I can’t believe I’ve never written a column containing my rules for lesbian dating. That ends today. Below is a list of my top five rules—comprised after countless hours of stories from both friends and clients, resulting in the five most common mistakes that couples make.
1) Must be equally out or equally closeted. You should only date people who are exactly where you are on the Coming Out spectrum. Dating someone who’s at a different phase of coming out than you are creates a power struggle. The person who is further along in coming out, invariably, will be dissatisfied with the more closeted partner. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and it’s always the same story, even though each couple hopes theirs will result in a different outcome. So often the closeted partner assures the out partner that she will eventually come out, but she’s just a “private” person. Then the out partner swears that she doesn’t care if her partner comes out or not—the important thing is that they’re together. This. Never. Works. Both partners become ingrained in their respective positions which results in conflict between the two, which then causes them to reach out to me for therapy. And since I’d rather walk through fire than deal with a couple, I send them to my wife, the Imago therapist.
2) From the beginning, have nights out alone. We don’t get Girls’ Night Out by virtue of needing time alone with our same-sex friends. Why? Because, well, we’re in a relationship with someone of the same sex. Which is precisely why it’s imperative that you establish a night alone from the beginning. I’ve seen so many clients who’ve been in a relationship for a year or more who wish they’d established this habit early, so that it didn’t feel like it was some sort of rejection of their partner later on. Time alone is one of the most important elements needed for sustaining a relationship. You need new stories to bring to your partner. It’s how we keep things exciting.
3) Offer to pay – both of you. You’re the same gender, and until you’ve established a system for who pays for what, you both should offer to pay.
4) Do not talk about your ex. Heteros seem to understand this intuitively. We can learn from them. Nobody wants to hear your war stories. Specifically, don’t reference what they were like in bed or how devastating the breakup was. I’m cringing just thinking about it.
5) Resist the urge to merge. Pace yourselves. Do not U-Haul for a minimum of one year. I don’t care if you live in Manhattan and moving in together would just make financial sense. It’s a recipe for disaster. Please. We can change this stereotype! Yes, it’s true that I broke my own rule and U-Hauled early on. But I’m one of the lucky ones. Do as I say…I’ve seen it backfire more times than not.
Dr. Darcy Sterling is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her practice, Alternatives Counseling, specializes in LGBT issues and is located in New York City. Dr. Darcy’s clinical style is very direct, goal-oriented and pragmatic. For years, the media has been drawn to her unique personality. She has provided expert commentary for networks including E! Entertainment and has worked with television producers throughout the nation. Her blog, AskDrDarcy.com, provides free advice to members of the LGBT community. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-604-0144.
*This column is not a consultation with a mental health professional and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own therapist or counselor.