BY RUTH L. SCHWARTZ, PH.D
When my beloved partner Michelle and I first started thinking about offering relationship tools to lesbians and queer women, we did a search to see who else was doing that kind of thing. We found almost nothing.
We know there are many hard-working lesbian therapists out there, and relationship coaches (at least, we hope there are) who simply don’t have much of an online presence. But really, we were shocked. I mean, even if adult lesbians and queer women were only one percent of the U.S. population, there would be 3.17 million of us.
There are hundreds — maybe even thousands — of books, websites and workshops for straight couples who want happier, healthier relationships. But there is close to nada, zilch, zippo for us women-loving women.
Now, why is that? Is it because, as some straight people fantasize, women just “naturally understand each other” and automatically have wonderful relationships?
Ah, if only it were so.
The truth is, queer women and lesbians face most of the same challenges that straight couples do, plus we’ve often got some additional problems all our own, like:
- The challenge of being in a couple where one or both partners has been rejected by her family or religious community or is afraid to come out of the closet.
- The challenge of one or both partners having a gender identity or expression that is “outside the norm” and may provoke fear, discrimination or even violence.
- The challenge of living in a homophobic world, where even now, people are proposing “Jim Crow” laws to prevent us from doing dangerous, subversive things like, um, buying donuts at the local bakery. (Actually, buying donuts probably is dangerous, given how much sugar and fat they contain. But still, we deserve the right to buy them.)
- The very real possibility that both partners may be sexual abuse survivors (since approximately 50 percent of women are).
And, in addition to all of those challenges from the outer world, it can sometimes be hard just to be two women together. Often we’re really good at merging into that initial hormone-fueled bliss, but not so good at moving back into our separate selves again. That needs to happen if we’re going to have healthy love. And lesbian bed death — along with fights, depression and flatness — can be among the consequences.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love being a queer woman.
I remember when I was 22 and having problems with my first girlfriend, my mom said, “If there are going to be problems with women, too, why didn’t you just stick with men?”
Um, can you say, “unclear on the concept”? Thankfully, mom’s come a long way.
But the truth is, as a community, we do need relationship help, resources and tools from people who understand us, from people who are us.
I’ve gotten a lot of benefit from heterosexually-oriented relationship books. Often they give a nod to same-sex couples with a case study or two. But I always have to do some translating. For instance, “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.” Well, what if my girlfriend is from Mars and Venus both, and I’m from Pluto, what do we do then?
So that’s why Michelle and I launched Conscious Girlfriend. It’s also why we decided to offer retreats. We believe there’s nothing quite as powerful as coming together with a group of like-minded women, a tribe, to look at and learn about our relationships together, to explore who we are individually, what we want and value, how we can heal what needs healing and how we can finally create the kind of love we came out of the closet to have.
We think it does take a (queer-lesbian) village.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Conscious Girlfriend community! Our next retreat is coming up in late May in the beautiful hills 25 miles north of San Francisco. We hope to see you there.
And by the way, if money is an issue, there is a way for you to come free or at a big discount. Sign up as a Conscious Girlfriend Ambassador, then recruit your friends, exes, neighbors, frenemies, potluck partners, hiking group buddies, softball team members, etc. When someone you’ve referred buys a class from us, we’ll give you 30 percent of the money they’ve paid us. So this is a great way to get big discounts on our classes or even come free.