What to do when work gets in the way of your relationship

Let me open this post by saying this is not a Lesbian thing..this is a relationship thing, but I do feel that the balance between work both inside and outside of the home can be different between two women. This difference can throw up some unique challenges. See this interesting academic paper for more highbrow chat on that topic.

The difficult thing about work is that we have to do it. Unless you have been born into money, or have recently won the lottery…you have to work. I’m sorry to break it to you. We have to work to make money to live. Sad but true. If you are lucky enough to have a job that you love…congratulations. If you are like the rest of us who don’t mind our work but would rather be doing something else such as walking the dog, playing squash or masturbating (not all at the same time), then join the club.

In a long term relationship work can get in the way of a harmonious partnership in a number of ways.

Division of labour

So as the article above alludes to long term lesbian relationships are all equal and fair….. right? Well the evidence does suggest that traditional roles of breadwinner and home-maker are less common in lesbian households, but its still possible for housework arguments to occur. If partner A  usually works longer hours than partner B, A may feel that B should pick up more of the household chores. B may feel like they work 2 jobs, a financial one, and that they take care of the majority of home stuff as well. This can lead to tension. I have a few suggestions here;

At a time when you are not arguing sit down and make a list together, or separately of all the things that need doing to run a house. You could start by taking the Chore Wars test (ignore the heterosexist assumptions on the opening page…it does become more inclusive in the test itself). Then separately put your names against the tasks that you each feel that you currently do. TRY to avoid getting into a fight at this point, let a few disagreements go about the details, try and get it broadly right. Think about how you both would like the list to look. Redraft it. Then look at what is left over. Depending on your income you could think about buying in some help to cover the bits that neither of you like. Paying for a cleaner once a week is almost always cheaper than getting a divorce. If you are working a lot, ask yourself if you would prefer to subcontract your cleaning, or work less and do it yourself ( if that is an option for you). If you end up with a list of nasty jobs that neither of you want to do try to trade  ” I’ll do the laundry, if you do the paperwork”. etc. Some of this avoids talking about the issue of who works outside of the home more. I work less than my partner, but I also study..should I do more of the housework? Agreeing  a division of labour that suits you both will save you years of heartache. If you are doing the lions share, consider suggesting that you therefore should move to part time  economic work. That way you both get your weekends and evenings free. Two frazzled and fried people will rarely make a happy home life.

They are always working and you never see them

This is an emotionally charged issue because the chances are that if they are working all the time, they are also under stress and feeling pressure to do so. They feel that they can’t work less or they will …..lose out on a promotion, let other people down, get the sack, fail in some way. You may feel that they are putting work before you, they feel they are doing it all for the good of both of you, and possibly your children (if you have them).

If you are in the first five years of a relationship this might be the first really tough pressure point you have experienced. Over the course of a long term relationship the stress/pressure pendulum will swing back and forth, so a little bit of patients goes a long way. What can you do to make their life at home easier and more pleasant whilst they are experiencing this stress? All that you do in this respect will come back to you over the course of your life together. Discuss what is behind the stress, it might be that they need to reflect on the work-life balance that their work is affording them and consider if this is a situation that they want long term. If it is a temporary situation (a colleague is off sick, a deadline is looming, cut backs are coming), then discuss how long this period is likely to last….are you putting up with a less than optimal personal life for a month? Or is it likely to be a year? Try not to diminish the pressure they feel they are under, but realistically talk about how ‘temporary’ it really is. No-one wants to live a life of “It’ll be better when” but on the other hand you can’t expect to live totally free from  pressure or stress ( if you discover how, then let me know).

If the situation is permanent then division of labour becomes even more important.  A while ago it became clear that my partner was on a upward trajectory in her career, and we made the decision that we couldn’t both be at the top of our game professionally and also have a happy life. I am aware that what I am saying is controversial, but it really works for us. I have a great job (which I enjoy and is at the right level for my experience and skills) but it is part time which gives me time to pursue other things in my life such as studying, spending time with my family and volunteering (occasionally). I also take care of most of the big jobs around the home both in a DIY sense and also housework. This means that evenings and weekends are free for both of us. When work is tough for my partner I can ease the pressure at home. I have often wondered if lesbian couples who both work (and often also have children) are not so much ‘having it all’, as ‘doing it all’. The modern work place can quickly set itself up as the most important element of fulfilling your ‘potential’ and self worth…I guess I am just saying that this can be achieved in a number of different ways which don’t involve a boss…and still allow you to make time for the important relationships in your life.


