For non-heterosexual collegiettes, finding girls to date in college can be a difficult enough task without bringing Greek life into it. Your dating pool is smaller than the hetero dating pool, you might find potential partners who are more interested in experimenting than dating and your campus’s LGBTQ+ clubs and events might not be your scene. And if you happen to be shy or have a faulty queer-dar? It’s easy to get discouraged and resign yourself to the Forever Alone Club.
But what happens if you finally find a cute, single girl that you click with and want to date… and she happens to be in your sorority? In an organization that revolves around sisterhood, it might be hard to make romance work, but Her Campus has some dos and don’ts when it comes to navigating this tricky terrain. Check them out below!
DON’T view your sorority as a potential dating pool
We know that it can be tempting. According to Mary Gorham Malia, the founder of Gay Girl Dating Coach, a sorority can seem like an obvious place to find someone totally dateable.
“Within the sorority structure, one of the things you have in common is similar values about how you want to live your lives,” she says. “You’re sharing a culture, you’re sharing meals, you’re sharing space… and that makes it a really easy place to make those kind of connections you can see being a potentially be a great relationship.”
But going into sorority life with the attitude that you’re going to seek out potential girlfriends will likely end in more complications than you bargained for. If you happen to stumble across romance in your own sorority, don’t be afraid to embrace it. However, always remember why you joined a sorority in the first place: the women around you should be viewed as sisters first and potential romantic partners last.
DO think of how your sorority experience will change if things go wrong
Even if the feelings are mutual, there is a lot to consider before jumping into a relationship with a sister. Before you do, the two of you should discuss how things will change if your relationship doesn’t work out. Sure, it’s not the most romantic thing in the world to have to discuss your ending before even beginning, but it’s important to assess if the risk is worth it. We all know how awkward things can get after a breakup, whether it’s having to make small talk when you run into each other at the gym or learning your ex-partner has a new girlfriend.
Now imagine that awkwardness multiplied when you have to deal with all that and still attend weekly chapter meetings, participate in sisterhood events, go through recruitment and maybe even continue to live in the same house together.
Emily, a junior Delta Gamma at Northwestern University, has a running joke with her sisters that she wants to be the first DG to marry another DG—and have an anchor-themed wedding, a shout-out to their sorority’s symbol. But when asked if she’d actually ever date her own sister, Emily had four words: “no way in hell.”
“I recently just broke up with someone who was in a different sorority,” she says. “Our breakup was pretty nasty, and it was super awkward when we had to be around each other at Panhellenic events… I can only imagine how horrible it would be if you were in the same chapter and a relationship went sour.”
DO consider how your sorority will react, and don’t hesitate to check with leadership
Chances are, if you’re a queer girl who decided to go Greek, you’ve done your homework to make sure the sorority you chose is a safe and accepting space.
“No one ever sat down with me and said, ‘Now, you better not do this’ or, ‘If I catch you with another member you’ll get kicked out,’” says Emily of coming out to her sorority, whose members have always been accepting of her sexuality.
However, depending on your sorority, accepting LGBTQ+ members might not be the same as accepting intra-sorority dating. If you have any doubts about how your sisters might take your relationship, just ask. Unfortunately, there will be no one-size-fits-all answer waiting for you and your girlfriend. Few sororities have official rules and bylaws addressing homosexual intra-sorority relationships, so most potential complications will likely come from the attitudes of your sisters, which only you can gauge for yourself.
“If a situation like this were to come up, I would probably let people I trusted on council know, like our President and VP-Standards, and make sure they were okay with it first,” Emily says.
DO recognize if you or your partner isn’t in a position to date
There is a possibility that either you or your partner might not yet be out or even still questioning—which is completely okay. Everyone operates on a different timeline and has reasons for not sharing their sexuality. However, if you decide to keep your relationship a secret, you have to accept that in a sorority setting, it might make things sticky. Sneaking around might be hot in the movies, but in real life, it only equates to being dishonest with your sisters and potentially hurting your partner and yourself.
Even if coming out to your family isn’t an option, Malia suggests considering the possibility of being out at school if you really want to pursue a relationship.
“If your girlfriend is out, and you’re not, that can create conflict,” she says. “If you’re not prepared to be seen with your girlfriend as a couple on campus, that’s a setup for a failed relationship.”
If this is the case, you and your partner shouldn’t be afraid to have a serious discussion about whether or not now is the right time for a relationship.
DON’T bring your relationship to sisterhood events
Sorority life comes with sisterhood events galore, from movie nights to rituals to recruitment, and after you take your relationship with a sister to the next level, it’s important to remember what these events are for.
“My rule of thumb would be if there’s a situation where it would annoy you if someone brought their boyfriend, or [it would be] inappropriate for [a] sister to exhibit PDA to her boyfriend, it’s probably best to slip into your sisterhood role and save the couple-ness for later,” says Emily.
Speaking of sorority traditions to leave your relationship out of? Let’s talk rooming together in the house. In some sororities, it might be against the rules—or at least heavily suggested against, according to Jordan, who serves as Vice President of Housing for a sorority at Washington and Lee University. Jordan says that if two sisters in a relationship requested to share a room in the house, they would likely be sat down and advised to take another course of action.
“[We’d suggest] either living in other housing on campus together or living in separate rooms in the house,” she says. “It would not be fair to heterosexual women who could not have their boyfriends in their rooms at all.”
Rules will differ in every sorority, but even if it is allowed, skip your girlfriend and go with another sister for a roomie. Your sisters (especially the ones you share a wall with) will thank you for it.
DO make sure you have your own space
Not sharing a room might not be the only step an intra-sorority couple should take to ensure the best chances at relationship success. They might want to pass on living in the sorority house together, too.
According to Malia, one of the biggest problems a girl can run into with intra-sorority dating is not having a home base to recuperate away from their partner. Fighting is natural in every relationship, but being forced to keep it all under one roof might be a cause for disaster.
“You see each other constantly,” she says, something she warns against if you don’t want every fight you have to be fatal for your relationship. “If the sorority house is your home when you’re at school, you want to be able to come home and not think about struggling, having tension and having discord with your lover who you’re having a fight with. You need to have a place that’s your haven to get away from that stuff.”
If both of you are set on living in the house, make sure each of you have another home base on campus in case you need to get away, whether it’s a club office, your best friend’s apartment or your favorite coffee house—anywhere you’ll have some breathing space so you and your girlfriend can cool off and kiss and make up after a fight instead of ripping each other’s heads off.
DO pursue what’s best for you, even if it’s hard
Malia sums it up best: “Just because there is attachment and attraction does not always mean that it’s a good match.”
This might especially be the case when thinking about dating a sorority sister. If the thought of having to navigate all these dos and don’ts makes your stomach twist, it’s okay to accept that a relationship with a sister might not be the best idea. Sure, they say love isn’t easy, but if at the end of the day, you’re spending more time figuring out how to make your relationship work than enjoying your relationship for what it is, you both might be better off staying friends.
“If it’s a good relationship and you two can balance out the responsibilities and your accountabilities with the sorority and your sisters, it can work,” says Malia. “But I think it’s going to be a hard balance to maintain and it’s not going to be for everyone… You need to be able to say, ‘No, that’s not the best thing for me and I’m not going to do that,’ and I think that’s a hard thing.”
It might be difficult, but taking the time to consider the dos and don’ts as well as the risks and rewards before making an informed decision will help make sure that you can keep this important relationship in your life, whether it’s as a sister or as something more. And if all the sacrifices sound completely worth the risk… well, you might just have a relationship worth fighting for.