Lesbian Couples Quickies: Validation, Not Education

Lesbian Couples Quickies: Validation, Not Education

LESBIAN COUPLES QUICKIES:  VALIDATION, NOT EDUCATION

 

When your girl expresses a concern, need or frustration in her life (not about you), do not mistake this as her request for you to fix the situation, or fix her. If you are someone who often responds by telling her what you think, and what she should do, this quickie is especially for you.

In general, when we are hurting and we go to our spouse / partner with a painful situation, we are not asking for solutions, we are asking for support. We want to feel less alone with our pain. Often, we just want reassurance that we are okay.

lesbian couples, validation, validate, listen

Here’s a roadmap for those of you who are unsure how this might sound:

Let her talk. Don’t interrupt. Keep your questions to a minimum.

 

1. Let her know you’ve heard her.

“It sounds like … <repeat the highlights that you heard her share so she knows you were listening – don’t add your opinions or thoughts, just reflect back to her what you heard>”
 

2. Validate her feelings.

Let her know that when you look at the situation the way she’s looking at it (not the way you are), her feelings make sense (even if you disagree).

“Based on how you’ve described things, it makes sense that you feel <insert how she says she is feeling>, because <insert meaningful points she has shared that let her know that you were listening and validate why she’s feeling the way she is>…
 

3. Reassure her. 

Remind her that you are here for her. Reinforce that you are a safe person for her to talk with when she is struggling, and that even if you see things differently, your ultimate goal is to be a safe and supportive person for her to talk to.
 

“I see this situation a little differently than you do, but what matters to me the most is how I can be here for you, and make you feel supported.”

4. Inquire if she wants your perspective.

 

“Would you like to know my thoughts about this, or is it best for me to just listen?”

5. Share with her consent.

IF she says she wants your perspective, THEN, and only THEN, share your perspective.

 

“How I see this situation is … “

Focus more on understanding, less on being “right.” Remember, she has come to you to feel better, not worse.

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ABOUT Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.

Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 83.75% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the '90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. 

I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships and women loving women. For fun, I do things like create online quizzes at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (www.1000question.app) And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats and The Lesbian Roadshow throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

A Feel Good Coming Out to Parents Story

 Coming Out to Parents

 

 

 

On Christmas Eve, 1988, I was home from college for winter break.  Like every other Christmas Eve, I was gathering inspiration and ideas to begin my holiday shopping.  Yes, begin.  My mom turned to me and asked, “How are things going at school?”  Though innocent enough, this was the kind of question that only seemed subtle.  I could sense something was up, I just didn’t know what.  I replied, “Great, why?”  Quickly, the subtle was no longer so, when she said, “Your father has been worried about you.  He tells me you seem more and more distant when you two talk.” 

I felt my stomach flip, then sink.  I think I know where this is headed. Coming out to parents is a terrifying experience for most of us, and I had the sneaky suspicion that my mom was rolling out the red carpet for me to finally say to her, I’m gay.

Testing the waters, I responded with, “Well what if I am just choosing to share less, because I don’t feel like dad will approve of what I am doing, or what I have to say, even if there’s nothing wrong with it?”  Unrelenting, my mom asks, “Like what?”

Suddenly I feel as though I am driving full-speed ahead toward an innocent animal trying to cross the road.  Gripping the steering wheel, eyes closed, I pray that no one gets hurt, including me.  I swerve, asking, “What if I am dating a man who is not Caucasian?”  Knowing that she would not have an issue if this were true, but my dad might, I give her yet another out, another path to safety for both of us.  I explain, “I don’t think dad would approve, but there’s nothing wrong with it, so why would I want to share that with him?”

Is the road clear?  You know that feeling, like you’ve done your best to avoid the vulnerable animal darting across the road, with the lingering guilt of not knowing.  Persisting, my  mom says, “Are you dating someone of a different ethnicity?”  Afraid to look in my rear view mirror, I move forward, feeling as though I may just vomit.  I muster up the courage to blurt out, “What if I am not dating men at all?”  There.  I said it.  Sort of.  Please let her know what I am saying because I can’t say those three words, I can not say, I am gay.