Having a crush on someone when you are in a long term lesbian relationship

So once again let me start by saying that I am not here to promote one particular lifestyle or another, but in this post I’ll be talking about the kinds of temptation that you can experience when you are in a relationship for the long term, and you have decided/committed to having a monogamous relationship.

This is one of those topics that is also rarely discussed by groups of lesbian friends. Crushes on film stars and musicians is fine, but crushes on your best friend’s new girlfriend…..not so much.

I didn’t really start having crushes on anyone else until I had been in my long term relationship for about 10 years. To be honest the first ten years whizzed by and mostly we were in a blissed-out, loved-up state and I had no room in my head for anyone else. Now we have been together for 15 years, I do get the occasional crush. By occasional I am talking once every two years or so, someone comes along who turns my head…I usually spend a month or two thinking about them when I have spare time….and then I find it goes away (there are reason’s why it goes away, but I’ll come onto that).

So, the first thing to say is that having a crush on someone does not mean that you do not love your long term girlfriend. It also doesn’t mean that you want to be unfaithful, but handle it in the wrong way and it can be damaging both to your mental health and to your relationship. So here are my top tips for handling a crush.

Don’t worry

I have been through a few of these now, and I am able to feel the feelings, and not worry too much. I usually just think, ‘this will pass’, and it does. Don’t spend the few months that you feel lost in a crush agonising over your unfaithful brain. I think it is natural that in a long term relationship you may meet other people who you find attractive, its what you do with that feeling that counts.

To tell or not to tell

This is up to you, but my partner and I have a loose agreement that we don’t really want to know about every pretty girl that the other one meets at work, or every friend that has appeared in a rude dream every now and then. We prefer to keep these things to ourselves, and save any unnecessary feelings of hurt. I would only recommend this strategy if your relationship is rock solid, and you totally trust each other not to act on any feelings. I also think that this strategy is only appropriate if the feelings are a ‘little crush’, rather than a full blown mental rehearsal for leaving your partner. Whatever works for you both, I am sure in some-ways its better to be honest, but in my experience that gives the feelings more power than they really have. Sometimes we joke about a new person who one of us obviously has a bit of soft spot for, but mostly we don’t event notice.

Get to know the person

This is really the crucial part of having a crush. The new person is perfect….because they are not real. You don’t usually know them, so you can imagine them to be perfect in your mind. The grass is always greener on the other side, but if you got to the other side you might see that the bush needs trimming…(sorry…bad pun). If you get to know the person, in my experience, the crush dissolves because they are usually not as awesome as the life partner that you have chosen. Get to know them with caution…..don’t set up loads of one-on-one time, or events that feel like dates as this can mess with your head and can ultimately move you into dangerous territory, but try to keep your eyes open to there faults. Picture yourself in a long term relationship with that person…how will you feel 10 years down the line with them? They won’t be exciting and new, they will be familiar and older? Is it really what you want?

Stop thinking about them

Try not to indulge in too much day dreaming. A crush is usually an entirely imagined exchange of glances, flirty conversations (that you wished you had), and an imagined hot session that you would have if you got together. Try to catch yourself day dreaming and remind yourself that this ‘relationship’ is entirely imagined.

Invest in your real relationship

O.K this is the most important bit…why has your head been turned? Usually it is because your real partner is distracted by work, or stressed, or you haven’t spent much time together, and you are feeling in need of some attention. You must address this in order to move forward. Talk to her about how you are feeling (in terms of missing her attention), and plan some nice time together. Invest in your relationship emotionally…take her out, do something nice…plan in a sex date…..plan a holiday..cook together…take a day out and go on a long walk.Talk and listen. You have chosen her for a reason, spending some nice time together can remind you of why you have chosen her. The more you focus on what you have got, the less you will be interested in your imaginary friends. You may find she is in need of your support and you haven’t noticed because you have been thinking about your crush.

