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"Witty, perceptive, and wise"
- Karla Jay, editor of Dyke Life and Lesbian Erotics
" A delightfully practical and funny guidebook to exploring life after love . No coy language and no judgmental presumptions help us say yes to the relationships we want. When you go shopping for the next commitment ceremony, The Lesbian Love Companion is the perfect gift"
- Jewelle Gomez, author of The Gilda Stories
A wonderful book helping lesbians define our relationships on our terms--making a successful breakup as worthwhile as our commitments."
- Suzanne Westenhoefer, lesbian comedienne
"With dozens of real-life examples, [this] highly creative guide to everyday relationship pitfalls is a veritable Kama Sutra of emotional possibility."
- Alison Bechdel, creator of Dykes to Watch Out For
"[A] lively, smart, funny, and fun-to-read book that challenges our fairy tale notions that we will find one Ms. Right and settle down forever in undisturbed bliss. Hall...offers wise advice about how to keep one's sanity through the ins-and-outs of all these discombobulating and destabilizing experiences."
- Lillian Faderman, author of Odd Girls and Twilight Loversand Surpassing the Love of Men
When a couple comes to therapy for the first time, I check for membership insignia: the leather or tweed, the tattoos or gold earrings, the buzz cut or blond bob that will tell me whether my new clients belong to the butch/ femme club or the crone clan, the punk or professional tribe of Lesbian Nation. Yet, as revealing as these dyke markings may be, they fade into insignificance during breakups. At such times, there is only one detail that counts: one partner wants to stay in the relationship; the other wants to leave.
The new couple in my office is no exception. As soon as they sit down, one partner nods tersely at the other. At this signal, the second woman fidgets briefly and then, as though reading from an invisible cue card, tells me that they have decided to separate.
"We haven't decided anything," snorts her partner. "You've decided. Why don't you tell her the whole story?" Then she turns abruptly toward me. "She's leaving me for someone else."
The two had called earlier in the week for a mediation. There are photo albums, camping gear, mutual friends, a computer, a CD player, and an arthritic calico to somehow divide. But, I soon see, all these items are decoys. As long as the two women can't resolve any of their custody disputes, they can buy a little more time before the separation begins in earnest.
After an hour, our fruitless negotiations collapse into a portentous silence. Suddenly, the angry partner announces that there's one thing they won't have to divide. "It's all yours," she declares, as she retrieves an official-looking document from the recesses ofher knapsack. Slowly and deliberately she tears up their domestic partnership certificate, hurling the shreds in her girlfriend's direction. Mesmerized, I watch as the sad confetti scatters above us and rains down. Having made her point, the aggrieved partner stands up and stalks out. Before following, her girlfriend gives me a despairing look.
I take a deep breath and look around. Scraps of paper are everywhere. The dismembered document has settled like snow over my rug, chair, and desk. I have to brush the remnants off my appointment book to read my notes for the rest of the afternoon:
one o'clock. Roxy and Max-Together six years; no sex after first; want to move to country and buy house but worried about sexless future together
two o'clock. Jo to and Molly -- No sex since Molly ;cmembered stepfather molested her as child
three o'clock. Taylor and CJ-CJ hates vibrator, but Taylor needs it to come
four o'clock. Sue and Kesha -- Kesha in love with her AA sponsor; wants to "open up" relationship
five o'clock. Casey and Terza -- Breaking up; check on support networks
More fragments. Pieces that once upon a time fit snugly together.
And as of that morning, I could add my name to the grim roll call of sexual mismatches, ruptured commitments, and broken hearts. After months of mutual torture, otherwise known as "the growth process," my lover and I had finally called it quits. I could not tolerate her new lover; she could not give her up. During our final counseling session, my partner informed me she would move out by the end of the month.
Over the years I worked as a therapist, I had witnessed hundreds of lesbian couples at the same crossroads. Had watched helplessly as once-loving partners hurled recriminations, pulled off rings, canceled the future. And I had learned, through the uproar, to hear the rending sounds of hearts at the breaking point. It didn't matter who had initiated the leave-taking, who felt left behind. Neither partner escaped unscathed. Nor did it matter if their relationship had been serene or conflict riddled; didn't matter that the departing partner's new passion was probably doomed from the start. Once the breakup had gotten inscribed in the destiny column, there seemed to be no turning back.
Couple problems, like couples themselves, come in all shapes and sizes. But of all the woes plaguing lesbian partners, outside affairs seemed to generate the most rancor.
If one partner had fallen in love with someone new, my role was usually limited to damage control. If I could show that all those angry accusations were simply the public face of private grief, perhaps I could turn the tirades back into tears and, if I was lucky, salvage some goodwill. They would need it in the future. And if by some miracle the new affair lost steam, perhaps the original couple -- shaken but still intact -- could pick up the pieces and start over. Occasionally, such reconciliations occurred. But more often, partners ended up bitterly estranged for a time. If and when the exes finally made their peace with each other, usually neither wanted to "go backward." Perhaps they became distant acquaintances who exchanged perfunctory nods if they happened to bump into each other once a year in line at the local gay film festival, or perhaps they even became good friends and even occasional lovers. Rarely, however, did they become partners again.
Of course, this as-the-crow-flies account hardly does justice to the breakup variations: the crafty dodges and hairpin turns, the desperate plea bargaining and faux endings. By the time it happened to me personally, I had already witnessed every possible evasive maneuver in my office. Perhaps that was why-from the first moment my soon-to-be-ex and I sat down together on our therapist's couch-I had such a bad case of deja vu. I felt like a coroner trying to grasp the finer points of respiration. I knew too well how futile such a lesson would prove in the end.
The night before our last couple's session, I dreamed that Erin and I were together again. Instead of my usual early morning misery, I woke up bathed in the glow of Camelot. As far as I and most of my couples clients were concerned, happy long-term partnerships were nothing more than that: vibrant dreams that dissolved in the morning light…The Lesbian Love Companion. Copyright © by Marny Hall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.