Lesbian Women, Love Addiction, and “The Urge to Merge” – An Interview with Dr. Lauren Costine

bookcover2Ten years ago the first edition of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men was published in response to what I viewed as a meaningful missing puzzle piece for gay men to learn and grow. At that time there were few if any self-help books specific to gay men. Thus, gay men had to interpret their challenges and experiences through the written lens of heterosexual life and culture. Although there were other well-written books on the subject of sex addiction, Cruise Control was necessary primarily because gay culture as a whole views things like life-long pair bonding, monogamy, and casual sex differently than most heterosexuals. So, needless to say, gay men often found it difficult fully identify with the sexual addiction self-help literature then available. As it turns out, the book sold extremely well, so much so that in 2013 I published an updated version, taking into account the many tech-driven advances that currently affect gay male sex and love addicts.

Meanwhile, I have waited (somewhat impatiently) for the right person to come along and write a similar book focused on lesbian women. My hope was that a colleague would set herself to the task, seeing the need and stepping up to meet it. Happily, Dr. Lauren Costine eventually took on this task, providing us with the recently published book, Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things Go Wrong. Since publication, I’ve been able to interview Dr. Costine about the book and her process, and I am pleased to share her responses with you here.

What prompted you to write Lesbian Love Addiction?

A couple of things, actually. First, I am in recovery from lesbian love addiction myself. It was hard to get sober from this addiction but I was finally able to do it, and writing this book was in part a catharsis for me. Second, I was starting to write a book on the lesbian psyche (this will be my next book), but during that process I was approached by you, after you’d written Cruise Control, and you said to me that a book on lesbian sex and love addiction needed to be written. I knew in an instant that I was the one to write it. I jumped on the idea, and Lesbian Love Addiction was begun.

Can you talk a bit about lesbian love addiction in general – what it looks like, what the symptoms are, etc.?

There are many symptoms and three different styles of love addiction. First up are the true love addicts.

  • These women fall in love easily and quickly without really knowing the other woman.
  • They are addicted to the way falling in love makes them feel, more specifically to the feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin, emitted in the beginning stages of romance between women.
  • They have a sudden need to spend all their time with their new love, often moving in together within a couple of dates or months.
  • They have difficulty setting boundaries, losing their sense of self once in a relationship. Sometimes they stop taking care of themselves to better fit into their new partner’s life. They lose touch with their own friends, family, self-care, and personal interests.
  • They have a pattern of falling for women who are perpetually unavailable, physically and/or emotionally, and they have their heart broken over and over again.
  • They jump into one relationship after another to avoid being alone.

Next we have love avoidant women.

  • These women are addicted to the seducing and chasing. They get high from pursuing other women. They are the Romeos and Casanovas of the lesbian world.
  • They are addicted to the high of falling in love.
  • They are afraid of authentic intimacy, and consequently they distance themselves emotionally once the honeymoon period ends.
  • They feel emotionally smothered by their partners once the honeymoon is over.
  • They find fault, criticizing and blaming in order to create the distance that makes them feel safe.

Lastly we have love ambivalent women.

  • These women have love addict characteristics in one relationship and love avoidant characteristics in the next.
  • They vacillate between love addict and love avoidant behaviors within a relationship.
  • They are either lightly or deeply ambivalent about staying with their partner, and they doubt or fear their ability to commit. This is a pattern found in most love addicted relationships

In what ways do lesbian love addicts differ from other love addicted women (or even love addicted men)?

There are four major differences, three of which are related to our hormones, our female brains, and attachment issues with our mothers. The fourth is related to lesbian-phobia.

First of all, women emit oxytocin and dopamine when falling in love (both of which are amazingly feel-good natural chemicals that get us to connect and bond). Men do not emit oxytocin in the same way. Therefore, when two women get together the “oxyfest” is beyond intoxicating.

Women are also wired to connect to others, because this improves our chances of surviving in hostile environments. In other words, we seek relationships because our brains are wired to need them. This explains, in part, why two women might be more inclined to connect more quickly than men traditionally do. This insight helps us understand how, following directions from the brain, lesbians suffering from love addiction slip into merging behaviors that are destructive later on. They commit to each other too quickly, move in too fast, and find themselves in relationships they didn’t expect once the honeymoon is over.