So here is a question for you. When does a crush become more than a crush? My thoughts are that trivial feelings like this usually go away in a couple of month, but if you find you are six months down the line with strong feelings for someone else, then you may well be into a different kind of territory. In this case I would advise some professional help to open up the communication with your partner…but that topic is for another post.


Differences in desire

HEALTH WARNING: This is a really tricky one, and takes commitment  to solve, but it can be done, and it isn’t the sort of thing that should split up a long term relationship if you love each other and want it to work. Are you ready?

Meaningless graphic to illustrate Are You Ready

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Firstly let me clear up what I mean by differences in desire. To put it bluntly one of you wants to have sex more than the other. I am not going to deal with sexual tastes very much in this post…I will save that for another post as I think it is a slightly different but over lapping issue. This post will just be tackle the issue of differences in desire.

If you are reading this, you probably already have a problem. Differences in desire usually lead to some level of built up resentment for some or all of the following reasons;

  1. You both feel like the problem is being caused by the other person
  2. One of you feels rejected
  3. One of you feels pestered and/or manipulated
  4. You both feel like you have sex when you don’t want to
  5. Your sex life has become less satisfying for both of you
  6. You both feel like what you want is ‘normal’
  7. You cant see a way out of this problem.

If you are feeling very resentful to your partner, or if your partner does not acknowledge that you have a problem, my advice would always be to seek some professional help. Find a sexual/relationship counsellor in your area and go along together for an initial chat. Either go privately or contact RELATE, I am not going to give advice on finding a counsellor, as I am not qualified to do that. I will say that counselling can seem expensive, BUT it is a lot cheaper (and more fun) than trying to split up and divide the assets of a relationship. Most relationship counsellors will work with Lesbian couples, and most will help you work through sexual problems but if you are in doubt drop them an email first to check out the kind of service they provide.

I know it seems obvious, but I am going to put your mind at rest, sexual counselling does not involve the counsellor helping you to have sex….It involves the counsellor helping you to communicate about sex. This does mean you will have to talk to the counsellor about your sex life, but not normally in any sordid details. They are usually very good at respecting your privacy whilst still allowing you to discuss the things that are bothering you. In my experience LESBIAN COUPLES ARE CRAP AT SEEKING PROFESSIONAL HELP.This drives me nuts. These people are professionals for a reason, they are good at breaking down the resentment and getting you to communicate again.

O.K…so lets say that you are not going to go to counselling because you want to try and sort it out yourselves first. Here are something to think about (these are just my opinion, so read critically;

It is O.K for someone to not need to have sex very often. It is also O.K for someone to want to have sex every day. Try no to use sex as a way to relax, for most people relaxation needs to come before sex. Don’t use sex as a way to validate yourself and your own attractiveness (if this is an issue for you, seek some help with working through those kind of feelings). Stop trying to change the other person, because you are very unlikely to succeed with that. I hope this goes without saying, but It is also never O.K to put pressure on someone to have sex with you when they don’t want to. So with all of that in mind, it can be helpful to agree a menu of sexual activity which you can do together and apart. Here are some suggestions

Masturbate separately.(One-way)

Masturbation can be a really fun and useful way to help someone with a higher sex drive feel sexually satisfied. It is totally healthy, fun and free…how many things can you say that about? Its O.K to want to masturbate every day. This isn’t weird or excessive. The person with a higher sex drive may want to do this privately.

Masturbate in the other persons company.(One-way)

This can be a good way to allow the person with a higher level of sex drive to let off steam, without putting pressure on the partner to ‘perform’. If you are the person with a lower drive, and you can get comfortable with this, it can help to pace out your life together. It can be nice to just watch, or just stroke and kiss while they do it, or ‘help’ a little, if you like this. This can be really intimate and a nice relaxed way to spend sexual time together.

Vibrate (One-way/ or two-ways if you feel like it). 

