Dear Dr. Frankie,

I became very good friends with a gal from work. (She is 45 and I am 58). We became very close and were both recovering from nasty breakups. My break up was from a girlfriend of 10 years, and hers was a breakup with her wife of 15 yrs. I have been single now for almost 3 years and she has been single for 1 1/2 years. Her ex is a doctor with a very dominating, controlling personality. This gal lives on her own and is trying to cope with raising her children, and dealing with her ex. About 3 months into our friendship she kissed me and things progressed slowly from there. We have now been very involved for about the last nine months. We are very deeply intimate, love hanging out with each other, and live separately. She has been clear with me from the first kiss that she cannot “handle” a relationship. BUT…we are in a relationship. We agreed we would just take all of this one day at a time, live in the moment and enjoy what was happening.

Sometimes she will call me her girlfriend, but we don’t talk about that term too much. We have put no label on what is going on with us. As time has passed our love has grown and I feel like I want more. I would like to talk with her about being committed girlfriends in an exclusive relationship.

I do not want to lose her, but I also know I have to do what is best for me. I feel like being with her is what is best for me, but I also realize she is essentially running the show. I know that she is very scared by her past relationship and is trying to work out those issues. I sometimes wonder if she is using me? But after all we did say we would live each day as it comes and just enjoy the love. I am scared shitless to approach this with her. I feel like I am a bit invisible at times, like I am the secret girlfriend…back in the closet so to speak. I did tell her that, a few months back and she said, NO, you are not invisible and YOU are very important to me. She said, “What we have is very special, and you are not invisible”… If I am so important, then when is the right time to say “I need validation as to what we are, and who I am to you…acknowledge me, as your girlfriend”, ie: to friends, family
So…what is a girl to do…I am not afraid to be alone. Should I just keep doing what we are doing…but for how long? Please put it in perspective for me…as I have stated, I sure don’t want to lose her, but I certainly don’t want to give her an ultimatum.

Dear Quandary,

It sounds like this woman makes you very happy. Keep things in perspective and remember it has only been nine months. I know in the lesbian world that means one of you should already be pregnant, but let’s take a step back. She recently came out of an unhealthy, 15 year relationship, and also has the needs of her children to consider (which come first). She is trying to work through her issues surrounding her previous relationship, which is a very admirable thing to do. Many people do exactly the opposite and rush right into the next relationship, hoping to avoid the often painful task of introspection. If you truly feel as connected to her as you describe give her more time. Maybe pick a date in your mind when you feel like you can’t wait any longer for more of a commitment. That could be six months or even a year or more from now.
If you absolutely can’t hold back from discussing your thoughts on this topic with her, consider communicating your feelings of eventually wanting more of a commitment. Explore the idea of if and when she might be ready for something more significant. Before you do this, you’ll have to carefully weigh the risk of this conversation. If you apply pressure, or even if she perceives you are applying pressure, you run the risk of losing her completely. And if you do apply pressure she may fear losing you and prematurely make a commitment that she is not ready for. Your best chance for success is for her to realize on her own, when she is in a better place emotionally, that it’s time to move forward in the relationship. It sounds as if you two are deeply connected, whether she likes to admit it or not. Take your own advice and enjoy each day for what it is. By doing this you are allowing things to unfold organically.

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