The dance is over.  My mom has managed to position herself perfectly to ask me the question she really wanted to ask when she started this conversation.  Without the slightest change in her demeanor, she simply asks me, “Are you gay?”  And I begin to cry.  Still unchanged, her silence is kind and patient, inviting my response.  Eventually, I managed to say, “Yes, I’m gay, and I’m sorry.  I am so sorry.  I never wanted you to know. I didn’t want to be, and I am so sorry to disappoint you.” 

All this time later, still etched in my mind, is her most amazing response. I quote: “Michele, you have nothing to apologize for.  You have done nothing wrong.”  I have my mom to thank for helping me unwrap the gift of freedom that Christmas.  A gift I’ll never exchange. 

If you are contemplating coming out to parents, here are some other articles that may interest you:

Coming Out Stages

Coming Out in Heterosexual Relationships

Coming Out

Being Out

Coming Out to Parents

 

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ABOUT 

 Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach and psychotherapist with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, lesbian premarital care, loving out loud, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. As a side-hobby, she operates a quirky site called "AskLesbians.com" where she randomly polls lesbians to satisfy the quirkiest of curiosities. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations. So far lesbian retreat destinations have included: Nebraska, Texas, North Carolina,Tennessee and New Mexico.You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co. This article is an adaption of Chapter Six of a dissertation written by Michele O'Mara, PhD. Tap here to read the entire dissertation in a pdf format. 

When to end a relationship? Do These 10 things first.

When to end a relationship?

Do these 10 Things to Do Before You Breakup.

 

Great relationships require hard work, useful information, and a lot of discipline. If you are wondering how to know when to end a relationship, or whether you should end your relationship, these 10 steps are for you.

1. If in doubt, stay. 
If you question whether you should break-up, chances are you are in the perfect position to heal old wounds and develop new skills to feel better about yourself, your relationship and your life. Ambivalence is a sign that you have more to learn. 

If you are 100% certain it’s time to end the relationship, move to number two. If you have doubt, you need to find the answer to this question: 

What do I need to know to feel confident about staying or about leaving? 

Most people leave a relationship before learning what they need to learn to be more successful in future relationships. 

2. Identify the reason(s) you want to leave (be specific)
Discernment Counseling is a clarification process (read more here) designed to help couples know when to end a relationship and when to keep trying. Usually, one partner is leaning out (wants to end things) and the other is leaning in (wants to work on things).

The three forks in the road are:

  1. End the relationship
  2. Commit to 6 months of intensive relationship work – going all in
  3. Choose to keep things the way they are (which can be a powerful recognition that you are indeed in this unhappy place by choice).

The discernment model describes “hard” and “soft” reasons to break up. Hard reasons to end a relationship include: ongoing affairs, physical abuse, addiction, and emotional cruelty. “Soft” reasons to end a relationship are things like, growing apart, lack of communication, and falling out of love. 

To move in any direction with certainty about your relationship, be sure you can identify what you are feeling and name the source of your pain as specifically as possible. “Hard reasons” do not require the same level of reflection or discernment as “soft reasons.” Knowing when to end a relationship is much easier with hard reasons than it is with soft reasons, but it still isn’t “easy!”


3. Close Exits.
Agree to close all exits. An exit is anything that takes you out of your relationship, despite the fact you haven’t left. These are things like drinking, excessive food intake, unhealthy relationships or friendships, and family relationships that encourage you to leave (for non-“hard” reasons). It is impossible to know when to end a relationship if you have a constant and intense distraction. You must cut all contact with any outside party when there is an emotional distraction, affair, or attraction that is negatively impacting your relationship. You can not fan the flames of a new love interest and expect to have the energy, interest, and motivation to re-ignite a fire with your existing one. I heard it described once that comparing a new love interest to your existing love interest is like comparing the joyful freedom of horseback ride in wide open, unexplored terrain to that of cleaning out the barn and grooming and feeding the horse. 


4. More Responsibility, Less Blame
Move your focus away from your questions about if or when to end your relationship. Suspend your thoughts about whether she offers you what you want and need. Instead, focus entirely on yourself with specific emphasis on what you want in your life, what your dreams and hopes are, and where you want your life to lead. This may require extensive self-examination through journaling, conversations with friends, spiritual leaders or associates, counseling, and meditation. 

