Patterns and nuances in affairs do differ depending on sexual orientation. The following discussion about lesbians and affairs describes some of these themes, however, these are generalizations and do not necessarily apply to any one couple.

Emotional ties play a central role in most women’s lives. Nature and nurture both contribute to this. For example, research shows that women actually have higher levels of oxytocin, the “love hormone” that makes people feel nurturing and loving. The song, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” is a reflection of the self esteem love provides a woman. The feeling of “not being a man” on the other hand, is frequently related to not performing well or feeling defeated.

It makes sense then, that more often than not, lesbians have love affairs as opposed to extra-relationship casual sexual encounters. Beverly Burch points out that it is the emotional connection itself that is the most hurtful to the discoverer of the affair. A casual sexual encounter is often less devastating for a woman than seeing her partner starry-eyed over someone else. (In contrast, men more frequently tend to not worry about emotional affairs, but can be devastated if there was sex, even if it was just a one night stand). Not surprisingly, then, most frequently other woman in lesbian affairs is an ex-girlfriend or other good friend.

Lesbian relationships can become very focused on emotional security. Women can feel more secure if they experience their partner as similar to them. The desire to merge can be strong and women in relationship can find themselves becoming more and more similar to each other over time. Each may give up activities she used to enjoy or values she used to hold in order to feel more in sync with her partner. Separate time with other friends can also go by the wayside because sometimes it feels like the more time spent together, the safer the relationship is. However, as Esther Perel puts it, “a fire needs air to burn.” It is important for women in relationships to think about whether outside contacts and activities feel threatening to the relationship, or is there a way they can enrich it, making their partner a bit more unknown, and therefore more exciting.

Beverly Burch points out that at this moment in history most lesbians cannot marry. Having a girlfriend or even a partner conjures up a different set of meanings than having a wife. There are firm societal taboos against extramarital affairs that serve as strong boundaries around monogamy. Lesbian relationships, though they may involve everything a marriage does except the certificate, do not have these kinds of societal taboos in place. The relationship is much more dependent on the actual emotional connection between the couple. It is therefore sometimes harder for lesbians to feel the complacency that married couples do when it comes to fidelity and therefore easier to feel threatened by emotional connections with others.

If you and your partner want to try to heal from an affair, it might be helpful to know that a study conducted by Peggy Vaughan found that 80% of couples were able to heal from affairs if the person who strayed came clean and took responsibility. It has been said that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” (Albert Einstein). There is the potential for psychological and spiritual development upon the discovery of an affair that can be a thing of great depth and beauty. Working with affair couples I have witnessed over and over again how channels of communication and understanding can open leading to a new closeness and intimacy that was previously unimaginable.

This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Wow. Being cheated on after 10+ years of a solid relationship is a trauma. My thoughts don’t connect. I can barely function.
    And finding out because you opened your partner’s computer and saw messages is a trauma.
    Honesty is better. I feel so much better knowing the truth than wondering. Even if the truth is painful. Secrets are more painful.

  2. Anonymous

    I have just recently split up with my partner of 20 years and during that time I suspected her of cheating on me with other women but she would just deny it. Now I have found out that my worst fear was true and have proof. But she has been leading me on with intentions of getting back together and then gives me the cold shoulder when it gets serious. So last night I found out why; because she has found someone special but still insists on having a double life. What do I do?

  3. Anonymous

    Hi, I see so many comments with life changing experience and all deal with it in some way. Sorry to hear you’d been cheated or you’re a cheater – worse if you felt betrayed. I’m in long term lesbian relationship and don’t cheat nor have I been cheated on ever, however, despite her fulfilling every aspect of my life, and I wouldn’t ever leave her, I have sexual fantasies about other women. My girlfriend wasn’t ever my type. Strange as it sounds, I fell for her totally. We connected on every level, but always something was not quite right. I never had that strong, sexual passion for her. Before, I’ve been with men and women for short periods of time. I would say that I’m lesbian, and choose my partners in very shallow way… just the ones I’m physically attracted to. However, I never connect with them on that emotional level. I know what girls I like and she knows that too. I beg her to change her look and try to be more feminine, lose weight and try be attractive for me; I’ve been like that, but I just lost myself and don’t care anymore. I hope something will change soon. I have waited so long, I must admit that most probably I will start looking for something… a design, a passion. This board is like crying wall for lost people. Life is sad sometimes but don’t lose too much time on it, get some fun too!

