Lesbian couples are different in many ways from their heterosexual and gay male couple peers. However, lesbian couples are not particularly different from one another. There are some very common issues among female pairings, and I will be offering Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples for five of the most common issues.
Despite the endless stereotyping about what a lesbian is, women who love women are impressively diverse. If you find yourself doubting that, it’s because those who don’t meet the stereotype of a lesbian go unnoticed. When it comes to lesbian relationships, however, we are remarkably similar in the types of issues we experience.
Unlike heterosexual women, lesbians do not have easy access to information about what a typical lesbian relationship looks like. Rare is the lesbian who finds herself in the break room at work, sharing stories about her wife and their relationship. Additionally, the experiences that heterosexual women describe are often not relatable for lesbians. For example, how many heterosexual women do you hear expressing concern that her husband is best friends with the girlfriend he had before he married her? Or, how often have you heard a heterosexual woman express concern that her husband is constantly trying to read her mind and worries non-stop about whether or she’s feeling okay?
So, here’s today’s Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples. Rather than putting our focus on the common concerns, however, we will get right to the fixes for these common concerns. After all, we move in the direction we think — so let’s think solutions.
#1 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Allow Your Partner to Feel
It is okay if she is experiencing sadness, hurt, frustration or any other emotion that you find yourself wanting to fix or understand. As long as emotions are not used to communicate something (that’s good old fashioned passive-aggressiveness), let her feel what she feels without making it about you. The purpose of our emotions is to alert us to that which is joyful, dangerous, missing, violating, or any other situation that requires our attention. When you personalize how she is feeling, you interrupt an important and necessary process designed to help her clarify things for herself. Communicate with words and behaviors. Feelings are not a verb. We don’t anger. We express anger. Clarify what you are feeling. Then communicate with words or actions.
#2 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Facts are Your Friends, Stories Not so Much
I am sure you have a superpower. It’s just not mind reading. Trust me on this. When you are certain you know what she is thinking, feeling, wanting or not wanting, fact check. Believe her if she says you are misunderstanding her, or that what you are perceiving is wrong. They are her thoughts and feelings, so she really does have the final say about what is true for her. Even if she changes her mind later, believe her now. Focus on your feelings and thoughts, share those, and let her do the same when she’s ready.
#3 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Keep Your Friends, Not Your Exes
Independence is the first thing to go in lesbian relationships. If you want your new relationship to be your best, invest yourself fully and cut your emotional ties with your ex.
#4 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Forgive
If you are holding on to resentments that occurred more than one year ago, they have officially expired. Holding on to hurt as a way to protect yourself causes more hurt than good. If you are choosing this relationship, then you are choosing all of it, not just the parts that feel good. Deal with old hurts and resentments then let them go.
#5 Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples: Flirt with her
My research tells us that lesbians want to be having more sex with their partner, but a lot of women do not want to initiate it. In the quest to commit, dating, flirting, romancing and all the good stuff gets rushed and sometimes neglected altogether. Time to go old school on your gal. Romance her. Flirt. Let her know you desire her. So get out your pretties, your boyfriend briefs, boxers or whatever does the trick for her and show some interest.
36 Questions To Fall in Love went viral, but does it work?
By now you have probably heard that there are 36 questions to fall in love with anyone. This idea was given a public platform January 9, 2015, in a New York Times articletitled, To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This, by Mandy Len Catron. This idea went viral. It’s not surprising in our culture of quick fixes and fast solutions, that a 36-Question guarantee to fall in love would spread like wildfire. Who wouldn’t want to have that sort of love potion, with ingredients accessible to every last one of us…by simply asking 36 questions to fall in love, or make someone fall in love with us.
If you missed the original article by Mandy Len Catron, here’s a brief backstory that will help put this in perspective. In the article, Catron explained that she would occasionally run into a “university acquaintance” while at the climbing gym. In one of her random encounters with the climbing-gym-aquaintance, the two struck up a conversation. To her readers, she confessed to having had a pre-existing curiosity about him, saying she wondered, “what if?” after having “a glimpse into his days on Instagram.”
