Are Gay Relationships Happier and Healthier Than Straight Ones?

9 years ago

Are gay and lesbian relationships healthier and happier than straight ones? Recent studies indicate this may be the case. What are the differences between gay couples and straight ones, and do gay couples hold the keys to happy long lasting love?

Research done by psychologist Robert-Jay Green, executive director of Rockway Institute, finds there are two key factors which promote healthier relationships in gay and lesbian couples: greater flexibility in gender roles and more equal division of parenting and household tasks.

"It all comes down to greater equality in the relationship. Research shows that lesbian and gay couples, by virtue of being composed of two partners of the same gender, have a head start in escaping the traditional gender role divisions that makes for power imbalances and dissatisfaction in many heterosexual relationships,” says Green.
Read full article Same sex couples have better marital relations.

Green also conducted a series of studies with Michael Bettinger, PhD, and Ellis Zacks, PhD, which found lesbian couples to be emotionally closer than gay male couples who, in turn, were found to be emotionally closer than heterosexual married couples.

“Our research found that the most successful couples demonstrate closeness and flexibility,” said Green.

“We found high levels of both characteristics in 79 percent of lesbian couples, 56 percent of gay male couples, but in only 8 percent of heterosexual married couples. Clearly, the more egalitarian approach taken by same-sex couples is an advantage that could benefit straight couples too,” he concluded.
Read the article Where Gay Couples Fare Better.

In two different studies, both published in the January 2008 issue of Developmental Psychology, researchers compared committed lesbian couples, committed gay male couples, married heterosexual couples, and engaged heterosexual couples. The first study was done to examine how well the couples interacted and how satisfied they were with their partners.

Results showed that same-sex relationships were similar to those of opposite-sex couples in many ways. All had positive views of their relationships but those in the more committed relationships (gay and straight) resolved conflict better than the heterosexual dating couples. And lesbian couples worked together especially harmoniously during the laboratory tasks.
Read the article Equal Level of Commitment and Relationship Satisfaction Found Among Gay and Heterosexual Couples

The second study published in the January 2008 issue of Developmental Psychology, examined whether legal status of relationships affected relationship quality.

The researchers found that same-sex couples were similar to heterosexual couples on most relationships variables, and that the legalized status of a relationship did not seem to be the overriding factor affecting same-sex relationships [...] The findings also showed that same-sex couples, regardless of civil union status, were more satisfied with their relationships compared to married heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples reported more positive feelings toward their partners and less conflict than heterosexual married couples, said the authors. They theorized that there may be societal pressures and norms, as well as the presence of legal status as a couple, which may contribute to heterosexual couples staying together even when they are not happy. Alternatively, most long-term same-sex couples have to stay together by their own will and hard work since they don't have society's forces on their side, Balsam added.
Read the article Equal Level of Commitment and Relationship Satisfaction Found Among Gay and Heterosexual Couples

In analyzing the findings of all of these studies, it seems to me that gay couples do not inherently have happier and healthier relationships, but rather they may start off with a few extra tools for maintaining happier, healthier relationships. Based on these studies, gay couples bring flexibility in gender roles, more equal division of labor with regards to household tasks and parenting, closer emotional relationships, and better conflict resolution skills to our relationship, those things which when brought to a heterosexual relationship would result in happier couples too.

Drawing on experience from my own relationship and in examining the relationships of my closest friends, I would say the findings of these studies hold some validity. The couples I know who seem very happy, all appear to have close emotional relationships, equal divisions of labor, and at least some flexibility in their gender roles. They are probably also good at conflict resolution, but I've never really been a witness to their disagreements, so I couldn't say for sure.

I could see how assumed roles, based on gender, in a marriage could cause huge amounts of conflict and resentment. At the same time, I don't understand why couples wouldn't discuss these types of things before they commit to one another. When Betty Please and I decided to move in and join our lives together, there was no assumption on either side that one or the other of us would cook, or clean, or do the laundry, or maintain the cars, do the yard work, or whatever. We either share the tasks or divvy them up based on who is better at what, and who doesn't mind doing what. Household jobs can always be renegotiated at any time. But ultimately I think it works because we approach things as a team, and we have a, "what ever it takes to get the work done so we can spend time together" kind of attitude.

As further evidence that greater flexibility in gender roles leads to happier marriages, I look to our best friends, Sylvia and Phollower. In their relationship, Sylvia is a successful career woman, and the bread winner, while her husband Phollower stays home to take care of everything that needs to be done there. They each love their role in their relationship, and they each feel that they are getting the better end of the deal. This is an arrangement they wanted for long time, and they worked hard to achieve it. It makes for a happy couple.

Whether gay or straight, when it really comes down to it, relationships are relationships. All relationships have struggles and issues. Marriage is not a blissful fairytale. Relationships are work. There are ups and downs, and sometimes disagreements. We all change over time, and hopefully we continue to learn and grow to become better people. It takes more than a ring and piece of paper to survive it all and maintain a happy relationship, it takes work, dedication, love and openness.

How do you maintain a healthy, happy relationship?
Sara, who writes at Suburban Lesbian Housewife, talks about putting lots of hard work into her relationship. I love this funny and insightful snippet

There have been so many times when I thought it would just be easier to start over again with someone new.

When I look at people I know who have, I see them dealing with the same shit in the new relationship. Just different boobs.

No Thanks
from her post Same Shit, Different Boob? No Thanks.

Portlydyke, who writes at Teh Portly Dyke, suggests holding weekly meetings to check in with one another and talk about the state of your relationship.

My mate and I meet every week to talk about the state of our relationship. We have an agenda. We check in about equal exchange, agreements, intimacy, money, things we’ve noticed about our dynamics, etc. - all the things couples typically fight about (don’t mistake me — it’s not like we never argue or come to points of conflict in our relating).

We go through this agenda every week, and as a result, we keep a pretty clean slate with each other in terms of back-log — but I don’t think that’s the “secret” of remaining “in love” either. It’s simply a tool -- Okay -- a really, really good tool.
from the post On Staying Chronically In Love

Kathy Belge wrote 15 tips on How to Keep Love Alive. One important tip, personal space.

Give her space when she needs it. If she needs some time alone, don't take it personally. Everyone's need for personal space is different. Respect hers.

Weese, who writes at Weese reminds us to celebrate our differences.

It's important in a relationship to celebrate your differences... or at least learn to laugh about them.

Whenever I get particularly neurotic - I simply remind my fraught wife that she picked me.

And I of course ...picked her.
from her post She picked me

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