There aren’t"only" those couples.
In fact, and this might surprise you, lesbians (and women in general) are individual people with individual preferences in their partner(s). You can find out more about that here, in our comic Lesbians 101.
Of course, butch/femme couples do indeed exist, but the prevalence of people saying they only see them in-person I chalk up to:
1. Heteronormativity. It’s easy to pick out people who look like “couples” when the default is two cis opposite-sex people. In point of fact, it’s ridiculous how many of my straight, femme women friends are mistaken for lesbians simply because they choose to be around butch or MOC women friends (who sometimes happen to be straight, too!). They aren’t a couple, but people automatically assume it must be so based on outdated and ridiculous couple stereotypes. There must be a polar dynamic in order for a relationship to form, and if two opposites are together, well, golly, they’re certainly fucking!
And related to that is:
2. Femme Invisibility. That’s a term used mostly in the lesbian community that basically means femme lesbians are overlooked as “real lesbians” or go unnoticed as queer altogether, both by heterosexual people and queer people. I’ve experienced it myself, it’s very real and very silly.
And on that token, I’ve also experienced what I like to call:
3. Double-Femme-Invisbility. Basically, people don’t fucking notice two femme lesbians. Those two women in skirts and heels sitting at Starbucks? “Friends out for coffee, definitely not a couple!” Those long-haired girls with pink nails browsing the make-up aisle together? “Friends picking out makeup for each other, definitely not lesbians!” Those two older women walking through a wooded ravine with their fashionable scarves? “It’s nice that grandma has a friend! Absolutely never lesbians.” Two ladies sitting in a pediatricians’ office, kids running rampant? “Too bad those women’s husbands couldn’t make it to the doctor visit! Surely they aren’t lesbians!”
First-hand, when I’ve dated more feminine women: Men still hit on us. If we said “We’re actually a couple. Dating. Lesbians!”? Men would argue with us about the validity of that since we both looked “so girly.” People at stores and restaurants would regularly ask if we were “sisters” and if we said no, they would remark on how nice it was to see such close friends. In a lesser way, this one applies to butch/butch couples as well. While people might more readily assume they’re queer in some way, they rarely assume two MOC women are a couple. Stereotypes definitely factor in to confirmation bias and it sucks.
Am I saying there are no butch/femme couples? No, of course not. Just that they’re not the ONLY lesbian couples out there. I know plenty of butch/femme lesbian couples, some people’s entire social circles are made up of such couples. But, then again, some people’s entire social circles are made up of only white, heterosexual cis couples, so don’t always believe that correlation implies causation.
There are many wonderful ‘samesies’ lesbian couples out there, just as there are unique people with unique preferences.
So, expand your mind a bit, look beyond your stereotyping and come to accept that there’s more to life than your weird and wacky confirmation bias.