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Speaking About Relationships

We all show interest in the relationships of others but the curiosity in the ups and downs of such affairs is so demanding. There is a desire to hear more not only of the lesbians we know but also of those in the immediate and distant society. Most of us would have often heard the spicy words “do you know who’s seeing what’s-her-name?” and “it’s all over between so-‘n-so and so-‘n- so.” You are all aware of the hearsay and conjecture within the lesbian community, but how many times do they talk about the goings on in their own relationship? Speaking, that is, about the good and also the more difficult things.

The Anecdote of the Perfect Lesbian Relationship

If a lesbian relationship does not meet with the idyllic perception of such then the general thought is there is something wrong with the couple. There is always this assumed myth which says that all lesbian relationships are faultless and are identical. It gives the feeling of risk about being honest about the relationship.

Lesbians often feel the pressure of trying to hide the struggles in their relationships when feeling the need to declare and shelter their love. They fear that these signals of love would be used against them.

The will to present a perfect picture and to protect relationships can lead to lessening and refuting the struggles that do exist.

Lesbians Build Their Own Relationships

Lesbian relationships can, in reality, differ enormously. It is a reflection on the larger heterosexual world and the lesbian arena as to how the relationship is created. As there are very few role models to follow lesbians are freer to create relationships of their own determination rather than those based on collective teaching and desires.

Some lesbian couples within their relationship live apart, thus this type of liaison does not follow the normal heterosexual model. These types may choose non monogamy, and may be poly-amorous but will stay together whilst the partnership remains good as opposed to the “till death do us part” principle. They are as much friends and equals as they are lovers. Lesbians generally ask themselves what kind of relationship they want and not be compelled to follow the stereotypical Hollywood model. With this thought they often feel that being in a lesbian relationship might seem like starting over.

It can be very difficult to be so original. Lesbians do experience much social pressure living in a more open society. Homophobia might present a palpable pressure and put strain on relationships.

The Pressure of Homophobia

Homophobic family and peers can be very critical of lesbian relationships and many suffer as a result. Whether or not to come out, when and with whom, can crop up. There may be differences between women on how far to go to conceal their relationship even when they are of one accord not to come out. Partners might feel hurt, apprehensive or even unloved, due to the repeated denial of the relationship, when only one side of a relationship decides to come out. The partner who has not come out could possibly hold responsible and feel bitter about the other one because of her own secrecy and guilty feelings. Misery, annoyance and despondency may be felt by both and they might take their feelings out on each other.

In the situation where hurt and angry feelings grow it is really important for both women to discuss their feelings for each other as these bad feelings can lead to rows, uncertainty and anxiety. They must listen to what each other is saying.

Lesbians can be pulled apart from each other because of harassment, the fear of harassment even when both partners are out or almost out. It can be frightening to be out so you might drift apart a little. It might be the gossip and suppositions that are made about you. By laying the blame with homophobia rather than inadequacy on the part of each woman puts the culpability where it should go. Rather than battling with each other about how to cope with such situations it would be better to join together over a shared dilemma and jointly overcome it.

Doubly Stigmatised

With a lesbian partnership there can be other barriers where there exist differences between women. These are based on race, culture, age and sexual orientation. It can be a reality that even lesbian friends might be critical and contrary of obvious differences between women in a partnership, often assuming that it would never work out. Couples might find this attitude upsetting and isolating, to be abandoned by both their own community and the mainstream of society. It remains difficult for couples to be doubly stigmatised, although over time this unwillingness on the part of friends to recognize your partner often changes. Partnerships in these circumstances frequently feel they need to present their relationship and partner as faultless as everybody would be expecting them not to succeed. Expectation of this would be too much for you to tolerate. It is important to find people supportive of your relationship, even if it require visits to couple’s therapy for a period of time.

Having Time Apart

Spending all of their free time together is not uncommon in the beginning of a lesbian relationship, enjoying the love of their partner and finding out about each other. The relationship develops into an insulated way of life as friends might be dropped and separate activities stop. For a while things might feel really good between the two women. However this total dedication to each other frequently decreases in time with one of the partners stating a need for more freedom.

There may be a want to spend time with friends or time alone. It may come out unexpectedly or desperately if she has thought this way for awhile. How ever it sounds her partner may perhaps hear her as saying she wants to get away from her. The partner might get upset and angry, or feel hurt and rejected, and begin to question her lover’s commitment and love. The partner wanting more liberty may well feel misunderstood, suffocated and inhibited, and so left wanting a bigger need for space. This is a bad combination.

Many couples end up arguing at this point when they find they both lack consideration and reassurances. They might only get time apart after an argument rather than working out how to support each others wants for separate time and that satisfies neither woman.

Dealing With Differences

Couples can face a real test when dealing with differences. Lesbians love the fact that it’s two women in the relationship, the equivalence feels fine and correct. They thrill in each other, their bodies, exchanging clothes, sharing things, laughing together. They tend to feel uncomfortable, angry or frightened when confronted with too many points of disparity, or sometimes one major point. After a while they discover that there are differences between themselves. Such as important matters of not being able to get on with each other’s friends, or not enjoying the same social activities, to lesser matters like when to go to bed. These differences will eventually be exposed.

It may be the difficulty of dealing with difficulties is due to uneasiness with the separateness they can produce. However, it could be the fact that differences face up to the perception of how people or relationships should be like. It might be that we think that being separate is not all right, or it means there is a dilemma when it is actually a natural thing which helps lesbians feel even closer. It might be that lesbians are not comfortable with their own freedom and how that gives influence in the relationship.

If the relationship is so wrapped up with each other it might be thought that any differences mean there is a problem, but differences are just that: differences, nothing more, and nothing less. Differences should be accepted and yet rejoiced, that’s the challenge. Partners can learn from each other’s differences. One who requires lots of freedom could learn how to clearly set boundaries and with compassion. One who requires less freedom could learn the value of space, or learn not to feel “out of it” when her lover takes space.

There can be an proclivity to repress differences when they occur, making a person concerned that they mean something is not right with the relationship. Lots of fighting or the stifling of a relationship may occur should the differences become repressed. Disparity in the relationship, lessening of sexual desires and resentment lead to despair, frustration and harsh feuds all due to unappreciated or underestimated differences. Discussing differences and not giving negative meaning to them goes far in a relationship. A lot of problems can be prevented by taking note of them, talking them through and realising that there are differences.

Dealing With Conflict

A number of women steer clear of addressing resentments when they do build up. Ways of dealing with anger and conflict have never been taught to many people. Many women strive very hard to get along with others and to reduce differences or feelings of fury and bitterness. However anger does not disappear, it usually build up and comes out indirectly elsewhere and is frequently upsetting to the partner and the relationship.

Women often have to work at exposing resentments, but it is really important to do so. It can help to take time to listen to other peoples resentments. It would go a long way to take note of and understand each other’s anger. It’s about understanding the partner’s point of view, not about who’s right or wrong.

Talking to a good and trusted friend about what is going on in a relationship is a good remedy for a relationship problem, but not someone else’s relationship. Not enough is heard about how other lesbians handle their problems. It seems lesbians have their struggles which are not very different from each other.

By Michelle James - August 2010


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