Next, attachment theory tells us that most people fall into one of three main categories: secure, anxious, or avoidant. Our earliest experiences of bonding with our mother or caregiver end up imprinting patterns of relating on each of us. The extent to which those relationships developed – or were interrupted or perhaps absent – affect the ways we attach to and connect with others, and influence how we behave in romantic relationships in adulthood. Lesbians, being naturally female-centric, are deeply impacted by our relationships with our mothers and their style of loving and relating to us. This deeply affects our romantic relationships later on.

Lastly we have lesbian-phobia to deal with. The struggle for equality is still young, and whether a lesbian is aware of it or not there is residual trauma resulting from living in a world that values heterosexuality above all else. For lesbians, this trauma is compounded by sexism and misogyny. To describe the unique set of issues lesbians must deal with, namely homophobia and misogyny, I have developed the term lesbian-phobia. This trauma simply adds to the already unique issues facing two women, as discussed above.

Does the book also address sexual addiction issues? Are sex and love addiction often intertwined with this population?

The book does address sex addiction when it intertwines with love addiction, but because most lesbians are drawn to an emotional connection when being sexual, sex addiction is not as big an issue as love addiction. Women’s brains are wired to connect. We definitely love sex, but we are more turned on when an emotional connection and sex are happening at the same time.

How can lesbian love addicts best go about the process of healing? Do they face difficulties that other love addicts do not?

The healing process from love addiction can prove to be one of the most difficult things a lesbian will ever have to endure. It starts with the withdrawal process. Symptoms of withdrawal usually manifest in the following ways:

  • Cravings to act out irrationally with love addicted behaviors
  • Inexplicable aches and pains
  • Physical illness or exhaustion
  • Switching to new addictions
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Overwhelming self-doubt
  • Desperation and fear
  • Feeling like you are going crazy
  • Suicidal thoughts or impulses
  • Desire to isolate
  • Obsessive thinking or fantasizing about the woman you gave up
  • Sadness, despair, or depression
  • Emotional highs and lows
  • Irritability, anger, or rage

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as one day withdrawing will be over and you’ll feel like a new person. In order to recover from love addiction, it is imperative to commit to the process of healing. This means experiencing the withdrawals and avoiding the urge to return to your partner. Once the psychological separation from toxic behaviors and ways of thinking is made, a new person with a strong internal sense of liberation will step in. Allowing yourself to go through, not around, the pain is the essential part of healing. Avoidance leads to repetitive behaviors; true insight comes from the ability to stop, notice, and experience what is taking place, no matter how painful.

The biggest obstacle that many lesbian love addicts face is not finding lesbian-affirmative support. There are not enough therapists and 12-step programs out there that understand the unique issues of the lesbian psyche.

So you’re saying that some therapists, treatment programs, and 12-step sex/love addiction recovery groups more lesbian friendly than others. Why do you think that is?

Most therapists are not trained in lesbian-affirmative psychotherapy. The advent of the LGBT Specialization at Antioch University Los Angeles (AULA) is helping to ameliorate this problem by training budding therapists on how to work in a healing and consciously competent way, but AULA’s program is unusual. New York City and other parts of the East Coast are also relatively LGBTQ-affirmative, but other parts of the country are not. As a matter of fact, most Masters in Psychology programs’ human sexuality courses – a basic core requirement – are heterosexually oriented, barely touching on all the other sexual orientations and gender identities that humans possess.

How can lesbian women find the best possible recovery setting?

Usually, they can go to their local LGBT Center; they typically have resources and support groups that are lesbian friendly. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) tends to be very open-minded and nonjudgmental, so I feel confident recommending that group to help. Plus, read my book. It is the only book out there that addresses lesbian love addiction in an affirmative way.

What are the things you most want people to know about yourself and/or your book?

I really want people to know how much I love my lesbian community. I am honored to do my small part in helping heal the areas of our psyches that need healing. I also want people to know that I have walked this path before – I know what it is like to suffer from love addiction – to struggle with a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, and zero self-love. I want people to understand that this book is born from my own walk down the path of lesbian love addiction, and that I never stop working on myself – that I believe, as does one of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Pema Chodron, that we are all a work in progress, but with enough courage, resilience, and a desire to live a better life anyone can heal from this addiction and start experiencing authentic feelings of liberation, presence, and happiness.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of National Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health. In this capacity, he has established and overseen addiction and mental health treatment programs for more than a dozen high-end treatment facilities, including Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and Los Angeles, The Ranch in rural Tennessee, and The Right Step in Texas. An internationally acknowledged clinician and author, he has served as a subject expert on the intersection of human intimacy and digital technology for multiple media outlets including The Oprah Winfrey Network, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, and CNN, among many others. He is the author of several highly regarded books, including Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men. For more information please visit website, robertweissmsw.com.