5. Reality Check 
Once you can see the vision you hold for your own life, begin to explore whether you can make that vision a reality in the context of this relationship. Share your vision for your life, for your relationship, with your partner and have her do the same. Take an honest look at whether you can achieve those goals together and whether you are willing to work on a shared purpose that works for both of you.

6. Identify and Name the Obstacles 
If you feel you cannot reach your life dreams and goals in the context of this relationship, then turn your focus to the real obstacles. Name the actual barriers that are preventing you from reaching your dreams. For example, if a part of your life dream is to be an aquamarine scientist that requires you to live near an ocean, and your partner wants to stay in her landlocked hometown near her family, this may be an obstacle to your life dream. Be confident that it is the relationship which prevents you from realizing your vision for your life, and not something else. Are you limiting yourself in some way? 

7. Ask yourself the right questions. 
As you identify the obstacles to living the life you desire, experiencing the relationship you want, or achieving any goal, be sure you don’t stop at the obstacle. For every obstacle, ask yourself a “How..” question. If in the example about the aquamarine scientist, you need to be near an ocean and your partner is settled in her land-locked hometown, the question would be: “How can I pursue my dream of being an aquamarine scientist without my wife having to move away from her hometown.” When we focus on obstacles, we lose the creativity and openness necessary to identify solutions.


7. Notice What’s Already Great
It’s no secret that gratitude is a natural healer for most things. When you experience discomfort in a relationship it is natural to want relief. Unfortunately, for everything that feels bad in a relationship, we need five things to feel good to maintain a stable (not even happy) relationship. For a happy relationship, we need to find 20 things good for every one thing that feels bad. If you feel bad, chances are, there is significantly more that works than you realize because of the 20:1 ratio!

When something feels bad, we are more inclined to find evidence to validate the bad feeling, than we are to look for opposing evidence that much more is actually great. You wouldn’t be in this relationship if there isn’t some good somewhere. Chances are if you have 5 complaints about your relationship, you likely have 20 positives that you have stopped noticing.

8. Check your Stories
Most people end relationships because of beliefs they develop over time. “I’m not a priority,” “She doesn’t love me,” “I’m not good enough,” “Nothing I do is ever enough,” “She just wants to control me,” “She’s never happy with me,” “I don’t make her happy,” etc… Identify the stories you relate to. Once you have them, ask yourself this, “What do I feel in this relationship that I also felt as a child?” If you can relate to feeling in ways that are familiar to how you felt as a child, then your “imago” is alive and kicking and it is important to identify how much of your feelings are related to how you’ve always felt, and how much of your feelings are related to this specific relationship. Here is a quick imago quiz to familiarize you with this concept. (It’s relationship changing stuff, people!) 

9. Seek Understanding, Not Proof
Most couples who are considering a breakup do not understand one another. Many people lack the skills to deeply understand the behaviors, comments, and actions of others; and worse yet, are the false understandings which are worse than a lack of understanding.

  • It is easier to judge than it is to understand, seek understanding anyway. 
  • It is easier to criticize than it is to remain curious, be curious anyway.
  • It is easier to assume than it is to gather facts, gather facts anyway.


Most people who exit a relationship have a generic story, a surface understanding of their pain, and an interpretation of their relationship that has been thought for so long that they begin to believe it is true. Do not end your relationship because of stories, assumptions, false interpretations and lack of understanding. Get facts, be curious, lose judgment, and seek understanding.

10. Email me or Schedule with Me (the phone is not my favorite) 
Reach out to me, or another couple’s therapist who has at least one additional credential in couples counseling (Imago, Gottman, EFT, Discernment, etc). Put your relationship in a safe container and commit to doing the work needed to determine whether to work it out or break up. If you are not comfortable going to couple’s counseling with your partner (or she is not willing to go with you), consider going alone with the goal of organizing your thoughts and feelings. Though together is better, when one partner is in therapy, both partners can benefit.
 

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ABOUT Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.

Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 83.75% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the '90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. 

