Therapy for Lesbian Couples: Challenges That Often Get Ignored
Whether you are in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, every couple experiences joys and struggles.
Every relationship starts with the nerves of a first date, grows into a partnership, and reaches various milestones along the way.
Although both heterosexual and same-sex relationships share many similarities, same-sex couples experience a particular set of challenges that are often overlooked.
Therapy for these couples can be very beneficial if these therapy sessions focus on the unique obstacles faced by gay and lesbian couples.
Consider some of the significant factors that can negatively impact lesbian couples.
Challenges for Lesbian Couples That Therapy Shouldn’t Ignore
1) Rushing In
Women are typically more willing to express their emotions. When excitement and infatuation take over, reason seems to get kicked to the curb. It is important to set emotional milestones that correspond to big decision making such as moving in or saying ‘I love you.’ Also, you may not each feel loved and cared for the same way. Therefore it is important to ask your partner so you can show your love in a way that is uniquely special to one another.
One of the most significant moments in a lesbian person’s life is coming out to family and friends. In a partnership, each person might be in different stages of outness. One person might only be ‘out’ to family while the other is comfortable being ‘out’ in society.
Outness proves a unique challenge for lesbian couples in that it may affect the decisions made in the relationship.
These challenges can be:
- Ability to share special moments publicly or through social media
- Feelings of shame about what stage of outness you are in
- Participation in family and social engagements
- Moving forward towards relationship milestones such as marriage or children
It is essential to discuss tools for navigating the space of outness in therapy. Doing so will support the progression of the relationship and resolve feelings of resentment.
Homophobia is not something unknown to lesbian couples. It can be difficult to acknowledge every instance of homophobia and additionally overwhelming to process those feelings. Affirmative therapists understand the complexities involved in lesbian couples creating their own family unit. As your therapist, I am not here to push but rather help you and your partner recognize and resolve the fears that are holding your relationship back.
Heteronormative language and Microaggressions can manifest in a variety of settings:
- Job discrimination
- Religious discrimination
- Familial discrimination
- Media insensitivity
- Medical discrimination
- Legal discrimination
These types of discriminatory assaults not only affect one’s emotional health but can also negatively impact the romantic relationships. For example, if one partner’s family does not approve of her sexual orientation, they are less likely to welcome the other partner to family functions or support the progression of the relationship.
More profound, the emotional baggage lesbians carry as a result of homophobia can hinder one’s ability to connect, share and grow in a relationship. Therapy for lesbian couples helps not only to heal and strengthen the relationship against outside forces but also each person’s pain.
4) Gender Roles
Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: “So who is, like, the man in the relationship?” To a heterosexual mind, the idea of gender roles in a lesbian relationship is often of great interest. For the couple, it is not only a nuisance but also damaging to the relationship.
In a society that determines roles based on previously held assumptions, it might be expected that the more expressively feminine partner in the relationship perform female chores while the more masculine expressive partner participates in male chores. Yet, society should not resort to heteronormative assumptions about lesbian relationships adhering to a binary construct.
These gender-binaristic roles can elicit unwanted feelings:
- A sense of failure when you are following this archaic view of a couple
- Uncomfortable with one’s identity
- Insecure about the function/strength of your loving relationship
Lesbian couples who attend therapy need space to self-determine their identity, their roles in the relationship, and mend the sometimes fractured image of themselves.
We all love, desire, and attempt to connect with others, no matter our sexual orientation. No relationship is perfect, but every relationship has the potential to blossom into a strong and healthy space for each partner to feel loved.