When time is part of the problem, a vibrator usually gets to the point much quicker than any other method. So if you are the person that doesn’t fancy it tonight, why not watch them vibrate, or if you feel like it, vibrate for them (I have never mastered this technique…its really tricky to feel what is going on).

Touching one-way

This is only appropriate if you are both in the mood for some sexual contact, but can be good if only one of you feels that you want to work up to orgasm. I know this sounds funny, but orgasms take energy on both parts, and someone who is less sexually active might be happy to give more than they receive. THIS IS TOTALLY FINE, it doesn’t make you a greedy lover. Feeling like you have to reciprocate to be having ‘proper sex’ can just be about your ego. Let it go, let her give you pleasure, be happy.

Anything two-way

O.K, so this isn’t a sex manual, but really once you get into anything two-way then both of you need to be in a similar place in terms of having sex. If this is a time when the less sexually active partner wants to have sex it can feel a bit like the pressure is on.

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Like you have to give her the most amazing orgasm ever, or she won’t want it again for a while. My advice here is, take your time. See my other post on making time for sex. The truth is, neither of you are going to enjoy it when you are stressed. Try not to get into a ‘tonights the night’ mentality, try to think, ‘she is ready for some intimate contact…it might happen tonight or it might happen in the next few days’. The best way to relax is to not get too goal centred. Make some time, turn off the phone and lock your door. Get naked (or not) and just enjoy each others bodies, see where the time takes you…don’t get too hung up on orgasms…they will come if you are relaxed and in tune.

Get realistic about your expectations. 

If your partner has a lower sex drive than you you will need to adjust your expectations. Rather than thinking, ‘ I want to have sex every week’, you may need to think, ‘ I would like to do something off of the sexual menu every week’, and I would like play in a two-way fashion at least once a month. You may find when you add some of the other activities into the mix you are satisfied with the frequency.

Don’t get too hung up on frequency

This diagram shows the frequency that couples are having sex ( full reference in the Lesbian Bed Death: part 1 post)

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So this shows that according to one survey, 90% of lesbians are not having sex more than twice a week. This also true of my experience of speaking to people. Lesbians are having sex much less frequently than this but when they are having it, its great. (See LBD:part 1 for more research results.

So in summary, enjoy each other in lots of different ways, don’t try and change each other, but be flexible to your different sexual needs and try to think creatively of ways to enjoy being together without having to compromise on what you want. Lose your ego as much as possible and deal with any built up resentment before it suffocates you both. Make time for your life together, including your sex life.

Lesbian Bed Death: Part 2

If you haven’t already read part 1 of this post, I would suggest you start there. Partly because its nice to do things in order (such as open the lid of the toilet before you wee), and secondly because it has some research in it, rather than just me opinionating loudly to myself.

If you are still here, I am presuming that you want to hear me opinionate, and you have heard that I use rude words in this post like orgasm.


My personal experience of LBD is that most of the lesbians I know who have been in a relationship longer than a few years are having sex once a week or less. Many of them are having sex a couple of times a month and some are having sex less than that.

Is this a problem?

That depends on the people involved. If you are having sex one a month and when you do it, you have a fab time, and you are living busy, connected lives in between….well then that all sounds peachy to me. If one of you is unhappy with that frequency then you have a problem, I am going to write a specific post on differences in desire, so check that out if it seems useful to you.

I also think if you find that you are not having sex because other things are getting in the way, then you can also address that. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who had been in a relationship for 9 years, and she said

We don’t have spontaneous sex any more

and I thought..no…neither do we. I am not sure if anyone who is in a long term lesbian relationship has regular spontaneous sex. Most grown-up folks have to plan it in because otherwise one of the following things gets in the way

  1. Its a really good T.V programme that you have both been looking forward too
  2. You are too full from dinner
  3. You are not well
  4. The dog needs walking/ the cat has been left on their own all day
  5. The sheep need worming (O.K this is a bit more obscure, but I am trying to be inclusive)
  6. An unexpected visitor arrives
  7. Your mum phones up/ her mum phones up
  8. You can’t stop thinking about a work problem
  9. You work different shifts
  10. You have committed to your hockey team/orchestra/knitting circle that you will lead the session this week.

