What is U-Hauling?
You may or may not have heard the common lesbian stereotype of the “urge to merge”, otherwise known as “U-hauling”. Not to be confused with the actual rental truck company, U-hauling is a slang term used to describe lesbian couples who, after a mere few months, make the decision to move in together.
U-hauling, for many, is considered a joke as old as time. To others, it is a harsh and offensive stereotype that in no way depicts lesbian women as a whole. But could there perhaps be a slight truth to this commonly known term? And if there is, what’s the problem? There are plenty of people who’ve moved in together after a very brief period of time, who are in healthy long-term relationships today. Let’s take a look at U-hauling.
Does It Actually Happen?
This is not a question I could answer on my own. I sought the help of my good friend Darla Richards, a graduate student who researches themes and topics on women & gender studies. Darla is also a proud lesbian. On the topic of U-hauling, Darla says:
“I won’t say it happens to everyone, but it is a common thing in lesbian culture. A couple of years ago, when I was in my first relationship, even I moved my [then] girlfriend into my house after knowing her for only a month and a half. In coming into their sexuality, I think queer women begin to realize how far and few [other queer women] are. When we find anybody that seems like ‘the one’, there’s an impulse to get overexcited.”
According to the Atlantic, U-hauling derived from practicality. In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, when it was a necessity for gay couples to stay closeted, women moved in together for reasons ranging from safety to the opportunity to make a family.
Why The Urge To Move So Fast?
Darla continues on to explain why U-hauling happens, and why it seems exclusive to lesbian couples:
“I think lesbian couples are different than gay couples or even straight couples, in the sense that – while all women generally have higher oxytocin levels than men – double the woman equals double the oxytocin (oxytocin is a hormone that promotes love and attachment). Everyone else nowadays – gay [male] couples, straight couples – seems to be opening up to different kinds of relationships. Lesbian women seem to be going against the grain… we embrace the idea of a traditional monogamous relationship because we’re wired to want that connection.”
According to clinical psychologist and proud lesbian Dr. Lauren Costine, Darla is right. There is a biological reason for this heightened attachment. But that’s not the only reason lesbian women are so quick to make the big move. Costine explains:
“We live in a society that tells women being in a relationship is one of the, if not most important, life goals. Combine this with [the double dose of oxytocin] and low self-esteem caused by internalized lesbianphobia, and you’ve got a U-haul recipe.”
Lesbianphobia is a term Costine has coined to represent the homophobia and misogyny that lesbians face.
Costine, a front-runner in LGBT psychology and author of “Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge”, says U-Hauling is, at its core, a symptom of love addiction.
The crazy doses of oxytocin and dopamine we experience when we fall in love make us feel like we’re on top of the world. But we all feel this to a degree. Why isn’t love addiction a prevalence in queer men?
Well, many people try to fill emotional voids with addictions. Homophobia is something that is weaved into society and internalized in the hearts of many gay men. But since men often react to stress and emotional damage in outwardly destructive ways (see THIS Psych2Go article), they tend to fill these voids with sexual and substance addictions. Keep in mind, this is not to say that women cannot be subject to substance abuse or other types of destructive behavior.
“This [brain wiring] insight helps us understand how, following direction from the brain, lesbians suffering from love addiction slip into merging behaviors that are destructive later on.”
This can also explain why so many lesbian women are so ready to bypass the process of checking for the basics; healthy communication habits, good chemistry, compatibility, red flags… This leads to relationship burn-out.
Costine estimates the average lifespan of a lesbian relationship to be 3-18 months. After 18 months, the female body stops producing a significant amount of that precious oxytocin, rendering the honeymoon phase complete. At this point, the two lovers are left seeing each other’s faults, which were never properly addressed and accepted at the relationship’s conception.
How Can You Prevent the Call of the U-Haul?
Dr. Costine suggests setting up a dating plan to ease your way into a relationship, and to break out of the urge to merge.
“The problem with merging is that neither of the women has really checked out the other for compatibility… for the first two months, you should only see them once a week and talk or text every other day… Even if you really want to spend the night, it’s important to stick to the dating plan.”
So in layman’s terms, take it slow. Get to know each other. It’s hard for everyone. It’s hard for me. But if you really like who you’re dating, and you really want to make things work in the long run, aren’t they worth doing things right?
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Want more articles on dating and relationships? Check these out:
Costine, Lauren D. Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things Go Wrong. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.
Miller, Shauna. “Beyond the U-Haul: How Lesbian Relationships Are Changing.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 3 July 2013, www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/07/beyond-the-u-haul-how-lesbian-relationships-are-changing/277495/.
“Why We U-Haul: Lesbian Psych 101.” AfterEllen, 7 Oct. 2013, www.afterellen.com/people/199021-why-we-u-haul-lesbian-psych-101.
Edited by Viveca Shearin