Fantasizing about the perfect relationship is easy. Maintaining a successful relationship? Less easy. Maintaining a successful lesbian relationship? That comes with its own specific set of challenges and triumphs. All relationships take dedication and work (mixed in with ease and fun) but a WLW (women who love women) relationship can require a specific kind of TLC. “I often say that lesbian relationships can be the best relationships on the planet — but because two women can bond so quickly and go so deep, our relationships can also take more skill to navigate,” says Ruth Schwartz, director of the
Conscious Girlfriend Academy, a digital education platform for lesbians.
It’s true, we love hard. She adds, “Frankly, you can have a ton of attraction, chemistry, and things in common, and still [struggle with your] relationship.”
Lesbian couples can benefit from the same universal relationship advice given to straight couples. But according to three experts on the subject, there are a few specific tips that can be helpful to keep in mind if you’d like to strengthen your bond with your girlfriend. They spilled the tea on how to keep your lesbian relationship healthy, sexy, strong, and thriving.
1. Practice Compassion For Yourself & Others
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We’ve all heard that communication is key, and while that is certainly true, Schwartz actually puts compassion at the top of her list of must-haves for a successful lesbian relationship. If you are in a long-term relationship, chances are you’ll find yourselves in many situations where compassion is key, whether your girlfriend is dealing with something as benign as a bad day at work to something as life-altering as the death of a parent. Little gestures go a long way. This can look like cooking your lover’s favorite meal, asking about how her heart feels today (you are gay, after all), or accompanying her to her little cousin’s piano recital even though you’d rather sip martinis at happy hour with your girls.
It’s also crucial to practice compassion for yourself. Treating yourself with kindness doesn’t just make your own life easier and happier. It also keeps your relationship healthy. “Many people make a game of showing just how self-critical they can be. But trying to love someone who is always ragging on herself can get old really fast,” says Schwartz.
2. Communicate Clearly & Often
Obviously we weren’t going to get very far on this list without the “C” word. “Healthy communication is open-handed, open-hearted, non-blaming, non-defensive, and curious,” says Schwartz.
Lesbians typically love to process our feelings — put that skill to good use by expressing yourself. Sometimes, this looks like, “Babe, when you go to Trader Joe’s without me, I feel abandoned,” or, “You seem a little agitated today. How are you feeling?” or even, “No, baby, I meant it as a
compliment that you’re the Jenny of the friend group if we were The L Word!”
No one is born knowing how to perfectly communicate, and it’s totally OK to turn to outside resources to help. There’s no shame in wanting to up your game. Try reading
by Stella Harris, an intimacy coach and writer for Elite Daily. Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships
In addition to communicating your own complicated feelings, it’s equally as important to listen to your girlfriend. “Be a good listener,” says Jordana Michelle, a lesbian love coach and the founder of
WomenLovingWomen.com. “It feels good when someone truly knows us and hears us when we speak. Be curious, ask questions and learn as much as you can about your partner’s thoughts, perspectives, and history.” The more you know, the more you can be a supportive partner.
3. Stop Borrowing Your Girlfriend’s Leggings
Compassion and communication can certainly apply to straight relationships but you are here for gay content™, so let’s sapphic things up a bit. Wearing each other’s clothing seems harmless enough, but over time, a sister dynamic can fester.
“I kept ‘borrowing’ my girlfriend’s clothes, which understandably pissed her off,” says Zara Barrie, author of
Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup and creator of Girls on Jane, a fictionalized queer audio drama, recalling a past relationship. “I was starting to feel like the annoying little sister secretly stealing my cooler sister’s tube tops. And she was starting to feel like she had to hide her mascara from my sticky little fingers. And nothing about that dynamic is sexy.” Her relationship was only salvaged when she stuck to her own closet.
This can be extra hard if you and your girlfriend are the same size and both love leather pants, but trust that the self-control will pay off.
4. Keep Pets Out Of The Bedroom
Lesbians love pets. We love chihuahuas with missing paws, stray cats with specialty diets — you name it, we rescue it. But don’t be such a martyr for your beloved furry friends that you sacrifice your sex life.
“When we first got our dogs, they would climb on top of the pillows or start licking our toes whenever my wife and I tried to get close. It wasn’t until we set boundaries and locked the dogs out of the bedroom and distracted them with toys that our sex life came back,” Barrie says.
While it’s amazing to snuggle our furry friends at night, don’t let it take precedence over your intimacy. You are in charge — not your pets!
FOTOGRAFIA INC./E+/Getty Images Lesbians are at higher risk for love addiction and codependency. It’s important to spend time apart even when you feel like you want to spend every second together. Distance is healthy! “There is nothing sexier than a woman who has the desire to be autonomous and the confidence to be by herself. When we are blessed with some time away from our girlfriends, we remember why we love them so much,” Barrie says.