In summary…shit happens…and unlike The L Word, where none of them have real jobs and seem to get paid to drink coffee all day…life needs to be lived. If you are anything like me, you want to live life as well as have sex, and that’s O.K…BUT..(insert your own joke about big buts).

If you make a sex date, it is much more likely to happen. The trick is doing that, and then still taking the pressure off of the performance. Working out how to take your partner from zero, all the way up to “Yes…yes…a bit harder….keep goooOOOOOOOOOing”.

Now, I’m not going to pretend I am an expert, because that’s not what this space is about. I am being honest here. When we plan in a sex date, it probably only takes place about 70% of the time (see list 1-10), and of those 70% of times…. it leads to orgasm 3 out 4 times. BUT..the other times are great too, because we lay and kiss, and cuddle and touch and massage and relax each other…..this is really important because it is about trusting the other person not to put pressure on you to perform when you are not in the mood. So instead of saying….

Lets have sex on Tuesday after work

Why not say, “I’d like to spend some time with you on Tuesday after work. We can lock the door and switch off phones, and have an hour (or more) kissing and chatting on the bed”. You don’t need to pretend that this isn’t about sex, but by taking that goal centred approach away, I find it happens more often than not You both learn to relax into the planned sessions, and look forward to them as a crucial part of your ongoing relationship.

Sex can be one of the biggest issues in a long term lesbian relationship, so try to iron out some of these issues early on by establishing some routines that work for you both. Remember frequency isn’t everything, but it is part of the glue that will hold you together long term. Don’t worry about the idea that you are not doing it enough, or in enough different ways, just plan in time to spend with each in a sexual way, and take it from there.

Lesbian Bed Death: Part 1

Yep…I’m bringing that up.

I’ve always had a problem with this title. Lesbian Bed Death (LBD), like people don’t already think we are frumpy enough, without adding in a catchy branded title for our relationship failures.

Here comes my opinion

On the one hand… I think its a bit of media myth. Lots of people find that in long term relationship sex becomes harder to fit in and therefore less frequent, this is not a uniquely Lesbian problem…its just a homophobic media/society that like to paint it that way. On the other hand, every lesbian couple that I know who has been together longer a few years will discuss differences in desire (often to do with frequency), and say that they are having less sex than when they got together.

Here is some interesting research which has some facts in it.

First bit of research….

“In 1982, sociologists Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein published American Couples: Money, Work, Sex, the first major study of its kind to compare gay male, lesbian, and heterosexual couples on basic issues such as sex, communication, and money. Among many other findings, their research showed that lesbian couples had less frequent sex than anyone else. And thus was born the trope of “lesbian bed death.””

Taken from http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/truth-about-lesbian-bed-death-its-complicated-1210134. accessed on 13/10/2014.

So that’s where the idea originated. However…second bit of research…

A more recent piece of research by Dr. Karen Blair has been done into sexual well-being.The research was completed with a very large sample of each population (800 plus), the academic article on this is fascinating (IMHO). This research concentrates on satisfaction and types of sexual contact, and orgasms rather than just on frequency. I have summarised the findings but basically;

Lesbians have less sex than gay men or heterosexuals, but they were having longer sexual encounters (1 – 2 hours rather than 30 minutes), and lesbians were the most likely group to report both parties having an orgasm. 

Full reference: Blair, K and Pukall, C. Can less be more? Comparing duration vs. frequency of sexual encounters in same-sex and mixed-sex relationships,The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality  23(2), 2014, pp. 123136
Interesting this also ties in with my experience of chatting to my lesbian friends in long term relationships, the things they say.
When we do it, its really good
Its really hard to find time
So in theory we are having less frequent but more intense sex than other people, and we do it for longer.

Why don’t lesbians talk about sex with their friends?

Imagine this…you are, sitting around with your best lez-b-friends, and just like in Sex and the City, you look like you have been dressed by Dolce and Gabbana, (highly unlikely in my case, as I don’t think that D and G do water-proof trousers or wellies), drinking Lattes and people watching.