Wittingly, Catron found a way to weave into her conversation with this fellow-climber, a story about a research study she had read by Dr. Arthur Aron. The study, she explained to him, “tried making people fall in love” by having research participants ask and answer 36 questions. This study was published in 1997, and it is the original home of the 36 Questions to Fall in Love. Next she explained to fellow-climber, “I’ve always wanted to try it.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I consider this some pretty advanced-level flirting. I’m impressed.
Predictably, fellow-climber-guy took the bait, and responded by suggesting that they try the questions together. They met at a local bar over drinks. With iPhone in hand, Mandy cued up the 36 questions, and they passed the phone back and forth, taking turns answering each one. By design, the questions progress from less revealing to more and more personal. Clearly, doing this experiment over drinks at a bar, with someone you have an existing curiosity about, is significantly different than the lab research by Dr. Aron. However, the spirit of the research is kept alive, as Catron observes, “We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative.” She alludes to how the questions forced her out of her safe zone where she could manage how she was being perceived, and took her into territories that required greater vulnerability. As the questions intensify, the road ahead becomes less familiar, and this 36 questions adventure invites more and more self-disclosure.
Taking much longer than the 45 minutes allotted for Dr. Aron’s research participants, Catron and her climber-guy decide to do a suggested activity involving 4 silent minutes of eye contact with one another at the conclusion of asking and answering all 36 questions. Preferring more privacy than the bar allowed, they decide to walk to a nearby bridge, stand on the highest point, and exchange four minutes of silent eye contact. As Catron brings her story to a close, she reveals that she and climber-guy started dating after that night, and as of last report, they are still dating.
While it’s a more fun to think Cupid’s arrow was built with these 36 Questions, a quick look at the facts tells us we are going to need more than 36 questions to fall in love (and though I have 1,000 more questions if you wish to ask them, I’m not talking about more questions. There are great lessons we can learn from Catron, though, about how we can effectively improve our own search for love, as well as our efforts to nourish the love we have. What strikes me as important pieces of Catron and fellow-climber-now-boyfriend’s love story are these things:
Curiosity. This is how all real connection begins – having an interest in someone.
Reciprocation. When curiosity is reciprocated, the potential for a spark exists. It doesn’t work if it’s only one-way.
Vulnerability. This is the risk-taking part, that opens us to hurt, yet also forms a foundation of trust and intimacy for a relationship to grow.
Take action. To build love we must do something. Love isn’t a thing we have, it’s a thing we do – so to find it, grow it, and maintain it, we must take action. Love is a practice that never ends, because love is the practice and the practice is the love.
If you want to be an epic sparkster (spark starter) like Catron, here’s a challenge that will give you the perfect opportunity to take a risk to get to know someone better (or to better your knowing of someone you love) – THE 36 QUESTIONS CHALLENGE.
Speaking of practicing love, this recent Style video from the New York Times Modern Love video series, is a perfect ending to this post. Enjoy this quick video that highlights three long-term couples who ask one another the 36 questions to fall in love. Their experiences are captured in this touching video. You will see the unfolding of exactly how curiosity and vulnerability combine to make the perfect intimacy cocktail, and their answers highlight the fact that love is a practice, a thing we do.
The 36 Questions Challenge is an invitation to connect to someone… to anyone. These are the same 36 Questions that went viral in 2015 after Mandy Len Catron shared a story about how her and her now boyfriend, used these 36 questions as an experiment, and they fell in love. While there are no promises that you will fall in love, the odds are really, really high that you will feel significantly closer to any person with whom you do this exercise.
Give it a try… what do you have to lose?
Suggestions for how to use this 4 minute video of The 36 Questions Challenge:
Invite someone you have a crush on to take the 36 Questions challenge with you. You can do this in person or online. (Yes, I’ve made it easy for you to duplicate the clever strategy used by Mandy Len Catron).
Bring this up with a group of friends and pass the questions in a circle, with each answering one then passing to the next person to ask a question, then the next, until all 36 questions are answered by someone.
