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Lesbians in a committed relationship may experience a wide range of stressors, including some unique to lesbians, that can impact their relationship. Whether it’s conflicts with your partner or challenges related to family support, societal stigma, finances or intimacy, navigating these issues can be challenging.
Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these stressors and maintain a healthy, happy relationship with your partner. In this article, we’ll explore some of the top lesbian relationship stressors and provide practical tips for overcoming them.
One of the biggest relationship stressors for any couple is communication. In lesbian relationships, communication can be particularly challenging because women tend to be more emotionally expressive than men. This can create misunderstandings and hurt feelings if one partner feels that their emotional needs are not being met.
Establishing open, honest communication with your partner helps build a strong relationship. This means setting aside time to talk about your feelings and concerns, and actively listening to your partner. I encourage my clients to have regularly scheduled date nights to proactively discuss issues or concerns that arise so they do not become problems.
Couples can learn how to set boundaries and create a safe space by taking 5 minutes to reflect on a disagreement before it gets out of control. Therapists and coaches can help couples develop these tools.
One simple tool is to use “I” statements to take responsibility for how you are feeling or reacting in a situation. “I” rather than “you” statements keep our partner from feeling blamed and can help both of you be more open.
Another common stressor for lesbian couples is dysfunctional or lack of family and social support. Many lesbians experience rejection from their families and communities, which can make it difficult to build a strong support network. Couples get pulled in opposite directions when one family puts undue pressure on one partner.
To overcome this, a good resource is to seek out support from friends, community organizations, and other resources. Joining a local LGBT support group can be a great way to meet other people who understand your experiences and can offer support and guidance.
It’s also important to be open with your partner about your feelings regarding family and social support. Together, you can work to create a support system that meets both of your needs.
Friend groups can sometimes feel threatened by a new partner who is outside the group. Take time to talk to your friends about your new girlfriend and include her in activities so they can get to know her.
Lesbian couples often face societal stigma and discrimination, which can create stress and anxiety in the relationship. This can be particularly challenging if one partner is more comfortable being out than the other. If a partner’s workplace is not accepting, that could cause stress that the partner brings home.
To overcome societal stigma, establish a strong sense of self and a supportive community. This may involve finding like-minded friends and joining a local LGBT support group.
It’s also important to communicate openly with your partner about your feelings regarding being out. Together, you can work to create a plan for navigating potential challenges and supporting each other through difficult times.
Financial stress is a stressor in all relationships, but it can be particularly challenging in lesbian relationships where income disparities are common. This can create tension and resentment if one partner feels that they are carrying a disproportionate share of the financial burden.
Establishing open and honest communication about finances will help reduce stress. This may involve creating a budget, discussing long-term financial goals, and dividing financial responsibilities fairly.
It also means creating a structure for financial planning and decisions as well as rules to follow.
Seek out financial counseling workshops if you are struggling with debt or other financial issues. Together, you can work to create a plan to manage your finances and build a strong financial future.
According to Dr. Barton Goldsmith in Psychology Today, money is #1 cause of divorce, so it is critical to get on the same page or at least agree to the rules you create together.
As in any relationship an unhealthy balance of work and play can add stress to a couple. If one partner has a more demanding role at work, this can wreak havoc on the relationship.
Couples can benefit from working with a coach or therapist to help navigate this issue. Discussing long work hours, travel demands and weekend obligations and setting boundaries is critical to having a healthy relationship.
Raising children together can challenge any relationship. If a lesbian couple has children from a previous straight or lesbians relationship, custody arrangements can be difficult. And working out different discipline styles adds to the mix. Being flexible but also having committed schedules as much as possible will help.
Lesbian couples can be successful with this as long as everyone agrees to be civil and fair. If a previous partner still harbors anger about the breakup, custody can be frustrating. Good communication and flexibility usually smooth out the occasional kinks.
Intimacy can be a major stressor in lesbian relationships, particularly if one partner is less interested in sex than the other. This can create feelings of rejection and frustration, which can ultimately damage the relationship. Sex is the one differentiator between a relationship and a friendship so it should be a priority.
Be open and honest with your partner about your needs and desires. You may also consider seeking professional counseling or therapy to work through any underlying issues that may be at work in your sexual relationship.
There may also be health issues related to sex that may be affecting your intimacy. Be upfront with your partner. It might be good to discuss this with your physician and decide whether medical treatments can help.
Explore alternative forms of intimacy, such as cuddling, holding hands, and spending quality time together. These forms of intimacy can help strengthen your emotional connection and build a stronger, more fulfilling relationship.
If your partner has had any sexual trauma, counseling is critical to heal and move forward. Intimacy is the one thing that differentiates a relationship from friendship.
If sex stops, then the relationship suffers a major setback and may not survive. “Lesbian bed death” is not a myth and results from lack of interest by one or both partners. Sex therapists can help.
In conclusion, like any romantic relationship, lesbian relationships can be challenging and may come with some unique challenges of their own.
Seeking support from a relationship coach or therapist is often helpful to deal with tougher challenges along the way. With the right tools, support and commitment, lesbian relationships can also be incredibly rewarding and long lasting.