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What do you talk about? The latest episode of OITNB? Fashion? Football scores (if you are unlucky enough to be part of a sporty lesbian crowd), Literature, or vegan recipes? (if you are unlucky enough to be part of feminist collective), outdoor pursuits clothes? (if you….)……………………………you get the picture.


……CATS, that’s what you talk about, isn’t it..Cats, or maybe dogs or for some, babies.

I generalise, but what you don’t talk about is your sex life. AMIRIGHT? (see comments below for anwer to this). Maybe its just me and the circles I mix in, I have a really nice and close group of lesbian friends who I have been friends with for years and in some cases 15 years or more. Why don’t I talk about my sex life. There is one simple reason…………….

Because my partner/wife/girlfriend is sat right next to me.

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That is the way we roll though isn’t it. We have ‘our’ friends, and we tend to social in groups with our GFs right there. Makes it more difficult to ask for tips and techniques, or share problems. We feel that we are being disloyal, because our friends are her friends as well, so they don’t want to know what she likes, or doesn’t like in bed. And call me reductive (if you know what it means), but this ain’t the same for straight couples. They have ‘girls’ nights out, where they get pissed and talk about their husbands penises (or should that be peni…or does that mean that the man has more than one….oh I don’t know)…etc..etc. A straight friend of mine told me that her mother had said to her.

Long and thin ones are the worst kind

I cannot imagine receiving sex advice on lesbian matters from my mother (thank god). So, we keep it to ourselves. We don’t talk about it any more than in a really general and jokey way. We don’t know what is ‘normal’ and we don’t know what to expect when we have been with someone for a few years. I’ll be getting onto all of those questions in other posts, but for now, can I make a plea?……Talk to each other…be respectful to your partners privacy……but talk to each other in confidence. Be honest in your responses and learn from each other about what is going on in the sex lives of our community. Ignore all the ….food-licking, vampire-biting, money-stuffing, pulpit-balancing, hard-fisting… sex scenes of T.V programmes like The L Word and OITNB, and ask around among your friends….you might find that your sex lives are more similar than you think.

NB: If you do talk about sex with your lesbian mates, or straight mates please do post a comment. I am really interested to know if this is a generational thing (My mates were all born before 1980), and/or a class thing (a big drama is Waitrose running out of Chabli). Your input would be much appreciated. 🙂

Where are all the long term lesbians?

This blog is going to be all about long term lesbian relationships. I am a card carrying lesbian in my mid 30s, and I have been with my partner for 15 years*. When I tell people this…gay or straight..they gasp. They are usually surprised, and a little bit impressed, and I, in turn, am surprised by their surprise….(this can go on for a long time, with each of us getting more and more surprised until one of us explodes into little tiny pieces..admittedly this has never actually happened). Why are they surprised? Well here comes the science bit….In my opinion its because society has made life pretty hard for gay people in one way and another (legal protection, next of kin rights, public displays of affection, etc etc etc), these things put an extra layer of pressure onto a relationship (which can be hard anyway) and therefore people break up. This leads to a vicious circle (see diagram below)

Illuminating diagram of a vicious circle

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We (the lesbians) split up, then we (the lesbian community), have no role models, or any collective wisdom of wise old lesbians sitting around and saying heart warming encouraging things like “Oh yes, that’s the seven year itch”, or “I remember our first strap-on”……..You get the picture. So I have decided that I am going to plug that gap…and am going to be dolling out afore mentioned sage advice..for free!!!! You lucky, lucky girls….you get to hear an opinionated 30 something talk about long term love and sex…yes you heard me right..there will be lots of sex talk on this blog because that is another thing that people (read:lesbian people) make up a load of hoo-ha about…but that is for another post. x

*Now I’m not here to promote a long term monogamous lifestyle. Let me just get that straight, right off the bat. You must do whatever makes you happy…you go get your polyamorus, serial monogamous, queer, metrosexual rocks off any which way you like. I am certainly not here to preach or judge. You must live the life you want to live, and I will always defend your right to do that…BUT………I know a lot of lesbian folks who want to have long term relationships and want to talk to people who are making that work for themselves. This blog is for you mine lieblings, and I really hope you enjoy it.