Every lesbian relationship looks different from the next; what is right for one couple may not be right for another couple. However, the happiest and most fulfilling relationships do share certain commonalities. The following guide explains how to identify healthy versus unhealthy relationships.
Traits of a Healthy Lesbian Relationship
There is no cookie-cutter definition of the perfect lesbian relationship. Any romantic relationship can be amazingly resilient if it shares common characteristics, such as:
- Both partners respect the other’s boundaries in and out of the bedroom.
- Neither partner threatens nor intimidates the other.
- Neither partner “outs” the other without her consent.
- Both partners are given enough space to maintain outside relationships with friends and family.
- Neither partner tries to control the other.
- Each partner feels free to genuinely express herself, without fear of judgment by the other.
Finding the right woman isn’t always easy, but settling for an incompatible partner, because of loneliness or insecurities, is never the answer. All of these traits should be present in a healthy lesbian relationship.
Signs of an Unhealthy Lesbian Relationship
Falling in love is easy. The hard part comes later when the initial “fusion” stage begins to fade and the relationship must rely on mutual respect, trust and compatibility to stay strong. Most warning signs of an unhealthy relationship apply to couples of all sexual orientations, but there are a few common concerns for lesbian couples.
Emotional infidelity, or emotional cheating, happens when one partner fulfills her emotional needs with someone outside the relationship. It’s normal for lesbians to have female friends outside of their romantic relationship, but if either partner looks to someone else for the emotional intimacy lacking in the relationship, the situation can quickly escalate into an unhealthy emotional affair.
Emotional infidelity may actually be more destructive than physical infidelity because it often progresses much further before being acknowledged. Physical infidelity is easier to define because it involves a sexual act. However, the line that separates close friendship from emotional cheating is blurry. Warning signs of emotional cheating include:
- One partner shares her most intimate thoughts and feelings with someone other than her significant other.
- One partner repeatedly texts or calls someone else while she is spending time with her girlfriend.
- One partner relies on an outside “friend” to fulfill her emotional needs, like feelings of love and connection.
- One partner spends the majority of her free time with another woman.
- One partner hides or lies about the amount of time she spends with someone else.
Emotional infidelity is usually carried out over a prolonged period of time. Looking to outside friends for temporary emotional support during a tough time, like a job loss or death in the family, is not indicative of emotional infidelity because it only lasts for a short period of time.
Loss of Identity
A loss of identity happens when a partner develops a profound emotional entanglement and becomes acutely sensitive to the other’s needs at her own expense. Loss of identity goes well beyond healthy feelings of empathy and sensitivity. Rather than acknowledging and respecting her partner’s differences, she molds herself into the person she believes her partner wants her to be, denying her own individuality. With a loss of identity, one partner basically loses her sense of self and forgets who she was before entering the relationship.
If the issue is not addressed, a partner’s loss of identity can lead to further problems down the road, like cheating, if she subconsciously wants to reassert her own identity.
Jealousy takes its toll on all couples, including lesbians. When there is a lack of trust between partners, jealousy can cause a rift in the relationship. If either partner feels controlled by a jealous significant other, she must confront her feelings and discuss them with her partner. Otherwise, these feelings may turn to resentment, prompting her to cope with them in unhealthy ways.
Maintaining a Healthy Lesbian Relationship
Maintaining a healthy lesbian relationship requires both partners to be in agreement about certain things, such as the following:
Avoiding Gender Labels
Healthy lesbian couples avoid assigning gender-identity roles in the relationship. If one partner works outside the home, she is not automatically labeled as the “man” in the relationship should her partner work inside the home. Healthy couples treat each other as equals and don’t conform to unnecessary gender labels.
Accepting a Partner Who Hasn’t Come “Out”
If both partners are not “out of the closet,” one must be willing to accept the fact that the other is not yet ready to publicly announce her sexual orientation. If the “out” partner is unwilling to accept that her girlfriend hasn’t come “out” yet, she’ll eventually feel resentment about keeping the relationship on the down-low. It is easier for both partners if they can be open about their sexual orientation, but temporarily keeping a low profile doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is doomed to fail. There has to be a mutual acceptance between both partners if they hope to stay together long-term.
Sharing the Same Values
For any relationship to work long-term, both parties must have mutual values. For instance, both partners in a healthy relationship must agree on the definition of infidelity. If one partner believes that sex with anyone else (both male and female) is cheating, but the other does not consider hetero sex to be cheating, major problems may crop up down the road.
All lesbian relationships take work, but some of the most rewarding experiences happen after a couple works together to overcome their challenges. As long as both partners are honest about their needs, they have the greatest chance of relationship success.