A few months ago, I went on a date with a woman named Kitty. It only took me 30 minutes to decide that she wasn’t for me. I checked out after she muttered that bisexual women, like me, didn’t actually like women. We never spoke again and just a few weeks later, I saw on Instagram that she had gotten engaged.
For some, this may seem like an extreme timeline of events. For others, it is further evidence that there’s some truth to the lesbian U-Haul stereotype. Women who like women (WLW) have a reputation for moving fast in relationships — and moving in together shortly after meeting. The famous joke, which has been used to justify some very accelerated WLW relationships, goes: “What do lesbians bring on the second date? A U-Haul!”
To really understand the stereotype, I asked a few WLW about their experiences.
“I U-Hauled with my ex,” Brandi, 34, tells me. “We fell into this crazy passionate state where we always wanted to be around each other from the first time we chilled.” They moved in after less than two months and were together for five-and-a-half years. Marriage was on the table — Brandi even bought her ex a ring. So, other than the part where they broke up a year ago, U-Hauling worked out pretty damn well for them.
Stephanie, 25, thinks U-Hauling is completely understandable under patriarchy. “It’s literally two people who are into it without the wishy-washiness of a man who wants to have your time and emotional support — as long as you Uber to him daily for it.” she says.
However, she’s mindful of another unfortunate phenomenon, which occurs when U-Hauling doesn’t equal a successful relationship. “I call it U-Hauling back, chapter two: realizing how much it sucks to divide your things again,” she says. “Gotta adopt a minimalist lifestyle so you can be a full-on lesbian nomad.”
Even my own experiences suggest that lesbian and bisexual women don’t waste time when they think they’ve found “the one.” But is this just my confirmation bias, or is U-Hauling real? Are women so much more emotionally motivated than men and so much better at connecting with our same sex that we jump, head first, into serious relationships?
While everyone emits oxytocin, anyone assigned female at birth reacts more positively to oxytocin emission, which plays a role in social bonding. Studies even show that endogenous opioids, which control pain, reward, and addictive behaviors, have a higher level of efficacy in those assigned female. So for cis lesbian and bisexual women, there is a strong argument that our biology motivates us to attach faster.
Personally, I like to believe that our behaviors are more influenced by social factors than whatever cocktail of hormones we have going on. WLW are more likely to be in relationships with people they were friends with first. And I’ve written before about the fact that women are socialized to tie our worth to our relationships. We learn that being “chosen” increases our social capital — although granted, we learn this as it relates to men. The day we get married is framed as the most important day of our lives. So it’s understandable why two women, socialized under patriarchy, would rush into a partnership. Subconsciously, maybe we’re rushing towards the supposed benefits that come with it.
According to Corinne Kai, a queer sex educator, WLW couples don’t sign leases faster than heterosexual couples, but they do move fast in other ways.
“The ways in which women connect intimately make for a fast-tracked emotional relationship,” she tells me. “Queer people often trauma bond, meaning we share common traumatic experiences of homophobia or familial issues around our sexuality, which creates an intense bond very early on.”
Guilty! Sometimes, it feels like discussing homophobic family members with other women is a primary first-date activity. So what if one of us loves sports and the other hates them or we have complete opposite tastes in music. Even if we have nothing in common, I know we’ll have that one tenuous thread connecting us. However, this is problematic — it doesn’t take a relationship expert to realize that shared trauma isn’t the strongest foundation to build love upon. We get burned out when we eventually realize that our love languages aren’t the same, that our birth charts don’t match, or that we simply have different values.
That’s why Kai encourages women to be intentional with the speed of their relationships. “In my sex and relationship coaching, I usually advise couples to wait at least a year into serious dating to move in together,” she says.
She also talks about limerence, a psychological term that refers to the honeymoon phase of a relationship. According to her, our body releases a bunch of endogenous opiates during that time, causing us to feel high and in love. And this phase is even stronger for WLW.
“While there’s nothing wrong with knowing you’re in love with someone really early on, I try to work with couples to bring them down to reality from limerence before they move in together,” Kai says. “It can be fun to be in that limerence stage and to allow it to really last as long as you want to. Moving in [together] impedes that, because you quickly have to start navigating bills, dishes, and utilities together.”
I just cleared the fourth date/first sleepover checkpoint of a potential relationship. I like this woman a lot. Knowing that limerence, however extra-strong it might be for WLW, does eventually fade to reveal the reality of a relationship is super comforting. It reassures me that my connections with others aren’t being manipulated by brain chemicals.
“[Over time], you start to really see each other, your flaws, how you communicate during arguments, and the nuances of your relationship,” says Kai. “It takes genuine work to nurture a healthy relationship and that work usually starts after limerence.”
We can base our entire perception of a relationship on the limerence period — I used to. But that passion and intensity isn’t necessarily the important part. Rather than bringing a U-Haul, it’s about time I bring a clear understanding of my personal values to a second date. The movers can wait.