she has met mine and they think she's great. I haven't been unfaithful to her, but every so often I feel my eyes roving and wonder if it would be wrong of me to lead her up the garden path if I am not sure. Or am I just getting cold feet?

Mary replies: You have known your girlfriend for quite some time, but I wonder how much time you have actually spent together. In some ways your relationship so far has been a bit idyllic, because you haven't been living in the same city - apart from holidays - and are seeing each other only for weekends, when, no doubt, both of you make sure that everything goes well. So I'm not surprised that she wants to be together on a more regular basis in order to progress the relationship.

However, you are not yet prepared to move in together, and that is understandable as you probably want to see more of her on a regular basis before you commit to what is quite a serious step.

A possibility would be for you to suggest that she moves near to you but not actually live with you for the moment until you have more time together.

Put a time limit on it, let's say six months. She is obviously ready to commit so you will have to be very careful as to how you handle what she may see as a rejection. She will be planning her move and will have told her friends and family what is happening and her loss of face would be huge if it were not to happen.

You certainly do appear to have the basis for a very good relationship, so think very carefully about what you do. You may risk losing her as she may not be at all happy not to be moving in with you. So ask yourself how you would feel if she were to end the relationship as a result. Your answer should make things very clear for you.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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