I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships and women loving women. For fun, I do things like create online quizzes at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (www.1000question.app) And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats and The Lesbian Roadshow throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

Lesbian Bed Death Meaning and History

Is the death bed really a thing for lesbian couples?

 

lesbian bed death, death bed, lesbian sex quiz, lesbian death bedWhat is lesbian bed death?

When I first heard this term, I associated its meaning with violence (like a lesbian killing her partner in bed) and death (or a lesbian dying in bed). Yes, pretty concrete of me. I share this in case you have had a similar thought run through your head. Fortunately, lesbian bed death has nothing to do with lesbians killing or lesbians dying in bed.

It’s a strange, but sticky phrase that dates back to the ’80s. While it is not clear when and precisely where or by whom the term was created, there is a long and winding journey (which I traced while working on my Ph.D. dissertation on lesbian sexuality) that reveals the history and development of this phrase.

Admittedly, for some, this part of this article will be too much (boring) information and you may wish to skip to learning how often lesbians report having sex.

Quick Links to Article Content

 

Where it all started

In 1983, a research study was published that identified lesbian couples as the least sexual couple pairing (Pepper Schwartz and Phillip Blumstein). This research led to more research which further confirmed that lesbians were not only having less sex than other couples, they were also experiencing a more rapid and dramatic drop in sexual frequency as their relationships continued (Loulan 1984). Soon, these statistics were broadcast in the media and just like that, a narrative of lesbians as non-sexual started to coalesce in our culture. And, it still lingers in our collective conscience today.

The three-word phrase that captured the essence of this emerging concept of lesbians having infrequent sexual activity, combined with a rapid decline in sexual frequency in long-term relationships is lesbian bed death (LBD).

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Lesbian Bed Death Meaning

Lesbian Bed Death describes a phenomenon in which lesbian couples experience a comparatively lower rate of sexual frequency as well as a rapid decline in sexual frequency the longer they are coupled.

Who coined the phrase lesbian bed death?

 Three women are most commonly credited for the phrase, lesbian bed death: researcher and co-author of the book American Couples, Pepper Schwartz;  author of Lesbian Sex  (1984) Joann Loulan; and famous lesbian comedian Kate Clinton.  

When American Couples was published in 1983, it provided a credible source to describe lesbians as less sexually active than other couple pairs. How they arrived at this conclusion was through a massive study of 12,000 couples, in which Schwartz and Blumstein explored the behaviors of four couple pairings: married, co-habitating (heterosexuals), gay males and lesbian couples. Lesbians were identified as the pairing with the lowest rates of sexual frequency. When I asked Dr. Schwartz if she coined the phrase lesbian bed death in response to their research, she said, “It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”

LESBIAN TEST – HOW LESBIAN ARE YOU?

 

Shortly after American Couples was published, Joann Loulan authored Lesbian Sex in 1984. In a conversation with Loulan, she shared with me, “I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She explained, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.” 

The last source credited for this phrase, Kate Clinton, also denied creating this unflattering narrative. She did, however, joke that rather than a same-sex relationship, she often joked that lesbians have a “some sex relationship.” Clinton led me to LGBT advocate Sue Hyde and her partner Jade McGleughlin. Sue Hyde thought her partner, Jade McGleughlin, was the one who captured the “entire phenomenon of decreasing lesbian sex activity in long term couples” into the well-known phrase in 1985 or so.  In a conversation with Jade McGleughlin, however, she said she believed the phrase “coalesced spontaneously among a group of lesbians for whom it captured an experience particular to that moment.”

This is consistent with Sue Moir, another lesbian whose name surfaced during my search for the roots of LBD, who said she heard this phrase “at a dyke gabfest in Newton,” and shared it with McGleughlin. McGleughlin was working on a Master’s thesis at the time on the topic of lesbian bed death. While she didn’t coin the phrase, she said she viewed herslf as a messenger. During the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, McGleughlin gave a speech during the Sex and Politics Forum. Sue Moir was there, and Moir said, “I can tell you it was the first time that the audience had heard it [lesbian bed death].”