6. Learn Your Girlfriend’s Love Language
Lesbians love sweeping gestures of love, so you really shouldn’t slack on this one, babes. As a typical Leo, my love language is gifts. My partner traveled 1,500 miles for our first date, which lasted 72 hours. What is a grander gesture than flying to me?
“Whether it’s acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, physical affection, or buying gifts, we all have a certain way we prefer to receive love. Even though it’s easier for us to express love in the way that feels best for ourselves, it’s important that we make the effort to give love to our partner in the ways that feel best for her,” says Michelle.
If you’re dating someone who appreciates words of affirmation, dial up the creative, specific compliments. If she’s into physical affection, hold her hand under the table when you’re out at dinner with your friends. If you need more inspo on how to show your love, check out lesbian TikTok. My fave follows are
@camillalor, @jaerozaee, and @onairplanemode.
cis women have orgasms, our bodies release oxytocin, otherwise known as the “love hormone” because it makes you feel more connected to someone. (It’s also released when new mothers breastfeed.) A 2012 study found that people in new romantic relationships have twice the level of oxytocin than single people do, and that high level typically stays stable for six months. After that point, people release less oxytocin and may feel less of a bond.
“It’s totally normal for you to feel super drunk in love at the beginning of a new relationship, and then to sort of… flatline,” Barrie says. Two women can feel electrified by each other in the beginning of a relationship, and then need a little help once the hormone wears off and reality sets in.
“What’s the difference between friends and lovers?” Barrie asks. “Sex!” If you want to keep the spark alive in your long-term lesbian relationship, prioritize getting steamy. Michelle agrees, saying, “Make time for physical intimacy. Oftentimes, it’s the first thing couples give up when time is scarce and life gets hectic and stressful. But physical intimacy keeps the romance alive, and physical chemistry gives couples more confidence in the relationship,” says Michelle. (Of course, if you or your girlfriend are on the asexual spectrum, go ahead and express yourself in whatever ways feel right.)
8. Think Positively About Your Relationship
Here’s a fun fact: The more you reflect on how amazing your girlfriend is, the stronger your relationship will get. “Focus on what you love about your partner, not on things you dislike. Our minds are naturally repetitive, and so the thoughts we choose perpetuate and reverberate. We can use this to our advantage by purposely saying or thinking
five positive things for every one negative thing we say or think about our partner,” says Michelle, citing research from famed psychologist and relationship expert Dr. John Gottman.
Make a conscious effort to think about how your partner lights you up – is it her smile? Her laugh? The fact that she agrees
Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a masterpiece even though most lesbians disagree? The way her braless tits look in a white tank top? Her intelligence? Her kindness? See? You’re doing great!
9. Keep Learning About Yourself
In order for any relationship to work, including a lesbian one, you must know thyself. “We all want to be seen, heard, loved and accepted as we are. That's real intimacy. But if someone doesn't know herself and her own feelings, it's going to be hard for
you to know her,” Schwartz says.
You and your girlfriend don’t have to go to therapy, meditate, or listen to self-help podcasts (unless that’s your thing, then do you, bb), but you should both individually know yourself and your triggers. Schwartz adds, “She does need to know how to tell you when she's scared, sad or mad — and so do you.” Knowing who you are and how to correctly identify and deal with your emotions will make you a stronger communicator and a more well-informed partner.
This type of self-discovery is really important. “Continuing to [learn and] evolve as a person keeps us engaged in life and increases our self-esteem, which is an important part of mental health and personal happiness,” says Michelle. Also, self-awareness is hot. “It keeps our partner attracted to us over the long-term,” she adds. Sounds like a win-win to me.
10. Take Care Of Yourself
In order to have a successful long-term lesbian relationship, it’s important that both you and your partner are separately in good places with your mental health. “It's a losing battle to try to be close to someone who blows up at you, or gives you the silent treatment, or walks out on you, or disappears into substances or addictions,” Schwartz says. Given that
rates of substance use disorders are higher in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s worth being extra conscious about the coping mechanisms you and your girlfriend turn to.
To seek help for mental health concerns, visit the
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). To seek help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).
11. Remember That Relationships Can Always Improve
In any relationship, there are going to be times you mess up. You might answer an ex’s emotional email, or forget the dairy-free cheese plate for queer book club, or accidentally grab toy cleanser instead of lube (ouch.) None of us are perfect. But as long as you can openly admit when you’re wrong, have a genuine desire to be better, and take steps to learn from this situation, you’ll be golden.
Schwartz says “a sincere willingness to learn and grow” is one of the most crucial qualities you can have. “If you've got that, or are dating someone who does, there's room to learn together from your mistakes and mishaps, and create a healthy relationship.”
Oh, and don’t hog the remote. May the sapphic goddesses smile upon your relationship.
Experts: Ruth Schwartz, director of the Conscious Girlfriend Academy Jordana Michelle, a lesbian love coach and the founder of WomenLovingWomen.com Zara Barrie, author of Girl, Stop Passing Out In Your Makeup and creator of Girls on Jane Don't miss a thing
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