LESBIAN COUPLES & FRIENDS: IS THERE ENOUGH LOVE TO GO AROUND?
BY KALI MUNRO, M.Ed., Psychotherapist, 1999, 2001
Originally published in Siren, Aug/Sept 1999
Why is it that lesbians can neglect or forget their friends when they get into a relationship? Whether it’s the quality and intensity of our friendships that change, or the fact that we no longer make new friends, or that we rarely meet with friends independent of our partners, it always seems to happen once we’re involved with someone.
Granted, after being in a relationship, our needs and interests change. Some lesbians want to connect with other couples or develop mutual friends. Some feel satisfied that their emotional needs are met by their partners. Others feel that their relationships demand a lot from them emotionally, leaving them less to offer to friends. While all of these are reasons to make some shifts, they don’t compensate for the loss of a trusted friend. Or the independence and closeness that can be gained by hanging out with your own friends.
Some lesbians are convinced that other lesbians are a threat to their relationship. They’re afraid they will lose their partner if she goes out and has fun with other lesbians. They insist on always getting together with their partner’s friends, and can’t understand why she might want time alone with them. If you feel secure in your relationship, it isn’t a big deal if your lover sees her friends alone, or even if someone flirts with her. If you don’t feel secure in your relationship or don’t feel you can trust your partner, then that’s the issue that needs to be addressed, not your lover seeing her friends.
Some lesbians feel insecure about any close relationship their partner has, usually with a single lesbian, but not always. Relatives, men, and straight friends can all feel like a threat when someone is insecure because of their life experiences, or when the relationship is going through a hard time. If you feel insecure because of past experiences, you may want to see a counsellor to work it out. If it’s an issue within your relationship, you may want to try couple counselling. Whatever the source, it’s important to look at the deeper issue, and not get stuck on the trigger.
If your conversations remain at the level of your being upset with your partner because she’s spent time with her friends, your partner will only end up resenting you for interfering with her friendship(s). This, in turn, will create distance and hostilities between you. Instead, try talking with each other about how you both feel when she sees friends. If your feelings are connected to past experiences, talk about that. Ask for what you need from each other to make this work — where she sees her friends and you feel more confident about yourself and the relationship.
Some lesbians feel fine about their partner seeing friends independently, but may feel threatened by a particularly close friendship. This can be hard to deal with. It’s important to talk about your feelings with your partner, and hopefully she will be able to hear and reassure you. Again, the issue is not about the friendship, but about your wanting to feel close to and secure with your partner.
Some lesbians believe that their partner’s friendships are an indication of something missing in their own relationship, as though they should be able to meet all of their partner’s needs. No one can meet all of another person’s needs. In fact, seeing friends usually improves relationships. Having enjoyed an evening with a friend, your partner will feel happier and revitalized which can benefit both of you, especially if you don’t give her a hard time about it.
Sometimes underneath these insecurities and jealousies is the belief that if your partner really loved you, she would love only you. You might think that if she goes out with a friend at a time when you’re free, she’s choosing her friend over you. This is a misunderstanding about love. Everyone is capable of loving a number of people at the same time. Her choice to see a friend is just that — a decision to see her friend. It is not a competition with you. So don’t make it into one by giving her a hard time. Encourage and support her to see her friends, and do the same for yourself. If you feel insecure, talk about it. You may find that rather than threatening your relationship, seeing friends leaves both of you feeling better about each other.