A new phenomenon has come to town and entered the bedroom of one of my clients. One that is causing her to feel guilty. One that goes against her beliefs around relationships and feels to her like gender role-reversal: she doesn't want to spend the night—or all sorts of extra time—with the new guy she's seeing. She'd rather restrict their couple time to three or four hours during the evening, hang out or go out, followed by sex. But then have them call it a night.
Anyone else relate? I know I can. And the first time I became aware of my feelings, I struggled with them too. Cause our programming, from marriage and prior to, is to want to cuddle and drift off to sleep in a man's arms after sharing a session of (hopefully wonderful) sex/lovemaking.
But the reality is that we sometimes don't get a good night's sleep with a man we're getting to know. In part that could stem from his sleeping habits: he snores, he hogs the bed, he twitches, etc. Moreover, sometimes it's just plain hard to relax in someone else's bed - it's like our minds don't fully shut down cause they know we aren't at home. I think that's natural, especially since we were married and spent years sleeping in the same bed with the same guy!
But our desire to not spend the night can stem from something else. And THIS is the factor that my client feels so guilty about. She'd simply prefer to spend a set amount of time with him so that she's free to go do whatever she else wants. Cause there ARE other activities and people she'd like to spend her time with.
She said, "The morning after we spent our first night together, I wanted to leave after breakfast so I could run some errands and visit with a girlfriend. But he was so insistent that we spend the day together. I felt too guilty to say no.
"Next thing I knew, he asked me to go to a BBQ with his friends that night, which in turn, led to him wanting me to spend ANOTHER night with him. I went along with it strictly out of guilt. Cause although I like him, I don't want a serious boyfriend. I really don't. Yet we're spending time together as if we're a married couple!"
I see my client's dilemma as two-fold: one, is the challenge of putting her guilt to bed and trusting/owning what she's ready for at this stage post-divorce. The second, however, is around how to express these needs to her man, when there's a good chance it's going to hurt his feelings. In her case, her new guy is separated. He's only one year into his divorce. So it makes sense that he, being accustomed to the dynamics of couple hood, would be on autopilot to replace that dynamic.