  4. Anonymous

    Hi. I need some advice from anyone. I fell in love with my best friend 9 years ago. We were physical for the first couple of years, cheating on our boyfriends. I could not fully accept my sexuality at the time or my feelings for her. She ended up moving and had a serious relationship and a child with someone else. But now I believe we continued our emotional affair thoughout that. I got married. Our emotional affair still continued. She got married too. Still emotionally invested in each other. We have never talked about it. Just danced around being together. Now after 9 years she has hinted at leaving her husband, I am in a good relationship and I feel guilty. My best friend wants to talk about it. And to be honest I didn’t realize I was cheating until we made these secret plans. I thought flirting with her all these years was innocent. Now I’m scared. I can’t live without my best friend. I don’t want to hurt my lover. But I can’t stop what’s been in play for 9 years. I’ve tried. But I can’t. Is there any way anyone sees this not playing out to hurt my lover? To not loose my best friend?

  5. Anonymous

    Hi Anon,

    I can feel your heartache and thanks for sharing your story. It’s the first time I have ever wanted to share my thoughts and reply. Maybe your best friend has so many commitments, possibly financial ones that make it more difficult to leave her husband. The fact that her husband allowed the affair says a lot and was a buffer to allow her to explore different love and feelings. Sexuality is so fluid and sometimes it’s not about the sex of a person but about how they make you feel.
    I am married and met a another married woman – we both have grown up children- I have no idea sometimes what’s going on, other than an incredible emotional bond. I was going to training at her workplace and over the past 3 months things became stronger. We message just about daily and shared stories etc. Sometimes I would think I was imaging it all, but instinct is so strong. I finished my training and am not working with her now. The pain I felt leaving her was sore in my chest and she got me a tiny beautiful, ironic gift. Do you think I am imagining it? It’s just I know in my heart we can’t go anywhere from here…. Unless eternal limbo. Sometime I think if we just got the chance to kiss, to feel that physical moment once. Or is that too much…. We have told each other how special etc we are to each other. But nothing else said, I don’t know what I would say. I don’t want to loose the friendship, but I feel destined we get to the bottom of things. It that too risky?

  6. Anonymous

    I met my married best friend about 6 years ago and there was a clear connection from the beginning. After about 4 or 5 months, I realized I was in love with her and we began our intimate relationship for 4 years. It went through times of “just fun” to us being in love with each other. Her husband was aware the whole time, and said he understood that his wife loved me in a different way. The last 2 years of our relationship was on and off and pretty rocky. We tried to maintain being best friends and would occasionally “slip” and be intimate. I came out as a lesbian (identified bisexual prior) about 4 months ago. My best friend and I made a vow to each other that we needed to stop what we were doing because she wanted to remain married, and we wanted to salvage our friendship. I’ve been wondering lately if this is really possible. In the end, I lost the person that I have loved most in the world, and she was able to go back to her marriage and continue on strong as ever. I’m tying to put myself out there and begin dating, but something is stopping me, and I don’t know if it is me being nervous about recently coming out, or if our friendship is stopping me. Thoughts?

  7. Anonymous

    We’ve been married almost 50 years and in the our younger years my wife had a lesbian lover. There may have been more; I don’t know. I’ve always been a quiet liberal kind of person and can say I didn’t mind that she had lesbian friends. I was always kept happy with a good amount of sex. Also she would go every year for a few days to an all-lesbian party some where in California. We are much older now and I can’t have sex any more, and she now pretty much stays home only on occasion to go out with her old crowd. Did it bother me that she had lesbian affairs and weekends away? Not really. At first it kind of did. I didn’t think she would not come home again. Needless to say that never happened.

