At one time or another most of us have heard or spoken the juicy words, “guess who so-and-so is seeing?” and “did you hear that so-and-so are breaking up?” Our interest in the ups and downs of each others’ relationships is so great that our desire to hear more is not limited to the lesbians we know but to any one in our immediate and distant community (remember our focus on Ellen and Ann?) And while many lesbians gossip and speculate about other lesbians, how often do we talk about what’s going on in our own relationships? I mean really talk – not only about what’s good but about what’s hard.

It sometimes feels like a risk to be honest about our relationships – as if there’s an unspoken myth that all lesbian relationships are perfect and the same. If ours doesn’t measure up to the ideal model, there must be something wrong with us.

Our need to proclaim and protect our love in the context of a lesbian-hating society often feels like pressure to hide the struggles in our relationships for fear they’ll be used against us. This need to defend our relationships and present a perfect image can lead to our minimizing and denying the problems that do exist.

In truth lesbian relationships can vary a great deal. How we construct our relationships is both a reflection of the wider heterosexual model as well as a reflection of our own creativity to create relationships within a void. With few or no models to look to, we are often freer than heterosexuals to create relationships of our own choosing rather than ones based on social conditioning and expectations.

Some lesbian relationships exist outside the mainstream heterosexual model, operating on entirely different values. They may embrace non-monogamy, be poly-amorous, live in separate homes for years, be committed to resolving their problems while staying together for “as long as we are good together” rather than “till death do us part”, and relate to each other as equals and friends as well as lovers. Being in a lesbian relationship can feel like starting from scratch – we get to ask ourselves what kind of relationship we want rather than feel compelled to follow some Hollywood model.

But it’s not always easy to be so inventive. We don’t live in a vacuum, there are social pressures on us. For lesbians, homophobia can present an obvious pressure and strain on our relationships.

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