The timing of McGleughlin’s speech also coincided with the lesbian sexuality research (Schwartz and Blumstein 1983, Loulan 1984, 1987) at the time, which became an accelerant for the spread of the LBD message. Ultimately, Lesbian Bed Death took on a new and unintended meaning that gave shape to lesbian sexuality as inferior, and in some way doomed. McGleughlin expressed regret about the impact of this phrase. In her opinion, the phrase “collapsed the complexity of lesbian sexuality,” and what might otherwise have been a historical phenomenon became a “condensation” and “condemnation” of lesbian sexuality. Ultimately, it took a village of lesbians to create a shared narrative about the experience of declining sexual activity in lesbian relationships and this message spread like wildfire across the United States.

Three women are commonly credited with the phrase lesbian bed death.

Pepper Schwartz, Co-Author of American Couples

“It is attributed to me—people I know say I said it—but I never wrote it. Sadly, I have no memory about it—so I can’t deny or confirm!”

Joann Loulan, author of Lesbian Sex

“I did not coin the phrase Lesbian Bed Death.” She admitted, “I used it frequently, but of course my life was (and is) trying to make that change within the lesbian community and make sex sexy again.”

Kate Clinton, Lesbian Comedian

Always the comedian, Clinton joked that lesbians aren’t in a same-sex relationships, they are in a “some-sex relationships.”

Sexual Frequency of Lesbians

Until the 80’s lesbians were judged negatively if they had sex with women. Therefore, as lesbian bed death gained some traction, and the collective conscious shifted, it was an ironic flip of the script when lesbians were being judged for not having enough sex with women. Go figure! Most of the research between the 80’s and 2010 (when I conducted my own research) was consistently reporting lower levels of sexual frequency for lesbians than other couple pairings. 

I was also seeing lesbian couples in my private practice who were reporting low levels of sexual activity. Same-sex female couples would report having minimal and sometimes no sexual activity for years. This was a key motivation for my return to school in 2010 to get my PhD in Clinical Sexology. I wanted to understand lesbian sexuality better, therefore, the focus of my research was lesbian sexual frequency and how this affects lesbian relationship satisfaction.

I conducted my research with 498 lesbians. Using a snowball approach to finding lesbians, I started with the large sample of lesbians I knew from providing same-sex couples counseling to females for over a decade. With the help of social media, the initial group of lebians I contacted were able to then reach out to other lesbians across the United States to create a wider-reaching sample. Lesbians from most states were represented, and 

This is what I learned:

  • 12% reported having no sex in the last six months
  • 37% reported having sex once or less per month
  • 20% report having sex 2-3 x’s per month
  • 27% report having sex 1- 3 x’s weekly
  • 5% report having sex 5 or more times weekly

Sexual Frequency of Lesbians Based on Age

Age

4+ x’s
Per Week

1-3 x’s
Per Week

2-3 x’s
Per Month

1x Monthly
or Less

1x weekly or more

< 21 Years (n=6)

17%

17%

33%

33%

34%

21-30 Years (n=50)

10%

38%

18%

34%

48%

31-40 Years (n=127)

6%

28%

20%

47%d

34%

41-50 Years (n=169)

4%

27%

24%

44%

31%

51-60 Years (n=72)

6%

15%

17%

63%

21%

60 + Years (n=15)

7%

7%

13%

73%

14%

(Percentages reflect sexual frequencies per age group and n=lesbians per age )

Summary of Sexual Frequency of Lesbians Based on Age

As might be expected, lesbians in their 20’s report the greatest frequency of sexual activity, followed by women in their 30’s. There is a minimal decline in reported sexual frequency for women in their 40’s and the most significant drop occurs with lesbians once they turn 50. Because 51 is the average age of menopause, and menopause is known to affect women’s libido, the 10% drop in sexual frequency that is reported by women in their 50’s is not a shocking discovery. 

What is important about sexual frequency is whether or not you are happy and satisfied with your sexual relationship with your partner. There is no right amount of sex that anyone “should” be having, regardless of your sexual orientation. Sex is personal, and it plays a different role in the lives of different women. The key is to understand what sex means to you, what sex means to your partner or wife, and to maintain open communication about your respective needs, and how each of you can get your needs met in your relationship. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach and psychotherapist with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. As a side-hobby, she operates a quirky site called “AskLesbians.com” where she randomly polls lesbians to satisfy the quirkiest of curiosities. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

This article is an adaption of Chapter Six of a dissertation written by Michele O'Mara, PhD. Tap here t read the entire dissertation in a pdf format.