10 Things You Can Do to Love Yourself on Valentine’s Day

Selflove

10 Things You Can Do to Love Yourself on Valentine’s Day

Whether you are single or partnered up, your relationship with yourself is the key to a fulfilling life. The truth is, you are the person you spend the most time with! Giving yourself the care and attention you need and deserve will help to restore your valuable inner resources, and once YOU are filled up, this will allow you to more fully give your love to others.

Below are 10 Things you can do to Love Yourself on Valentine’s Day.

  1. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want on this day.
  2. Go on a self-date – take yourself out to something you love even if you have a date with your partner later that night.
  3. Self-care – whether it is exercise, watching a movie, brunch with friends. Do things that you know will open your heart.
  4. Reconnect with an old friend you love and  haven’t had enough time to spend time with.
  5. Buy yourself a Valentine’s gift – it does not have to be a big purchase but something you have wanted for a while. This is a chance to treat yourself.
  6. Go outside of your comfort zone–The Artist’s Way a book by Julia Cameron – has multiple suggestions on ways to connect with yourself in new and unusual ways.
  7. Start a creative project – one that allows you to connect with your inner child- we often ignore that part ourselves and she needs attention – creative projects light up our right brain and its the best way to connect to those special parts of our inner world.
  8. Spend time in nature – nature is one of the best ways to find inner peace and be with yourself – it quiets the mind, ignites your spirit and opens your heart.
  9. Watch your inner critic today and tell her to take the day off. Our negative thoughts take us away from loving ourselves. It is a life-long process to conquer these thoughts but today is a good day to say no- I am not listening to you!
  10. Follow Your Bliss – think about things in your life that open your heart and fill you with meaning because meaning brings human beings the most happiness. When we feel useful or become part of making the world a better place it is not only fulfilling but life-enhancing!

Nurse Reveals The Top 5 Regrets People Make On Their Deathbed

noregrets_post

Nurse Reveals The Top 5 Regrets People Make On Their Deathbed

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

by Bonnie Ware

Pasadena Recovery Center Groundbreaking Speaker Series Features Dr. Lauren Costine

The Pasadena Recovery Center will be hosting clinical psychologist, educator, author and LGBTQ activist Dr. Lauren Costine at its January Expert Speaker Series on Wednesday, January 27, 2016, starting at 12 noon.

The monthly series, which is free and open to the public, brings in community leaders and addiction experts to educate Pasadena residents, alumni and staff, and provide a “unique educational setting that helps differentiate PRC from other facilities,” says the PRC announcement on its website.

Dr. Costine published her first book, “Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and What to Do When Things Go Wrong,” in November 2015. In the book, she encourages readers to develop an understanding of how to view traditional psychotherapy through a lesbian-affirmative lens in order to help themselves or their lesbian clients toward recovery from love addiction.

“I wrote it for two reasons,” Costine says. “Basically, first of all, because I’m in recovery for love addiction myself and I’m a lesbian. And so when I was out reading all the books that are available – Pia Mellody, Kelly McDaniel, Peabody, anyone I get my hands on – and it was all heterosexually oriented. It was always he/she and it was speaking to basically the heterosexual woman. At the time, I was desperate enough that I was like ‘I’ll read all this,’ but we have to translate and it’s not totally applying to me and I don’t feel mirrored, I don’t feel seen because my story is not there.”

Costine relates she had some discussions with another author, Robert Weiss who wrote “Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men,” and both agreed there was a need for her to write her own book, because love addiction is “pretty prevalent in the lesbian community even though it’s not well-known at all.” She also admits her reasons for writing the book were both professional and personal.

“Even though things are getting much better and, really, the last ten years have been remarkable, we’re still dealing with thousands of years of repression and discrimination and shaming and invisibility and hiding, and all kinds of things that has still impacted our community,” Costine says. “So for lesbians – we have a small community and we tend to what we call the ‘urge to merge,’ we tend to kind of couple very quickly – I wanted to educate them about the dangerous of that, how it has helped help me, how there’s healthier ways to get involve in a long term loving relationship, and how a lot of lesbians have this kind of addiction and they have no idea that they do.”

Costine says she has not been told what kind of audience she will be facing on Wednesday, but says she’ll speak to both the clinician mind and the average listener as well, including lesbians and gay men and their families, whom she encourages to be there at the PRC event.