Exchange these questions with your current partner to see how up-to-date you are on her!
Use this at your next family gathering to generate some fun and create some meaningful conversation.
Try this out on a stranger – maybe you have layover at the airport and time to kill, take a risk and invite a stranger to do the 36 questions challenge with you.
I consider the five love languages, described by Gary Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages, to be essential reading for all couples. Yet, something is missing. Read on to learn about five more languages that will help you communicate love.
I am a big fan of the five love languages. I actually used these five languages to honor my dad’s life when I spoke at his funeral (which you can read about here), However, I am often left feeling like something is missing from this universally-used handbook for understanding how to communicate love in a way that works.
It’s as if the five love languages offer wonderful ingredients (touch, gifts, service, words and time) and even insights about how to recognize which ones to use, and when, but there is still something missing. Sometimes, you can speak the precise language your partner has taught you to speak, yet without the right dialect, it’s as if the message does not seem to register. It’s no different, I suppose, then having all of the right ingredients for the perfect dish, yet the end product will vary greatly, depending on how much of each ingredient you use, when and how you include them, the temperature and cooking technique used, and on and on.
We can have all of our favorite foods, (or languages of love, in this case) but ultimately, it is a certain experience we are desiring – not the actual behavior. What we are most interested in is feeling a certain way, just as we want our food to taste a certain way. To simply touch her, talk to her, do things for her, spend time with her, or give her gifts – these feel like ingredients that are designed to create a feeling, to communicate love. Without the heat, the food isn’t cooked. Without patience or timing, the food can burn or be undercooked. Without balance, the taste can be overbearing or underwhelming. Just as, when we behave in certain ways, the separate ingredients used to communicate love, whether we touch, talk to, do for, give to, or be with her, we may need heat, we need spice, we need timing, patience, and balance.
When I think about the most powerful language of love, I think of energy. Food is energy. People are energy. Love is energy. This energy is part of who we are. Therefore, the language of love has to do with how we treat, manage, hold, express and exchange this love-energy, and how we mix and blend this love-energy with the others.
I posted a quote on social media recently with the quote that speaks to this, from a book called, The Tao of Relationships by Ray Grigg. I’ll include a fresh version here.
Ultimately, we partner to feel a certain way.
Because of this, I believe, rather than asking how to feel loved (by way of a particular behavior), it is first useful to understand what being loved actually feels like to you.
What is the feeling you hope to experience by being in love with another?
It isn’t the action, the gift, the words, or the touch that we crave, it’s how we anticipate those things will make us feel that we desire. It isn’t the clean house, or the heartfelt card, or the passionate kiss, it’s the way these things make us feel.
Therefore, the important question to ask the one you love is:
“How do you want to feel?” and “What makes you feel that way?”
For example, I want to feel understood, accepted, alive, inspired, worthy, playful and connected. What makes me feel this way is not easily found in the five love languages. The ultimate way to feel love for me is less about these tangible things (words, gifts, time, service, and touch) and more about being known, sensing that she “get’s me,” and feeling accepted, and I need to experience the positive energetic and chemical connection that can only be felt, not described.
The magic of love is that it’s experienced so intensely, it can inspire and fulfill dreams, create hope, give birth to, and save, lives, soothe the soul, and so much more. Yet we can not see it, the actual love itself – this powerful force, this indescribable ingredient. We only see what it can do. As with energy, we do not see the energy itself. We see the shape it takes and how it is used.
Just as energy is inseparable from who we are, love is inseparable from the lover, the one who loves. I’ve come to see love as a part of the actual energy that makes us who we are. Just as we can not see the energy of who we are, we can see the physical form that the energy makes, and yet, the energy is more than what we see, and can be experienced without words or labels. Love is a kind of energy. Love is energy that can be expanded or contracted, grown or diminished. Another question, (I do like my questions), is:
“How can we grow love?”