  8. Anonymous

    My partner and I recently split, and I took it very hard. We have been friends for 10 years, and have been together for 2yrs. Over the course of a year I have had some issues with my sex drive (pre-menopausal). We argued a lot, and she has a high sex drive, and also practices the BDSM lifestyle. I knew this from the very beginning, and even had an interest in experimenting with some of the kink myself. However, during the times that we’ve had our issues, she offered support to a single lesbian friend from work, that I feel was more of an emotional thing. When I asked her the nature of their relationship, she told me they were just friends, but every time I turned around this woman was on the phone texting and receiving emotional support from my partner. After the breakup, my partner and I went through so much emotional ups and down. We currently live in the same household and our lives are very much intertwined, to include raising a 12yr old autistic son. (She is the birth mom). She has also shared the issues of our relationship with this single female lesbian that she works with, and has now told me that this woman wants to spend time with her. I was furious with her for sharing our problems with another woman that she obviously has formed a closer friendship with, and now this woman wants more of her time. The sad part is that my partner does not want a relationship with her, and just wants to have sex with other women. She says she does not have an emotional connection with these women that she wants to have sex with, so I have just chilled out, and have been working on myself. I do not know what the future holds for us, and we have talked about this in depth. I do love this woman deeply, and I feel like there could be a future with us. I am currently in therapy to help me deal with some of these issues, and we have decided that me taking a few weeks apart from each other will put some clarity to the situation. I am 50 and she is in her early 40’s. There is a part of me that wants to walk away, but there is also another part of me that says be patient, loyal, but do not be someone’s doormat.

  9. Anonymous

    Married 10 years and my wife came and told me that marriage to a man was not what her heart wanted. We still loved each other! She said she found another woman that she wanted to be with. I was really shook up about all this, and neither one of us wanted a divorce. We still live on the same piece of property but in different buildings. I built an apartment thing on the back of our garage and I live there, and the girls have the house. I go out with other women and sleep with them when I can. It’s a strange marriage arrangment that seems to work.

  10. Anonymous

    I’m a married male and I had an affair with a married lesbian.
    We exchanged the I love you words and the sex was out of this world.
    She even said having sex with me is better than lesbian sex.
    However, she ended it because she felt guilty for cheating on her wife.
    I do care and feel for her however I’m torn by not having her.
    I guess this is the way life is..

  11. Anonymous

    My wife and I are very much in love, we talk all the time, argue like a regular couple, spend our time together constructively and are building our lives further everyday. I am in the armed forces and spend a lot of time away from home. I encourage her to do whatever she wants, and to constantly better herself, likewise she does the same for me.
    A few months ago she told me she wanted to be with another woman, I said its fine as long as everything is done safely and I know about it. A few weeks ago she met a woman and told me she wanted to see her. I have allowed everything even though I am not there to “supervise” and i have no intention of interfering unless for her safety. This is my wife exploring a different side to her sexuality and I don’t feel threatened she will run away as she could not believe herself being partnered to a woman.
    These relationships can and do work, but only if a level of trust is reached and maintained.

  12. Anonymous

    What the heck is wrong with a wife loving another women or a husband loving another man. I know of a couple of married couples who have this set up. Both couple are very much married and can’t keep there hand off one another. They just enjoy some same sex togetherness.