She will be discussing what she calls the “psycho-educational” setting and the reasons that lead to love addiction and how early personal attachments would impact romantic relationships later in life. She also promises to include stories in her book that relate to the average person’s search for answers and guidance.

“If you’re having any issues in finding a partner in your relationships – you find yourself cycling through relationships and they don’t last very long, you find yourself pre-occupied with wanting to find somebody, you find yourself having a difficult time being alone – all of these kinds of signs and symptoms and that it really is impacting your life, and it really is making you feel bad about yourself, this is the talk to come to,” Costine says. “There’ll be a lot of answers, there’ll be a lot of ways to start seeing new things about yourself and it will bring some awareness and some understanding of why you may be suffering in this way, and then there’ll be some answers as to what you can do to make things better.”

Dr. Costine is currently Chief Clinician of Convalo Health, Inc. and the founder of The LGBT-Affirmative Track of Convalo’s BLVD Treatment Centers – a collection of outpatient addiction treatment centers whose flagship facility in Hollywood was opened in April 2014.

She received her M.A. in Psychology at Antioch University Los Angeles in 2001 and her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2007.

Costine played a pivotal role in the development and management of The LGBT Specialization in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University Los Angeles, one of the first such programs of its kind in the country. She created and co-created such courses as LGBT History and Myth, Human Sexuality, Lesbian Love & Liberation and Community Action.

Lauren Costine and Mackenzie Phillips

Pasadena Recovery Center Groundbreaking Speaker Series Features Dr. Lauren Costine

To attend PRC’s Expert Speaker Series, call

(626) 389-9730 or send an email to event@pasadenarecoverycenter.org

The Pasadena Recovery Center is at 1811 N Raymond Avenue in Pasadena.

How Living Authentically Heals Shame

livingauthentically

My first experience of shame came in the aftermath of my parents’ divorce at the age of eight. At the time we lived in Côte d’Ivoire, in West Africa, where people considered divorce a taboo, something only Westerners did. I felt so ashamed about my parents’ divorce I lied to the neighborhood kids, telling them my father’s business travel kept him away for long periods. I invented a new, more desirable me, and discarded my true self as worthless.

I spent the remainder of my childhood and much of my young adulthood hiding that true self, and as a result falling into a deep and chronic depression. After years of psychotherapy, antidepressants, and deep self-inquiry work, I conquered my depression. This feat, though obviously beneficial, left me confused about my identity. I didn’t know the difference between my real self and my depressed self. I felt restless and incomplete. I sensed life had a deeper purpose, but I failed to grasp it.

So began an arduous spiritual quest for my life’s purpose. This journey included more years of self-inquiry and more therapy, and I learned I needed to rid myself of shame if I wanted to live authentically—which I saw as the key to fulfillment. In my case, the process of resolving shame happened in four phases.

The first phase, which lasted almost a year, deepened my awareness of personal shame as I acknowledged how it diminished me. In the second phase, I started to free myself from shame by recognizing how social beliefs about love and self-worth blocked me from my Essential Self. In the third and longest phase, I accessed my Essential Self by cultivating each of five elements (see below, “Access Your Essential Self”). Once I integrated these, I reached the final phase: I began to live authentically, healed of shame. I now live a richer, more meaningful life.

During my final year in graduate school I did an experiment to see if my process could help others. For five weeks, five participants (myself included) applied this process to see if we could indeed heal shame and live more authentically. To my delight, the process helped.

Phase 1: We spent time tracking shame events in our journals to detect patterns in how shame shows up,. One participant, Sheila, recorded how she got badly triggered whenever someone told her to be quiet. Feeling dismissed, she hid herself from others for several days. In contrast, two other participants—Max and Sarah—closely observed their triggers and managed to avoid any significant episodes of shame.

Phase 2: We took a step back by examining shame as something separate from us. Shame originates from widespread social beliefs about what it means to be worthy of love. One of those beliefs treats shame as innate and, therefore, impossible to heal. Another convinces us we don’t deserve a good life because of our imagined fundamental defects. These toxic beliefs eat away at us and keep us stuck. Sheila, for example, believed she could only manage her shame, and Sarah believed shame came built into her DNA. The truth is that we can dissolve the pain of shame by changing our beliefs. By objectifying shame we can distance ourselves from its effects. By discussing the concept of shame, and not just our personal experience of it, we see how we respond to emotional triggers—and see that we could choose differently. Vulnerability held a key—allowing others to see us during our weakest moments helped us see ourselves.