I think if I were to write the book, 5 More Languages of Love, I would describe these languages as personality characteristics; these languages are a part of the person, not a thing they do. I would use the 5 Languages to describe the lover, the one who holds the energy of love, and how that love is experienced, expressed and grown. Because there is no one way to love or feel loved, we all end up being responsible for teaching others how to speak our unique language of love. After some thought, here is the dialect of my personal language of love. I hope by reading this, you are inspired to consider your own language, as well as the languages of those you love.
For me, the most powerful love languages are less about what you do, and more about who you are, how you are, and the way you express the energy of love.
The following five characteristics of love, speak most clearly to me:
To me, curiosity is the engine of love.It encourages engagement, sparks interest, and fuels an active desire to know and understand the one you love. Curiosity is an openness to one another that does not base understanding on assumptions, stories, or projections. Curiosity communicates desire. Curiosity says, “You interest me, and I want to know you.”
Allowing creates the feeling of acceptance. Allowing is not permission to misbehave, it is permission to simply be who you are; all of who you are, without fear that you will be judged, criticized, rejected or otherwise disconnected because of who you are.
Allowing is how I imagine the sky is to clouds. The sky seems so graceful and accepting of whatever the clouds may do – always a steady backdrop, creating room for what unfolds, and never can I imagine a time when the sky would say to the clouds, “you look a little too puffy today.”
Because we are human, we are certain to make mistakes. Forgiving is the safety net of love. It is like a trampoline of sorts, offering a kind landing if we should falter, and just enough oomph to help us back up. To be forgiving is to ensure there is enough wiggle room to make mistakes, learn how to do it better next time, and feel better for having had the opportunity to learn.
The sentiment I am trying to capture here is hard to put into just one word – it’s probably a concept that does not yet have a word, and yet it’s one of the most important languages to me. I feel most loved when I am in a positive, kind, playful, environment with laughter, silliness, vulnerability, and ease. It’s an energy, for sure, and like love, it’s much easier to feel than it is to describe. There is some way that energy speaks louder than actions, and for me to feel love, that energy needs to be positive and kind.
The one ingredient that seems to capture the essence of this part of love languages for me is a basic human kindness. Kindness is the sort of energetic vibration that radiates out to all beings, and it is consistent and true. Where there is kindness, oxygen seems to fill my lungs more easily, interactions go more smoothly.
Kindness is a form of gratitude, a gentle appreciation for all that is good by tending to the energy we pour into the world around us; a sensitivity to and appreciation for, the power of our own energy’s effect on those around us. Kindness allows us to breathe in hopefully and exhale peacefully. To feel loved, I need to experience a sincere sense of kindness in the company of the one I love. It is not enough that I sense their kindness toward me; trusting this love means I see this same kindness directed to others. It is a way of being in the world, a part of who you are.
For some, the sentiment I’m reaching for here is talked about in terms of loyalty, fidelity, honesty, or even commitment. While related, they are not the same. To me, the characteristic of being true means that you are true to yourself, that you know and understand and love yourself, TRUTH IS ABOUT AUTHENTICITY. In the words of Oriah Mountain Dreamer, “I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.” When you are true to yourself, I know you can be true to me. The feeling this provides is safety and security. If you know yourself, and you know how you feel, and it is deeply true to who you are, then I can trust that when you extend your love to me, it is true. This gives me the feeling that, no matter what happens, I am safe with you. The emphasis isn’t on ensuring that you stay, or knowing that you’ll never lie to me. The emphasis is on knowing that you will live a life that is true to who you really are and that your first commitment is to you so that the you I think is loving me, is the you to whom you are most true.
September 23-24, 2017 (SAT 1:00pm-6:00pm, SUN 9:00am – 5:30pm)
What is the Lesbian Couples Workshop?
As a Certified Imago Therapist, Michele O’Mara has created a unique blend of all that is amazing about the Getting the Love You Want Imago Therapy weekend, with specific skills, resources, information and exercises designed specially for same-sex couples. The Lesbian Couples Workshop is an incredible opportunity for same-sex couples from across the United States to spend a weekend intentionally focused on creating (or improving) an OUTstanding relationship! The weekend is a unique blend of education (concrete skills, and information about improving your relationship), processing (discussion of the new skills and information shared), and exercises (done privately with your own partner – not in front of the group).