  13. Anonymous

    I am in a 12 year lesbian relationship, legal partners, with a 5 yr old daughter and home. (she is birth mom, i’m adopted mom). we are in our late 40’s She had depression issues after child bearing that went on for 5 non sexual years. While dealing with many life isssues such as eventual death of her father after battle with cancer and a health issue of her own she began to come out of the depression and make a new friend. ….you can see where this is going yes? Well the freindship became an emotional affair, then a real one. All the while I was red flagging!(and she was telling me I was crazy) I found out the hard way.
    This new friend is 25 and single and my girl is perhaps her first lover. I found out via a face book entry on the girls page that my girls “soul searching heart cleansing walk-about” to the Grand Canyon was not a solo venture, but that they were there adventuring together.
    I called her and busted her there. She claims the trip was a diaster, and I had recieved several teary phone messages professing her deep love of me and our life while she was there. She claims that this was her wake up call.
    In my previous life I would have cut and run. It would be over. Alas, the wonderful daughter, the home and the real actual love I have for my dear one. (and hot sex again after 5 year dry spell since she got her JU JU back) Not to mention her stated desire to repair our relationship. We have had 7 months of attempting to heal and get past it. I went through all the classic freaks and twists and boundary settings. We had a few ventures into her lying to contact, seeing her and lying some more. Trust is pretty much shredded and yet She says she choses me, choses our family and loves me, wants it to work out. It has been three months now since she last had contact. OK, but she still wants to be friends with this girl now. She asks “don’t I trust her to do the right thing now?” Keep the realtionship “just friends” and let her have the only friend she has.
    I have questions about how this 25 year old barista feels about going back to “friends” status and how selfish it is to drag her through it even if middle aged insight and control prevail.
    I want to trust her. I want to try JUST ONE MORE TIME In hopes it is real and she has worked it through. I am torn.
    Here is my dilema: I get it. I get life is crazy, we do crazy things. We lie to avoid conflict and hurting, we escape into alter worlds to breathe a bit sometimes. My problem is that I am of two minds. one hand I am friend that wants her to be happy, to feel free, to have friends, to have a sense of power (and I want her to pick me!) The other hand I am a shredded mess trying to find security and hope amidst emotional mixed signals.(if she values me so highly why can’t she let this friendship go?)
    It may sound strange, but in lesbian land we often end up friends with ex’s and I feel that with enough time I may have it in me to give her the space and trust she needs to have a friendship with this girl( even an though an affair ex). But I need space to feel safe and solid first. God, just give me a few months to get my balance again, PLease!
    I have the sense that if I can give her her freedom it will all work out. It will require great control and, well sacrafice on my part but may give the greatest gift back. It may also backfire. I have the worry that If I can’t stop squashing, controling and checking up (spying) that it is doomed and will strangle what chance we do have to work through it.
    Am I totaly selling myself out? or is life flexible enough for things to work out in crazy unexpected was that give us all our happiness?

  14. Anonymous

    My lesbian partner of 19 years has an affair with a friend. She says the affair had need an I believe her but she still wants to be friends with her. She talks to her on the phone and texts several times a day with her. She also sees her several times a week and work. I am very uncomfortable with still being friends with her and very hurt that she will not end the friendship. I love her very much and want to work things out with her but I don’t know how to deal with my feelings about their continued friendship.

  15. Anonymous

    I’m a lesbian and have been in long term relationship for 10 plus years. Recently I met a straight woman that I have fallen for. I didn’t plan for this to happen but I so full of emotions I don’t know what to do. I really care about my partner and don’t want to hurt anyone. The straight woman and I have become good friends and our conversation seem to last for hours when we meet, and I mean usually 4 hours or more. Most of my straight friends don’t ever spend so much time talking like this in length. I’m wondering if she’s lonely or she’s attracted to me. We have so much more in common and likings than I have with my current partner. I’ve never been attracted to anyone during my long term relationship and I have always remain faithful and committed. I can’t seem to ignore this, it’s really eating me inside and I have not dared to disclose my attraction to my new straight friend. I like her a lot and don’t want cause any disruption to our friendship, but sometimes or I should say all the times I always want more from her. I can’t sleep at night. I feel so horribly guilty that I have an attraction to another woman. Is this normal? Note my long term partner and I have had our share of problems over the couple of years and were currently trying hard to resolve them because I care about her. But, I’m finding out more and more that i’m not in madly in love her like I used to be when we first met years ago. Is this a sign? Normally with my past relationships departed I would spend time reflecting and work on closer issues, and I have never rebounded nor jumped into something else right away. My new straight friend is so captivating and i’m so drawn to her. When I’m around her I feel happy and joyful and boundaries go away. I try very hard to maintain composer when I’m around her but once Im with her, I feel like all the heart speaks louder and I can’t think straight. I don’t know what to do, help? I welcome any input. ps; I can write a Novel about this one.