Phase 3: We turned our attention to the Essential Self. All humans possess these five elements: ancestry, personality, archetypes, core values, and deep wounding. Like fingerprints, the blending pattern of these elements makes us unique—creating our individual essence. Essential Self differs greatly from any idealized version of self. Unlike the ego’s version, our true self encompasses our whole being, warts and all.

Just becoming aware of our Essential Self helps to liberate it. As Sarah put it, “I have worn a suit of armor my entire life to protect myself from feeling hurt, embarrassment, or shame. I now have a different perspective. This armor did not protect me from the outside world; instead, it just shielded me from my Essential Self.”

Phase 4: The final challenge was to feel and express this newfound essence all the time. The best way to do this, we decided, involved some sort of ongoing spiritual practice. We could practice living authentically by doing something simple and practical to remind us of our Essential Self.
Access Your Essential Self

To help each member of our group emerge from the stifling blanket of shame, we examined our individual tapestries created by the five elements of our Essential Self.

1. Ancestry grounds us, gives us a sense of historical continuity, and offers clues to our inherited cultural and familial shame that doesn’t “belong” to us. For example, Sarah’s father felt great shame about his Filipino heritage, which he then passed along to his children. Sarah discovered some of the shame she carried came from her father.

2. Personality brings the skills or tools we need to do our life’s work, and we used the Enneagram model to help unpack our special gifts. My Type 2 personality, The Helper, embodies traits such as a high capacity for empathy, a kind heart, friendliness, and a strong desire to help people. These traits come in handy in my spiritual healing work.

3. Archetypes connect us to the collective unconscious. First theorized by Carl Jung, these mythic characters predispose us to perceive the world in certain ways depending on which mythic character we embody.

4. Core values motivate us. When we imagine the future a hundred years from now, most of us want people to fondly remember us according to our core values or principles. For example, my core values include wisdom and authenticity. To express my Essential Self, I must embody these values as much as possible in my relationships.

5. Deep wounding serves as a springboard for our core values. When properly addressed and integrated, these wounds increase our capacity for empathy. As we heal, the lessons we learn can help heal the world. My wounding, for example, involved feeling unimportant, alone, and abandoned. As a result, I now possess a greater capacity for empathy, building connections, and recognizing people’s gifts.

“How Living Authentically Heals Shame” by Djenaba Dioum Kelly was originally published on Spirituality & Health.
To view the original article, click here.

BY Djenaba Dioum Kelly

Book Signing at Book Soup Jan.17th

Come join Dr. Lauren Costine as she gives insight into lesbian love addiction at her book signing at Book Soup Jan. 17th

Event date:

Sunday, January 17, 2016 - 4:00pm

Event address:

Book Soup 8818 Sunset Boulevard West Hollywood, CA 90069


Everyone makes mistakes in relationships at one time or another. Sometimes they learn from those mistakes. Other times, they return to those behaviors and cycle through failed relationship after failed relationship. Sometimes those behaviors become an addiction to love that may leave a person feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, lonely, or worse. Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things go Wrong makes visible the elements of love addiction that many lesbians suffer from.

To visit the book soup event page click this link

​Lauren has cracked the code to why so many of my family, friends and clients attach the way they do – in spite of the results. She then prescribes a new way of doing that is understandable and actionable. Brava!”

— Brad Lamm, CIP, Founder of Breathe Life Healing Centers; Author of How to Help the One You Love“
Brad Lamm
CIP 

Lesbian Relationship Help On the Topic of Social Drinking

Lesbian Relationship Help On the Topic of Social Drinking

Why are drugs and alcohol an issue in the lesbian community and how do they affect our relationships?

Is this scenario familiar to you? Two to three times a week you attend a lesbian event. It’s a friend’s birthday, a group wants to get together for the holidays, and a friend of a friend is hosting a football party at their house. You are invited to attend a Lesbian softball game, a group of friends plan to meet at a bar. You can stay out as late as you want because your cat really doesn’t mind and you don’t have any children. What do all of these events have in common– you got it – alcohol.

For many lesbian women, our community becomes a replacement for a close-knit nuclear family and the gay scene becomes a major focal point of our lives. Along with this community comes countless activities that include drinking as a normal part of the mix. People are social by nature and the need to fit in or be part of a group is a common theme for many. For lesbians who don’t have children, or close families, creating a community is important not just in our 20’s but can go well into our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and on!