REGISTER at least 30 days prior to the weekend to save $100
What Can I expect to gain from the Lesbian Couples Workshop?
Learn the 10 essential ingredients of an OUTstandingrelationship and how to apply them to your relationship
Learn new skills to improve your communication and connection with your partner
Participate in your own in-depth relationship review
Create a personalized relationship improvement plan
A fun weekend spent with other same-sex couples in a comfortable setti
Will we have to talk about our personal issues in front of other couples?
There will be opportunities for couples to volunteer to role-play a skill, but your level of disclosure about your relationship is entirely up to you. You do not have to share anything about your relationship with the other couples that you do not want to. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that your benefit directly correlates to your sharing, howwwwwever, the choice remains yours.
What kind of couples will be there?
The Lesbian Couples Workshop is open to gay and lesbian couples. This is a great resource for any couple. You may already have a strong relationship and use The Weekend as a way to tune-in to and tune-up your relationship, or you may be struggling to find your way back to each other. There will be a mixture of couples – some functioning better than others, but all with a desire to improve their relationship!
Can you describe what The Weekend will be like once we are there?
We will convene in a meeting room around a large table that is casual, intimate and functional. There will be breaks to stretch and snack (beverages/snacks provided).
There will be a blend of education (lectures), process (discussion about what we are learning as it applies to your relationship), and exercises. All exercises are done privately with your partner, separate from the group. Michele O’Mara will observe each couple doing their exercises and be available to guide and support your individual work.
What makes this such a good financial investment in our relationship?
This is less than half the cost of the equivalent amount of couple’s counseling! Payment plans are available if necessary, and we do accept Visa and Mastercard as payment options.
How does The Weekend compare to couple’s counseling?
The Weekend is about building OUTstanding relationships. The emphasis is on strengthening relationships, creating a hopeful, forward-moving momentum on which you can continue building and strengthening your relationship. Though this is not counseling, and in many ways it is more like an intensive class on relationships, The Weekend does offer you all of the benefits of counseling and more. The Weekend is designed to bring out the best in both you and your partner, for the good of your relationship.
Other than the fact this sounds like exactly what we need, are there other compelling reasons to do this workshop?
Receive 75% more for your investment than you would in couples counseling – and gain more immediately useful information to put into action right now. For the same cost as 2.5 couple’s counseling sessions, you can receive 12 hours of tools, education, counseling and a rare opportunity for peer-couples support and inclusion in a community of health-oriented couples! 12 hours of couple’s counseling = $1560 or 12 hours of couple’s weekend = $550 ($275 each), if you register 15 days in advance, or $650 ($325 each) if you register less than 15 days prior to the workshop.
Expedite your healing, insight, and relationship growth. Receive three months worth of counseling in one weekend by attending The Couples Workshop!!
Enjoy the benefit of learning from other couples, their experiences, and gain insight and support from other couples that you can not get anywhere else!
It is actually not only beneficial to your relationship, it is an enjoyable experience, and you are sure to laugh and meet new friends.
If we are traveling from out of town, do you have any tips about where to stay?
Because my office is 15 minutes from the Indianapolis International Airport, there are many hotels in the area. If you search my office address online, you can look for nearby hotels that way (2680 E Main Street, Plainfield, IN 46168). Also, if you are wanting to be downtown Indianapolis, that is only roughly 20 minutes away.
While I’ve never been inside, there is a motel within walking distance to my office and it was renovated in 2014. A call to them informed me that one-bed room is $59/night and two-bed room is roughly $65/night.
Premarital Counseling and Coaching: For Lesbian Marriages
Are you ready to get married?
The single greatest investment you will make in this life is in your primary love relationship. For lesbian and gay couples, this has not traditionally included a legal marriage. However, times, they are a changing. Lesbian marriages and gay marriages are as available to all US citizens today as they are heterosexual marriages.
