Why the “U-Haul Lesbian” myth persists (2024)

Our international guest writer Noah Rue examines evidence around the urban myth of lesbian co-habiting habits early on in relationships and its impact.

The term “U-Haul lesbian” was first coined by Lea DeLaria in the 1990s. While it was used in a joke, it’s unfortunately stuck around as a negative stereotype impacting the queer femme culture. The idea behind the term is that lesbian couples are much more likely to cohabitate early on in a relationship.

So, why does this stereotype persist? Is there any truth to it? How could it be negatively impacting queer femme relationships?

Let’s take a closer look at why this “ lesbian urban myth” has continued to persist in the lesbian community, as well as what you should know about healthy relationships and how to fight back against the stereotypes.

The Pervasiveness of the “U-Haul” Myth

The “urge to merge” has been linked to lesbian relationships for years, specifically targeting queer femme relationships. There’s been this idea that women who go on a couple of dates end up living together at the speed of light, but is that really true?

Data suggests that it isn’t. However, let’s first take a look at why this idea has been around much longer than the 1990s.

Queer women have existed since the beginning of time, but it obviously hasn’t always been safe to come out or be accepted for who you are. In the 1950s and 60s, there was an influx of women that began to live together due to “practical” reasons, including splitting the cost of rent and utilities. It was later discovered that many of these women were actually in relationships with each other, but forced to remain in the shadows. Stereotypes tend to stick around long after they’ve lost any merit, which could be a big reason why the “U-Haul lesbian” is still a popular idea today.

However, studies have shown that there are “no significant differences in relative rates of cohabitation among couple types.” The stereotype could be lingering for various reasons. First, it’s not uncommon for gay couples to start dating later in life than their hetero counterparts. Because of that maturity, they might be ready to make stronger commitments early on. However, that doesn’t always mean immediately moving in together.

The Problem With Cohabitation Pressure

There’s nothing wrong with moving in together if you’re in a committed, long-term relationship. However, it’s important not to give in to the “U-Haul lesbian” stereotype or the “urge to merge” right away. In fact, the pressure to move in with a partner could be damaging.

While not directly correlated to the “urge to merge” myth, lesbians do have higher rates of divorce than other gay couples. While there are various reasons for this, it’s important not to overlook the fact that domestic violence can be a huge problem in lesbian relationships. Unfortunately, it’s often ignored or silenced. It can be exacerbated by things like alcohol use, or clashing styles that didn’t get discovered until moving in with each other.

That’s why it’s so important to take your time. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to cohabitation and have the same expectations for living together. Some topics to consider as you discuss your future and potentially moving in together should include:

  • Individual goals
  • Personal boundaries
  • Decorating decisions
  • Housework division
  • Finances

Don’t feel pressured to move in with your partner just because you feel like you’re on some sort of sped-up timeline. The more lesbian couples fight back against the “U-Haul” stereotype, the better.

How to Date and Commit Safely

No matter what stage of a relationship you’re in, it’s essential to be safe with your partner. From issues like UTIs to relationship and cohabitation goals, clear communication is necessary, and should always be the cornerstone of your relationship. If you’re considering moving in together, make sure you’re moving safely by going at a pace you feel comfortable with.

It can also be helpful to reach out to others. Find role models within the LGBTQ+ community, including other committed couples who live together or have been married for a while. Getting the perspective of someone who is living out (or has lived through) what you’re considering can give you new insight into whether you’re ready for that kind of commitment.

Stereotypes only remain in place when people let them. There’s nothing wrong with moving in with your partner and building a life together — even if you choose to do so quickly.

However, make sure you’re considering the next step in your relationship for the right reasons. Moving in together is a huge step forward, and it’s important to take everything into consideration before you cohabitate with someone. While you might think it’s “easy” to move on if things don’t work out, it can be much more complicated when one person has to move out and you have financial decisions to make together after the split.

The “U-Haul lesbian” myth might continue to persist, but it doesn’t have to impact your relationship. Be honest with yourself and your partner about what you want, what you expect, and what you’re comfortable with.

You can follow Noah on Twitter @NoahRue

Why the “U-Haul Lesbian” myth persists (2024)
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