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Stages of Lesbian Relationships Part 2

n our last article we covered what goes on in the first two stages of relationships. The stages are:
1. Romantic Love or Limerance
2. The Power Struggle or Adjusting to Reality
3. Reevaluation or Transformation
4. Reconciliation or Real Love
5. Real Love or Acceptance

To do a very brief recap of our last article: Romantic Love, AKA Limerance, is what Katy Perry is singing about in her song I Kissed A Girl:
Us girls we are so magical
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable
Hard to resist so touchable
Too good to deny it…

That is definitely romantic love mixed with a good bit of lust. It's the place where the world is wonderful, she is the woman of your dreams, the sex is incredible and you're doing it nonstop like wild rabbits, and it will be like this forever. This stage lasts from six months to one and a half or two years.

Stage Two:
The Power Struggle, AKA Adjusting to Reality, is where flossing her teeth at a fancy restaurant is no longer cute, cutting her toenails and leaving them on the coffee table in the living room is just flat-out gross, and you start to hate picking her dirty underwear up off the bathroom floor. You may feel like you have given in too much, and that you need to set your boundaries. Fears of intimacy show up and disagreements, fighting, sarcasm and resentments start to form. You can get through this stage, but it does take work.

Stage Three:
Re-evaluation, AKA Transformation, is about realizing that you do care enough about this person to want a real relationship with her. You realize that a good relationship takes work, compromise, self-change and cooperation, and learn to work toward making the relationship physically, emotionally and verbally safe for you both.

You do this by learning new ways to communicate, including arguing effectively, creating a safe environment, and becoming partners in healing rather than partners who are constantly negative toward each other. This can start as small arguments, then fighting, which can move into raging. The arguing and fighting will happen, even yelling at times, but to work on the relationship you want, and not focus only on the issues of what you don't like about your relationship and your partner, you must look at your contributions to the issues.

You and/or your partner may continue to feel afraid, angry or any number of nasty feelings. One or both of you may push against making changes, sometimes at the same time and sometimes at different times. The point is that you each decide that this is a cooperative effort, and that you have to take responsibility for yourselves, and stop pointing fingers at each other. To be right means someone must be wrong. This places us back into a power struggle. It is about owning our own behavior, and not taking someone else's inventory for them.

If an affair begins at this point, then it can be an iffy proposition for the original relationship to recover from. The affair will be in the romantic stage and has too much excitement, in comparison to the struggling relationship that may seem as if it needs to be flushed down the toilet. If the affair is ended and the couple works to save their relationship, too much damage may have been done as extra resentments are added for both parties to deal with.

To move forward, you must work on new coping tools and skills to help yourself create the relationship you both want. Look to people who have "been that and are done there" like couples that have been together and happy for at least a decade or more. Ask them how they made it through the good and bad times. You can also look for relationship self-help books, read them and do the exercises together. Think about your parent's relationship(s) and see what dynamics you are playing out in your own life that are similar or the same. For example, your parents fought all the time and now you hear things they said coming out of your own mouth. Are the themes of the arguments the same? Did one or both of your parents have affairs and now you are doing the same thing by looking outside of the relationship to "fix" or escape yours?

Look at how YOU contribute to the problems with your attitudes, statements and body language. If you're into team sports, you must discuss the game plan, practice the moves and work together to win the game. You must do the same thing with a relationship.

When you are in a relationship, it is like being on a team. Sometimes there are ways you need to improve your own skills, and sometimes you need to work together. Sometimes you need a coach to point out the things you can't see when you are in the middle of an intense game.

If you need a coach to help you, consider therapy as a means to get through this stage. Most couples don't seek counseling until they're at a point when things have gone too far, and too much water is under the bridge. They need help in breaking up at that point. Don't wait to decide that therapy is an answer if nothing else works. Go early on in the process

Stage Four: 
Reconciliation or Real Love happens if your relationship makes it through the third stage. This is where the two of you begin to come back together again. You put away the past hurts, and she starts looking good to you again. Your desire for each other heats up again, and you can now work toward becoming true partners. 

Differences and conflicts are seen through new eyes, you've been through the war, and you see what's at stake. You do love her, and this love can make it! It's at this point that you understand that there will always be differences, after all you are two unique human beings, and you can't change the other person. The relationship becomes satisfying on new levels, and the intimacy between you is not just physical but emotional as well. You may begin to realize that you each have been projecting your own issues on each other.

For example:

You always assumed she was trying to take over your interests and/or hobbies, and you finally figure out that she was simply looking for common ground for you both to bond.

You always assumed you would be abandoned because one of your parents bailed on you, and because of that you put up walls, and didn't let her in, assuming she would eventually leave.

Or, because of your own past issues, you have thoughts of leaving when things get tough instead of toughing it out to find solutions.

Eventually, you realize that conflicts are a part of a growing relationship, and life will never be conflict free. At this point you can reach an understanding that conflict is a means of growth, and not the terrible risk you once thought it was. You have your needs and she has hers, and you must find a way to meet them in healthy ways.

She may love to play softball but you hate it. The solution may be she joins a softball league, and you go watch her play. During this stage, you may see that she is as committed as you to be the loving couple you each envisioned yourselves to be.

Stage Five: Real Love or Acceptance. In this last stage both of you can reconcile your needs and the needs of the relationship, and work out compromises. Each person takes responsibility for her desires, decisions and behaviors, while creating loving support for her partner. You work to maintain a balance between being independent and being in a partnership. You have learned to have respect, passion, intimacy and you are happy to join your life with your partner's. Conflicts are resolved with less fear and more confidence, because you now know that you can work through these problems and come out stronger in the end. Always remember that these stages are fluid, and we can go back and forth from one stage to another, even going back to ones we've already visited. Sometimes we can even get stuck in a stage. It is possible for one partner to be in one stage, and the other partner to be in another, so you have to work as a team to win this game. Again, sometimes it takes an outsider to see the issues.

We hope that this two-part article has in some way helped you see that each relationship has its problems, and that there is no relationship that stays romantic forever. The process to reach real love can take time to achieve. Nothing worth having is easy, and you can have the relationship you want, but it will take work, patience and follow-through. You just need to be patient and forgiving with your partner and yourself, and always remember that life is really about the journey, not the destination. For more help with your relationship, be sure to see our book "Relationship Advice for Lesbians and Bisexual Women."

Their website,,
provides more than 1,500 free community services for
lesbian and bisexual women worldwide.

The advice in this column is the opinion of the writers and is not intended as a
substitute for medical or psychological treatment from a health care professional.

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