DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m sailing some weird waters, making a connection with someone I met through a dating website. She’s trans. That’s not really the problem, but it complicates the problem.
I live with my parents. I dated a disaster a couple years ago, lost my virginity and a good deal of my sanity to what I now understand was a manipulative, abusive person. I met him online.
Since then, my mom has insisted I reach out through my microscopic circle of friends, or even various groups I belong to, to find someone to date. I have reached, and dredged, and come up with nothing but dashed hopes and some now awkward friendships. So, about a week and a half ago, I decided I’d mess with my profile again, sparked by a picture I took of myself that looked half decent, and the fact that two of my friends are getting married, so what the hell, who wants to be lonely forever.
The strangest, most suspicious thing happened. The first person I got a message from was not only decent, but pretty awesome (hot to boot), and we hit it off. I think the big red flag, though, is that the relationship has seemed to progress at ludicrous speed – akin to my last one. I honestly don’t know if that’s normal. I’ve dated two friends in my life, had sex with someone I met online on our third date, and don’t know what the heck normal is. I have no experience to work with, and if I keep waiting for someone to come into my life, I will continue to have no experience.
I’m wondering if I’m naive enough at 26 that my parents should be making my decisions for me, or if it’s okay to dive whole body into a relationship less than a week old. I’m sure the very fact that I’m wondering that really helps my case for me being mature.
I want to tell my parents I met someone, but I don’t know how to assert my maturity, or if I even should considering my behavior. To complicate things further, I don’t know how to come out as a lesbian who’s dating a trans girl.
So, I guess there’s a lot of talking that needs to happen somewhere. And probably some self-examination. But I don’t know where to start, and there’s only so long I can keep a part of this on pause before it blows up in my face.
DEAR PANDORA: Here’s a truth: there is no “normal”.
There isn’t any “one” way for relationships to go; you may date someone casually for a long time before getting serious and moving in together. You may find someone with whom you connect so quickly your head will spin. You may wait the cliche three dates to sleep with someone only to have them pull The Fade on you immediately afterwards. You may have a one-night stand that turns into a life-long, loving relationship that you usually only find in Nora Ephron films. Every relationship is going to be different and that’s ok. This has nothing to do with maturity.
That having been said, you don’t want to make the mistake of making a serious commitment early on. No matter how twitter-pated you may feel over your new girlfriend, you barely know a person at six months, never mind six days. You’re not even in the honeymoon period; you’re still in the “So, do you like Siracha on your pad-thai?” stage. It’s good that you’re deliriously happy – from the sounds of it, you definitely deserve some happiness in your life – but relationships take more than just that initial rush of chemistry and euphoria at the beginning. The red flag isn’t how quickly you connect, it’s how much you our your potential partner pushes for a commitment; pushing for an immediate commitment – especially exclusivity – is a danger sign. It frequently means that the person pushing for commitment is trying to lock you down before you realize that there’s something not right.
It doesn’t sound like that’s what your new crush is doing — or at least, you don’t say that she is in your letter — so that’s a good sign. But it’s still possible to get so caught up in the thrill of this new relationship, even a very good one, that you overinvest emotionally and put yourself at risk of getting hurt.
That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t enjoy the hell out of these happy feelings. By all means, embrace ‘em, enjoy that euphoria and how amazing your partner makes you feel. But don’t let yourself mistake the new relationship energy for the relationship. Trying to keep your head can be difficult at times like this, but you don’t want to end up committing to more than you’re actually ready for because you got caught up in the excitement of it all.
Now, as for telling your parents: there’s going to be a lot to drop on them at once, and honestly, there’s a certain amount they simply don’t need to know. The priority should be – assuming that you’re in a position where you can do so safely – coming out to your parents and letting them get adjust to the idea of who you really are. All they need to know right now is that you’re dating a woman and you’re head over heels for her. That’s really all you need to tell them for now. You’ve known her for a week and change – that’s not exactly “meet the parents” time. Hell, speaking strictly for myself and my relationship with my family, at a week in they were usually lucky to get the fact that I’d gone on a date with someone at all. If and when she’s a more established part of your life, then it may or may not be something they should be aware of, but for now: you’re seeing somebody and she’s awesome.
So here’s my advice: embrace the euphoria. Enjoy it! Acknowledge it, say “Isn’t it crazy how much we seem to click?” But don’t make any major decisions over it. You can feel the crazy compatibility without having to lock yourself to this person either in a lease or an exclusive relationship. If she’s as awesome as you think, she’ll be fine taking things slowly and just enjoying the newness of it all. If she pushes for commitment, then you’ll need to consider taking a step back and examining her other behavior for potential red flags.
But for now it sounds like you’ve got a good thing going — and one that’s much deserved. Take it slow, enjoy what you have and I think you’ll find that things will sort themselves out as you go.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org