Do same-sex couples have healthier relationships? Dr. Jenn weighs in.
DEAR DR. JENN,
I am a straight woman in a pretty good relationship, but I can’t help feeling like my gay and lesbian friends have better relationships. It seems like they get along better and last longer. It is just my imagination? — Straight Up
DEAR STRAIGHT UP,
You may be onto something. Recent studies show that despite the minority stress — microaggressions, violence, discrimination, harassment, and lack of acceptance or approval from friends and family — that gay couples experience, they tend to often have healthier romantic relationships.
So where do same-sex couples and straight couples differ? Here are a few areas.
1) They have a lower divorce rate. The statistics show that same-sex couples are divorcing at a much slower rate. The annual divorce rate for gay and lesbian spouses is just over one percent per year, compared to straight couples who divorce at a rate of two percent a year.
2) They create and maintain connection. A recent study printed in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy found that same-sex couples work harder at their friendships, are kinder when they argue, and do a better job talking about sex.
3) They fight better. According to studies of gay couples done by leading relationship researcher John Gottman, many handle conflict better than their straight counterparts. They are less defensive and more likely to use humor to lesson the tension. They are also less likely to use a controlling or hostile emotional tactics. He found that they are less belligerent, domineering and feared each other less than straight couples do.
4) They communicate better. Gottman also found that gay couples are more direct in their communication and less defensive when talking about difficult issues. Another study found that same-sex couples report lower levels of conflict. The authors hypothesize that heterosexual couples may be quicker to write off conflicts due to fundamental differences of gender, where as gay couples may be have a greater understanding of one another given that they are at the same gender.
5) They divide chores more fairly. A study of working families called “The 500 Family Study” revealed that in hetero marriages, men do 33 percent of the household tasks, compared to 67 percent of those tasks done by women, regardless of how many hours a week they work outside the home. Gay couples, on the other hand, report they are more likely to share equally in childcare and chores.
6) They focus on the sexual journey, not the destination. Sex researchers Masters and Johnson found that some committed gay and lesbian couples are excited by their partners arousal, where as many heterosexual couples tend to be orgasm focused. The pair concluded that the same-sex couples included in their studies seem to value emotional connection and took more time and focus lovemaking.
So, what can you learn from that information to apply of your own relationship? Here are some tips.
1) Have a state of the union meeting once a week. Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee, the authors of the previously mentioned study who are a same-sex couple themselves, do a weekly meeting every Monday night to take the temperature of their relationship.
2) Talk about the division of labor. Have open honest discussions and negotiations about chores. Don’t just assume that chores will be divided based on traditional gender roles. Discuss what chores you each hate doing the most and play to your strengths. If your man is a great cook, he should be in charge of cooking and groceries. If it drives you crazy when the trash is overflowing, you be in charge of taking out the trash.
3) Fight fairly. Conflict in a relationship is inevitable. How this conflict is handled, however, often determines whether or not a relationship lasts or goes down in flames. Make sure to use my 10 Rules to Fight Fairly to help avoid escalating conflicts.
4) Try to move away from gendered stereotypes. Don’t be so quick to write things off because “it’s a guy thing” or a “chick thing.” Take the time to examine your gender biases and to better understand your partners perspective. There is nothing more powerful than feeling truly understood in a relationship.
5) Shift your sexual focus. Slow down in the bedroom! Take the time to explore each other‘s bodies and take the pressure off regarding orgasms. Experiment by having a sexual episode without any P-in-V action. Heterosexual couples tend to get overly focused on penetration and, as a result, often don’t fully develop the other skills that lead to increased satisfaction in the bedroom.