From U-Haul to Partnership: The Lesbian Relationship Timeline

Love. It fuels us, enthralls us, and often infuriates us. We can live without it but would rather not, if we’re being totally honest. Love can be confusing because humans are confusing, and this blatant generalization doesn’t extend only to straight people. The LGBTQ+ are just as puzzled when it comes to dealing with love. This, of course, includes lesbians: that wonderful bunch of heavily-stereotyped women.

“But love is easy and wonderful, isn’t it? Especially for lesbians who understand women so well, right?” is what you’re probably asking. If only, dear readers. If only.

Picture this: You spot each other in the park, at the bar, on a walk on the beach. Sparks fly. She’s everything you ever wanted, right down to the plaid shirt. You flirt a little, waiting for someone to make the first move. Your first date is a raging success and you fall head-over-heels for this girl. After that — per the “Laws of Lesbians” spoken by Sappho centuries ago — you move in together.

At least that’s how it is according to the stereotype.

In a way, it’s true. After all, stereotypes are usually based in some form of reality, and when we as women know what we want, then we don’t hesitate in acting on those desires. The “U-Haul Lesbian” stereotype is an exaggeration, surely, but I can name plenty of lesbians who have seemed ready to propose on the spot when they get into a relationship. And for some, this works. For others, it quickly turns into a mess because neither person was as ready as they thought to “get serious.”

But what about those who aren’t towing a U-Haul to the first date? What is the timeline for dating as a lesbian? Is there a schedule written out by Ellen Degeneres somewhere? Is Wanda Sykes waiting in the wings, ready to throw a box set of “The L Word” to you when it’s time to start seriously dating someone? If so, then sign me up immediately.

But seriously, how does this whole relationship timeline thing work? When does dating become a relationship, and when does “my girlfriend” become “my partner”?

In my experience, the process goes in this order: dating, relationship, serious relationship, and finally partnership/marriage. Four simple steps that aren’t so simple.

The first step, dating, is kind of like dipping your toe in the water, or like getting a sample of ice cream before deciding which flavor to buy. Minus the tiny spoon (I hope) in this case. Dating is when both parties decide to try things out. Go on a few dates, learn about each other and build trust. If all goes well, then it’s official; you’re now “an item.”

Next comes the relationship. You see the same woman regularly and probably exclusively (if that’s what you’ve agreed upon). You call her “girlfriend” (and various disgusting pet-names). You go on dates and you meet each other’s friends and/or family.

The third step is the Serious Relationship. This is the doozy. You start referring to her as your “partner.” The U-Haul finally arrives. You move in together and begin your domestic bliss. You buy new furniture at Ikea and have dinner parties. You care for each other and listen to each other’s fears about the future. You make decisions together and support each other better than your favorite bra. It’s beautiful and comfortable and you’re happy.

Finally, you decide to take the next step: Legal partnership/marriage, whichever you prefer. You still call each other “partner,” but now you share health benefits. You adopt a dog or a baby or a really nice pet rock. You get a new place together and spend the rest of your lives together and live happily ever after.

This isn’t an exact timeline, and duration of the above steps will vary from couple to couple. The truth is, it all depends on the couple. Everyone is different, everyone wants different things out of a relationship, and what it comes down to is this: whether you’re gay, straight, or somewhere in between, communication between you and your significant other is key. It’s how you figure out what each of you wants, and how you can go about accomplishing that. Love is complicated, but relationships (including lesbian ones) don’t have to be. So reserve that U-Haul ahead of time, just in case.


Originally published at TravelPRIDE.