Survey Results: Most Important Lesbian Relationship Goals

Survey Results: Most Important Lesbian Relationship Goals

lesbian relationship goals

Lesbian Relationship Goals

 

When it comes to lesbian relationship goals, our survey says that above all else, feeling loved is most important. In a very brief, no-nonsense survey on asklesbians.com, lesbians were asked not only about how important it is to feel loved, but also to rate 13 other aspects of a relationship according to importance. The scale was 1-5, with one being very low importance, and 5 being the highest importance.

Twenty-four lesbians completed the survey. Their ages ranged from age from 18 to over 54 with the majority falling into two age groups:

  • 38% ages 18-24
  • 29% ages 35-44

The bulk of women completing the survey identify as cis-gender female (which means they were assigned female at birth and this gender assignment suits them just fine). Four participants did not identify as cis (one transfemale, and three non-binary).

 

Lesbian Relationship Goals

The following numbers represent the weighted scores for each variable on the survey. The numbers are on a scale of 1-5, and the higher the number, the more important this variable is to the lesbians who completed the survey. This list is in order of the most important lesbian relationship goals to least important:

  • 4.25 Feeling Loved
  • 4.17 Feeling Understood
  • 4.09 Humor
  • 4.08 Overall Relationship Satisfaction
  • 4.04 Sexual Chemistry
  • 3.92 Emotional Connection
  • 3.92 Emotional Safety and Security
  • 3.88 Fidelity/Faithfulness
  • 3.83 Intellectual Connection
  • 3.71 Pleasure from Sex
  • 3.46 Social Compatibility
  • 3.33 Frequency of Sex
  • 2.96 Spiritual Connection
  • 2.5 Financial Security

What surprised me most about these results is that Safety and Security were not identified as a more important lesbian relationship goal than it was (3.92 out of 5). Granted, the survey sample is small. I’m also curious about what makes financial security so low. I find myself wondering if that is a reflection of not wanting to place the value of money above the value of love? However, for this survey, you can have both (rate them both a 5), so it’s curious to me if there is a rejection of or disinterest in financial security?

The top four most important lesbian relationship goals make sense to me. Although, it is curious to me that feeling loved doesn’t ring in at a solid 5. Does this mean that there are a couple of lesbians that find that to feel loved is overrated? Or feeling understood is only generally important, but not always important?

  • 4.25 Feeling Loved
  • 4.17 Feeling Understood
  • 4.09 Humor
  • 4.08 Overall Relationship Satisfaction

What are your thoughts about these results? Do you agree it’s most important to feel loved in your relationship? Do any of the findings surprise you, when it comes to what lesbians are saying are the most important goals in their relationships?

After You Master How to Come Out, Use These 3 Strategies for Being Out

After You Master How to Come Out, Use These 3 Strategies for Being Out

HOW TO COME OUT

After You Master How to Come Out, Use These 3 Strategies for Being Out

 

How to come out involves informing the people in your life that you do not identify as heterosexual. The assumption for most people is that everyone is heterosexual until proven or informed otherwise. I find it most helpful to assume that everyone is gay. This way I can more efficiently identify those who are heterosexual because they make no bones about letting it be known. Coming out is directed at the people already in your life who have assumed you to heterosexual.

How to be out, on the other hand, is different than how to come out. Being out is the experience of living without censorship of, or hiding your sexual orientation from others. This happens after you’ve done the work of figuring out how to come out to all of your friends and family. Being out is more about stopping something (to stop censoring) than it is about sharing something (“I’m gay”).

When you think about it, to proclaim, “I am gay,” is awkward for reason’s unrelated to your sexual orientation. When this statement is lobbed out into the air, it is difficult to know how to respond. It’s not a question, an instruction, a request or even a helpful tip. It’s random, possibly unsolicited, information. It’s sort of like saying, “I got my hair cut.” It’s as if you are inviting feedback, seeking commentary or soliciting an opinion by stating a fact. How is someone supposed to respond to these kinds of statements? “Uh, duh!?” or, “Congratulations!??” or maybe, “That’s wonderful, how do you like it?” Or, “I thought so.” Awkward.

