Relationships are difficult. They take work, dedication, and a commitment to talk through the hard stuff without giving up, so everyone makes mistakes. However, when it comes to butch-femme relationships, there are a few things butches seem to excel at in the screw-up department.
- Acting too much like a man. As a femme, I love, love , love the masculinity of butch women. I love girls who look like boys, enjoy cars and football, and would rather talk trash with their buddies than discuss the latest chick-lit. But I’m a lesbian for a reason. If I wanted to be with a man, I’d be straight, so if my girlfriend becomes emotionally distant, unwilling to talk about feelings, or would rather spend more time swilling beer with the guys than with me, we are going to have issues. (That doesn’t mean that if, during the course of the relationship, you realize that you should be a man and want to transition that I, as a lesbian, am going to leave you--but see #5.)
- Acting too much like a woman. I realize this sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. I want a butch who is emotionally aware, expressive, and can discuss feelings, but I don’t want a butch who’s girlier than me. There’s only room for one princess in a butch-femme relationship and that princess must be me in all my femmie glory. When we dance, you need to lead. You are the cockroach killer, oil changer, furniture mover, flower buyer. Don’t get me wrong--I am perfectly capable of doing those things, but I don’t want to do those things. If you spend more time crying than I do, or steal my lipstick when we go out, our relationship will become more sister than sizzle, and we are going to have issues.
- Not working enough. This is one of my big peeves. I know that plenty of you work your tails off and keep the same job for 15 years, but the butch women I seem to run across have trouble staying employed. Even more frustrating is that they'll have a job when we get together, but as soon as we’re committed (and usually living together) they mysteriously lose it and I’m left carrying the load for both of us for long periods of time. This is not okay. See princess reference above. I have no problem being an equal partner and sharing the financial burden. I don’t expect to stay home eating bonbons while you slave away, but I do not want to be the long-term sole bread winner for our household. Losing jobs happens, especially in this economy. But if you lose more than one job for the same reason or quit more than one job (especially without talking to me about it first) we are going to have issues. (This only applies to butches who are capable of working but don’t. If you are disabled, or become so, that is an entirely different matter. See #5.)
- Working too much. Yes, I’m well aware that this, too, seems like a contradiction. (Femmes are contradictory by nature. It’s just the way we work.) When I talk about working "too much," I don’t mean a 40-hour week. I'm talking about the opposite end of the unemployed butch spectrum: the workaholic butch. These are butches who constantly cancel plans or show up late because of work. It doesn’t matter what the plan is, how long we’ve had it, or how important it is. If work calls, she’s gone. This is also not okay. I need to know that I am important enough to set aside time that is just for me and connecting as a couple. (Again, see princess reference above.) Work is important, and sometimes it may be necessary to spend extra time there. We can talk about that, but if time and again work is more important than “us,” we are going to have issues.
- Failing to be honest. The biggest cause of failed butch-femme relationships in my experience has been that one or the other (or both) has said they want things they don’t, or that they don’t want things they do, or failed to communicate their true expectations. Sometimes this happens because we don’t know what we want, or we want to want something but aren’t ready for it. Like we want to have a relationship but aren't totally over an ex. The important thing is to analyze our feelings and be open. If you miss the ex and wish she’d come back but know she won’t, you are not really single. Your heart can’t fully be given to someone else. Be honest with yourself and the person you’re trying to date. If you want kids and won’t be satisfied without them (or wouldn’t be caught dead near a child) say so. Don’t wiffle waffle about what you want or need just because it might cost you the relationship. It isn’t fair to leave the other person with the impossible task of trying to satisfy needs you aren’t being honest about just because you don’t want to be alone. In the end, they'll feel unworthy and you'll feel guilty and you will come to resent each other.
The first key to this list is to be honest with ourselves about what we want and who we are. The second is to talk to each other and really listen in return.
We cannot find long-lasting, satisfying relationships without being our true selves at all times. If the person you’re with would leave you for being who you truly are, she’s not the right one for you, nor are you the right one for her. So if you’re a butch who’s scared of spiders and collects pink teddy bears, be that to the fullest, but be honest about it so that the woman who loves you can love all of you, not just who you appear to be in your badass leathers on the Harley.
Thanks again to Sarah Ultis of the Butch-Femme Project for this post. Any butches out there want to write something similar about butch-femme relationships from a butch's perspective? If so, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. --BW