Indian women LBT
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Relationship tips for LBT women

Do you put your girlfriend’s needs before your own? Especially because you think you may find it hard to find someone else. This habit of self-silencing could have a major impact on your relationship and you. Here’s how to avoid this.

LBT women sacrifice more

LBT women (lesbian, bisexual and trans women) are a sexual minority hence they often face double the challenge compared to heterosexual (man-woman) relationships. Many women can’t help but keep silent about the things that they are dissatisfied about in their relationship, often simply to prevent it from falling apart. Especially in societies where it may be very hard to find another partner.

One of the ways this can occur is something researchers call self-silencing. Basically, this means sacrificing your needs for your partners’ and not expressing your feelings and emotions in order to avoid conflict. It’s something women do a lot more than men. Research has shown it can have a major impact on psychological health and relationships.

Self-silencing defined

So what does self-silencing look like in a relationship? It might mean giving up something you really want to do, say going out with friends you haven’t seen in a while because your partner would rather hang out alone. Doing so, you might think, would be selfish.

Or it could mean keeping quiet when your partner does something that upsets you, like ignoring you when you’re out with friends. You worry that saying something could cause friction.

Studying the silence

Up until recently, researchers hadn’t done much to study how self-silencing affects LBT women and their romantic relationships.

Enter a group of US researchers who were determined to change this and help LBT women lead healthier and more satisfying relationships. First, the group tracked down 540 LBT women with committed partners.

Then they asked the women about their experiences, like whether they’d ever felt sexually threatened or if they’d been treated unfairly by a doctor or therapist or school principal.

What they found comes as no surprise. Many LBT women put their needs and emotions last because they worry that doing so will lead to conflict with their partners.

What can you do?

If this sounds familiar, the researchers offer practical advice on what you can do about it. For starters, it might help to try to examine and question some of the beliefs that you may have bound yourself with.

‘I won’t find another partner!’. Or that ‘LBT relationship comes with sacrifices’. Realise these aren’t true and that as an LBT woman dissatisfaction in a relationship isn’t something you need to ignore or accept. All relationships need to be satisfying and fulfilling and sexual orientation or gender ought to play no part in it.  

It is important to learn to balance your needs and emotions with your partners’—and to express them. The researchers suggest assertiveness training might help. Finally, developing strategies to deal with conflict when it arises in your relationship is also key.

Reference: Sexual Minority Women’s Relationship Quality: Examining the Roles of Multiple Oppressions and Silencing the Self. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. Published March 2016.

This article was first published on 2018-11-16. 

*To protect the identity, names have been changed and the person/s in the picture is/are models.

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