  16. Anonymous

    My mother had a lesbian affair after 35 years of marriage with my dad. I was 16. Fancy telling me how to deal with that.

  17. Anonymous

    To the person having the affair who just can’t help herself: STOP! Your lover has a partner who will be traumatized when she discovers this affair. Her trauma could debilitated her fir a ling tome. What you’re doing is unethical. The attraction will fade; have some integrity!

  18. Anonymous

    My wife of 16 years is now in a lesbian relationship. She has always been a Christian women and now she is saying that she believes it is not a sin. If anyone could see what it is doing to our family, me and especialy her they would disagree. I still love her but I am torn between divorcing her or letting her fall and come back. Im a good looking guy with a lot to offer someone else and I certainly deserve more. By the way, the pain is horrible. Any suggestions?

  19. Anonymous

    ive been with my lesbian lover for 10yrs,we are now seperating,not my choice though.weve always lived in her house,which ive been paying the mortatge on as my contribution to the running of the house,she is now selling the house & we both will need to find homes.shes saying she will help me but i need to know am i entitled to anything from the sale of the house even though my name isnt on the mortatge as i always gave her the money to put in her bank account.

  20. Anonymous

    I think when you know what your doing and break up a marriage with children involved. I think you should seriously know what the consequences are. Cannot come to no good. The effects on extended family are devastating-Splits up family. Like it or not – Its not quite excepted.

  21. Anonymous

    i caught my girlfriend snogging one of our lesbian teachers, and we keep having sex so i won’t tell anyone, but i don’t know if i can trust her.
    Lucy Pinder

  22. Anonymous

    just try and forget about her, cos she is not yours and you can,t marry her.what about the husband, you are hurting him too .

  23. Anonymous

    I’ve always had very strong negative opinions on “cheaters” and affairs. Until I found myself in that position. I am a single lesbian who met, and became very close friends very quickly with, another lesbian. Who is married to another woman. YES, same-sex marriage has been around in Canada for a few years now, and our country or economy has not fallen apart because of it. It just made us all feel “normal”. Unfortunately, that “normalacy” can include affairs–and divorce.

    The “affair” I am having, is so far just an emotional one. Well, unless you consider sneaking off to hold each other for your entire lunch hour. Or scheduling “meetings” so we can stroll through a very secluded park holding hands and watching the seagulls fly overhead as we press our bodies into each other and listen to each other’s laboured breathing as we force ourselves to refrain from giving into our desire for each other.

    I don’t want to break up their marriage. I don’t want it turning into an “affair”, and yet I think it already is. I don’t want to lose this woman. She’s an extremely close friend, and has become so important, that I’d grieve and hurt terribly if she was no longer in my life.

    I love her of course. But I just can’t be “the other woman”. I think the solution is for me to start seeing/dating someone else (who is SINGLE!) But the problem is, I don’t have feelings for anyone else. I’ve tried dating others, but there’s no ‘spark’ of any kind. Should I just keep trying?

    Can our friendship survive? How can you be ‘just friends’ when you ache for someone? The reality is, when you’re sitting within reach, and you ache so much for each other (both of you). It’s almost impossible to refrain. I can tell myself in my head a zillion times, “This is wrong, don’t do it.” The second her hand innocently grazes my arm as she takes my jacket even, sends such a flood of endorphins through me, I find it so hard to hold back.

  24. Anonymous


    How do you deal with wife having a lesbian affairs after 10 years of marriage?

  25. Anonymous

    I have a girlfried that i have been involved with for many years and I feel that she has had an affair with another woman recently. I and confused about what I should do and I love her very much. What should I do?

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