For many LGBT people, trauma develops early on in life from being brought up in a straight dominated society. Before LGBTQ people come out, most struggle with the guilt and shame of being different, and if their families are religious, forget about it! The internalized phobias wreak havoc on the psyche, and to survive this internal battle, many lesbians find alcohol pushes away the pain while, at the same time, lighting up our pleasure centers! Very hard to resist. For those who started using in adolescence and are predisposed to addictive behaviors, this coping mechanism can become deeply ingrained. Socializing can also be anxiety producing – which alcohol and drugs alleviate – thus solidifying a habit that is very hard to shake and increasing one’s chances of becoming dependent! Seeking out a community that centers on drinking activities becomes a natural, social evolution.  But we all know overindulging in these kinds of chemicals can affect your love relationships, your work and your health. It hinders one’s potential. Alcohol and drugs also impair judgment. Therefore, couples are more likely to fight while under the influence and say things they later regret. This increases tension and impairs the makeup process because it is harder to repair these types of fights when resentments are blurted out in hurtful and unproductive ways. How many times have you said something you regret after having a few too many cocktails? Thankfully there is lesbian relationship help.

So what is the solution?

There is nothing wrong with having a drink or two every so often. If you find you are surrounded by a group of friends that takes indulging to the next level, try to pursue some other interests. Join a hiking group, date women who don’t have a strong attachment to drinking, take a cooking class or another class of interest where you can meet some new people. Pursue areas in your life that are meaningful to you – where you are more likely to meet women who have similar interests. Like anything, the first step is awareness. If you think drugs or alcohol are interfering with your life and your ability to have a healthy lesbian relationship visit the gay and lesbian center online in your local community, find a therapist who is lesbian-affirmative and search for drug and alcohol related support groups. There are lots of ways to find fun lesbian communities!

by Dr. Lauren Costine

UPCOMING EVENTS

You can see Dr. Lauren Costine this January at her book signing event at Book Soup where she will be signing copies of her newly released book Lesbian Love Addiction, Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things go Wrong.

To get a free sneak peek of Dr. Costine's new book
click the button below.

5 Tips You Need to Know for Healthy Lesbian Dating

Lesbian Dating

5 Tips You Need to Know for Healthy Lesbian Dating

So you met someone you are really interested in. And they seem to be showing similar interest back. What do you do next? Whether you are the one who does the initial asking or not --- following these 5 basic tips for healthy lesbian dating will make your chances of creating a healthy relationship a reality:

1. Go on a myriad of dates in the beginning. Choose ideas that give you a chance to talk. Here are some ideas.

  • Coffee or lunch
  • Casual dinners
  • Outdoor activities
  • Cultural events

Go to places you can talk and get to know each other. Don’t mix too much alcohol – it will cloud your judgment. Find things you both like to do and take turns planning what they’ll be. There is no need for one person to take the lead.

2. Talk consciously about money early on- there are a number of options you can take – a few entail switching who pays to every other date or if you would like to keep your finances more separate – split the expenses evenly. Whatever method you prefer try and find a time to discuss it early in the dating process and it does not need to be a heavy conversation but saying it out loud will go a long way.

3. Take your time getting to know each other. There is no rush and it takes a while to really get to know someone. Us lesbians are notorious for getting involved too quickly when it feels so good. Dating isn't a race and attraction chemicals can trick us into thinking we know someone better than we do. Don’t mix too much alcohol – having a glass of wine to lighten the mood is ok, but if you throw back more than a few cocktails, you may end up making some decisions you'll regret in the morning. Keep your head in the game so you can really get to know this new person in your life.

4. This includes getting physical too. It is so easy to make love or have sex right away when the chemistry is hot -- hot -- hot! But remember just because we can jump into bed since society places no restrictions on us (thankfully!) the consequences can be harsh. Powerful hormones will be emitted and you’ll attach even more to someone you barely know which can make it harder to separate if you find out later you are not a good match. A little discipline will go a long way. Minimum wait is 30 days! You can do it.

5. Live your life - It is beyond exciting to feel over the moon about another woman but take care of yourself and don’t get lost. Dating and relationships are an important part of one’s life but if they become your whole life this could be the sign of a problem. Stay connected to your friends, stay focused on your job or career, engage in your hobbies and if this relationship becomes more serious over time – keep all of tip five in mind once you are in the relationship- it will keep you, your new loved one and this relationship much more healthy.

By Dr. Lauren Costine