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|Barb Elgin • 6/29/16|
In my 25+ years of working as a psychotherapist, I’ve talked with hundreds of singles and couples (both gay and straight) about their love lives, spending thousands of hours helping them figure out their romantic challenges. I’ve trained with some of the leading dating experts in the U.S., and I’ve spent the greater part of my adulthood in loving relationships, along with some healthy alone time for self-growth and reflection.
What I’ve found is relationship and dating success is easier to accomplish than you think. In fact, most of us miss out on success even though it’s right in front of us, so I want to bring your eye for love into focus. You don’t need months or years of therapy to figure it all out; you just need to zero in on what matters.
As you read the advice that follows, keep an open heart and what I like to call a “beginner’s mind.” Many times a beginner’s mind finds solutions much quicker and easier than a mind full of pre-existing ideas and judgments.
Lesbian relationship goals often vary from person to person, but the ones below can apply to almost any couple facing almost any situation.
Every relationship is like a new car. When you first drive it off the lot, it’s bright and shiny. You’re careful not to scratch it up, and you care about keeping it clean. When you drive it, the engine is humming beautifully.
However, as you’re enjoying your new car, something starts to happen. One day you find it doesn’t start as easily as it once did, or you notice the wheel doesn’t turn as smoothly anymore. Also, the car has become a bit dull looking, not shiny and clean like it once was. What is going on?
With all cars, you have to do some maintenance to keep them running like new. If you don’t top off the coolant, your engine can run too hot. If you don’t keep the oil clean or put anti-freeze in the radiator for the winter, the engine could lock up or the engine block could actually crack. Then your car’s dead in the water.
Just like every car, every relationship must be maintained if it’s going to last. Always keep this concept at the top of your mind during your relationships.
When it comes to love, there is no more dedicated an investigator than Dr. John M. Gottman. One of the most unfortunate findings from his research shows that troubled couples wait six years before seeking help for their relationship woes.
Going back to my car analogy, would you wait six years to get new tires if they were balding? Would you wait six years to fix a clunky transmission? Eventually, you will have a dangerous blowout and crash, or you won’t be able to drive your car at all.
Don’t forget, too, that all of this maintenance takes effort, but much less so if you nip issues in the bud. Regular oil changes lead to a better running engine and an engine that will last longer. That’s your reward.
So the next time you kvetch a bit because you’ve got to go to relationship counseling, just envision what life without your beloved would be like. Are you still moaning after that thought? Even better, learn how to maintain your relationship without therapy. Get a great couples book such as “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” which is written by Gottman, and do the exercises together.
Whether it’s been one month or one decade, relationships can expose you to a diversity of stressful times. You must learn to stay relaxed or you will add stress to yourself, your partner, and your relationship. Any problem is more easily solved when at least one partner is relaxed and flexible.
Practice healthy relaxation strategies as needed. These will help lower your baseline stress level. Make sure the practices you choose are easy and quick to ensure that you’ll do them often, eventually training your body to relax itself automatically.
Three of my favorite strategies are progressive muscle relaxation, stretching, and self massage, and you don’t have to spend a dime to do them. Go to YouTube and search these key terms until you find a video you like. This self massage video uses Abhyanga, an Ayurvedic practice. For progressive muscle relaxation, I like this 15-minute one that’s led by a psychologist from Utah State University. If you’re into stretching, here’s a quick five-minute exercise you can even do at work.
There are millions of great quotes out there about lesbian relationships, and even just relationships in general, but the ones below have really struck a chord with me — and I think they will for you, too.
I was drawn to this quote immediately because the greatest truth is that ALL relationships can help you be a better person. Remember to pay attention to your pain and lack of happiness, and then do something about it like speak up for yourself. I also love to say that I thank my exes. For example, “that dysfunctional relationship taught me so much about who I am and what makes me happy.”
This quote is fabulous because it is full of love and pride, but most of all it shows how important family allies are — especially those you wouldn’t expect to support you like older family members who tended to grow up in a much less LGBT-tolerant time. If I’d had a grandma stand up for me like this, it would’ve boosted my self-confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem. Thank you to all the grandmas who are brave enough to be so bold!
Another favorite of mine, this quote deftly combines humor, heart, and a beginner’s mind. If you approach your love life (single, dating, or coupled) with these three elements on a consistent basis, it will prosper.
We get a ton of lesbian dating and relationship questions from our readers, some of the most common being:
Our Lesbian Dating section addresses these questions and more, with tips and insights from experts like me and lesbian women who’ve been where you are.
So many lesbian singles and couples don’t know how to improve their love lives. Lack of knowledge and support can prevent them from mentally and emotionally maturing and coming into their own in their romantic lives. If this sounds like what you’re going through right now, don’t despair.
Use this article’s recommendations to get support for yourself, and apply what you learn to create your own success. Of course, this will take time, experience, and even a few mistakes, but one of the surest paths to a happy love life is going through the pain of an unhappy love life and deciding to make a change. I hope my tips inspire in you the confidence you need to get more of what you want out of love.