Issues in the Psychotherapy of Lesbians

  • Nanette Gartrell


One needs only to take a cursory look through the literature on the psychology of women from the last decade to realize that women’s struggle to establish intimacy and mutuality in their relationships with men has been the subject of extensive investigation. One is likewise struck by the paucity of literature on relationships between women which have been mutual, egalitarian and fulfilling. Why, one might ask, have we consistently focused our writing, thinking, and teaching on power struggles in heterosexual relationships, and ignored the egalitarian models which have been created in lesbian relationships? The answer, I suspect, is that most feminist theorists fail to recognize the extent to which they have accepted the myth that relationship maturity is possible only through heterosexual union. Heterosexuality must be recognized as a powerful patriarchal institution which has been “imposed, managed, organized, propagandized, and maintained by force,” says Adrienne Rich, in order to ensure that women are physically, economically, and emotionally dependent on men.1 Whereas bonding between women is often experienced as mutual, supportive, and nurturing, the institution of compulsory heterosexuality has forced most women to seek sexual complementarity from men who are incapable of providing emotional fulfillment. As a result, heterosexual women routinely find themselves struggling to understand the discrepancy between the myth of heterosexual romance and the reality of heterosexual relationships.


Sexual Orientation Heterosexual Woman Heterosexual Relationship Lesbian Mother Lesbian Community 
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Copyright information

© Haworth Press, Inc. 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nanette Gartrell

There are no affiliations available

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