How well you invest in your relationship will determine the type of return you can expect, or more specifically, the type of life you can expect to have together. When love feels good, life feels good. When love feels bad, life feels bad. How do you determine whether or not you are making the right investment with the partner you are considering marrying? Have you done your premarital homework? Are you prepared for marriage?
What is premarital counseling?
Premarital counseling for couples planning to wed is like a lamaze class is for new parents. Though, we don’t typically lay on the floor or practice heavy breathing techniques. Instead, we focus on the shoring up your respective basic perceptions about what you are committing to in your upcoming nuptials. Getting married is a bit like giving birth to something, though hopefully less painful, you do end up with something new to take care of: your relationship. Premarital counseling helps you gain confidence and clarity around your decision to marry; clarify, communicate and commit to shared expectations; address any known or uncovered discrepancies in your vision for the future; and an overview of your relational strengths and challenges, with suggestions for how to strengthen your relationship.
What if we don’t live in Indiana, but we want to work with you – can you do premarital coaching online?
Yes. I can offer both premarital counseling and coaching. I use a HIPPA approved client portal at omaratime.com, though some couples still prefer Skype or FaceTime because the do not have HIPPA privacy concerns. That is your choice.
Coaching is generally the same idea as counseling, only it does not pathologize concerns into diagnosable issues. Coaching is a process that values a persons story and recognizes that the possibilities are unlimited. There is no assumption that there is a mental health issue to be addressed. Coaching is my preferred way to work with people because I am not a fan of labeling anyone. Labels seem to harm more than help. Furthermore, not all states will allow me to pracitice via the internet or online counseling without having a license from their state. This varies from state to state. However, because premarital care is about strengthening skills, learning about challenges, and preparing for marriage, this is not typically a reimbursable service through insurance, therefore it naturally falls more in the coaching category, which and I can provide premarital coaching in any state; this is not prohibited.
When is the right time to do premarital counseling?
Ideally, you will begin thinking about premarital counseling as soon as you accept a marriage proposal, or have your proposal accepted. This is a process that can occur slowly for a period of a few months, or quickly with a few sessions close together. It is also an option to do an intensive session where you commit to a one-day experience (typically 4 – 6 hours depending on your perceived need).
Premarital counseling can be done in a group setting or individually. Currently, all premarital therapy is provided with individual couples.
How does premarital counseling for a lesbian marriage differ from other premarital counseling?
The actual process does not vary at all. What varies is what differentiates lesbian relationship issues from heterosexual or gay male relationship issues. There are issues that are more prevalent for lesbians than with other couple dyads (sexual frequency, differing levels of being “out” at work and in life, concerns about equal contributions financially, and often different concerns with family of origin around being gay, etc). There are also strengths that often show up differently in couples planning for a lesbian marriage (such as greater equality in division of labor, comfort communicating, ease of affection, and often better conflict resolution abilities).
How much can we plan to learn in premarital counseling?
We must add new information to gain new perspectives. You will have the opportunity to learn as much as you wish. In addition to the sessions, you will be provided with homework assignments such as worksheets, mini assessments inquiring about your perception of your relationship, and reading suggestions (should you want them).
What can will we be addressed in premarital counseling?
This first session, ideally an 85 minute session, will Include the following:
assessment of the current status of your relationship,
review of your relationship history,
identification of any relationship concerns you have experienced that still persist and what you’ve done so far to address these,
a review your relational strengths,
development of a plan for premarital counseling which will outline the suggested number of sessions and our areas of focus (addressing identified concerns, developing relational skills that are not present, engaging in communication exercises, learning conflict resolution skills, repairing existing wounds, creating a shared marital vision, etc…).
Based on the initial 85 minute session, I will provide my suggested course of premarital coaching and counseling. This will include my observation of your strengths and challenges.
How many sessions are involved in premarital counseling?
Typically, premarital counseling can be as few as two sessions, or as many as ten. Somewhere in between there is most likely where you’ll fall. We will map this course together, and continue taking steps toward your identified goals until you both feel satisfied that you have the clarity, confidence and ability to commit to this marriage.
Register at omaratime.com and schedule a 50 minute session.