The following strategies are about how to be out, not how to come out. Once you are out, it’s time to practice the art of being out. These three strategies make being out a natural and straight (hmmm) forward experience:

1.  UNCENSORED SHARING. Talk openly about your life without censoring pronouns, partner relationships, and other orientation-revealing information. Just as heterosexuals do, share stories with your co-worker about your weekend. When you refer to your girlfriend or wife in ways that affirm her relationship to you, this is a natural function of being out. Discuss your everyday life as you ordinarily would. For example, “My girlfriend/wife and I went to a great show this weekend.” If someone is uncomfortable, they are not being invited to share their discomfort with you. You are not putting a statement out there for their commentary. PUBLIC SERVICE (COMMON SENSE) ANNOUNCEMENT: If you have concerns about your safety when being out — always choose safety first.

 

2. CORRECT MIS-ASSUMPTIONS. “No, actually I don’t have a boyfriend, I have a girlfriend/wife.” Again, this is a natural correction to a wrong assumption. It is no different than saying, “No, I am not married, my boyfriend and I haven’t tied the knot yet.” It’s a natural part of communication to correct someone who has made an erroneous assumption.

3. NON-VERBALS. There are many ways to communicate that you are a lesbian through non-verbals. You can place a picture on your desk of your wedding day. You can put a pride flag or HRC sticker on your car or somewhere in your office. You can wear gay-pride jewelry, apparel, and other accessories that tell a story without having to speak.

Sometimes people do not want to hear what you are telling them. Early in my being out process, I was often experimenting with how to come out. One time that stands out is when I attempted to correct an assumption that I was heterosexual that was shockingly unsuccessful. This happened years ago when gay marriage was but a blip on the radar screen.

I was working at a private psychiatric hospital, and it was the end of a very long workday. I walked my last client out to the lobby, and, as I turned back toward the receptionist to head back to my office, she informed me that I had a personal call waiting. She asked if I wanted the call transferred to my office, or if I wanted to take it there at the front desk. I opted to take the call right there in the lobby. After transferring the call, she picked up her Bible and started reading again — which is how she spent her time between calls.

The call was brief. I talked about what time I’d be home, what I wanted to do for dinner, then I hung up the phone.

The receptionist, with whom I had only had limited and playful communication, turned to me and said, “You’re married, right, Michele?” And I casually replied, “Nope, not married.” So she followed up with, “Well, you’re engaged, aren’t you?” To which I again replied, “No, I’m not engaged either.” Finally, she throws up her hands and says, “Well, why did I think that?” And as casually as I had replied to the questions before, I said, “I’m not sure why because I’m gay.”

To my surprise, she burst into laughter, only pausing long enough to respond with a playful response: “You’re so funny, you’re always joking!” We both smiled, and I headed back to my office.

As I tried out various strategies for revealing the truth about my life and my relationships, I discovered that it was much easier (and often more fun) to stop working so hard to break things down for other people. Over time I just stopped censoring anything (within reason!) that I said about my relationship, my partner, and all of the usual social topics shared with friends, acquaintances, family, and even strangers. If I’m talking about my wife, I say, “my wife” and I use the pronoun “she.” There — I’m out. It’s that easy.

If, for example, I need to hire a service person to fix my toilet, I will indicate that I may not be there, but I reference my wife, saying, “she will be when you arrive.” I don’t pause for permission or acceptance, and I don’t invite comments or feedback about my sexual orientation either. To do so would indicate that it matters to me what the plumber thinks about my relationship status. I don’t. And, that his the key, to genuinely realize that it is of no concern what the plumber thinks about your sexual orientation. He is there to fix a toilet, not to judge my relationship. I will not pretend I have a husband or that I am single so that the plumber feels more comfortable. Sadly, there was a time I would have, though.

I vote we raise the bar. Instead of striving to come out, let’s be more specific about this — let’s set our sights on the never-ending process of being out.


❤️ Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those here.

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