I wondered whether Michael and I could have done more to save our union. What impact had our homosexuality had on the longevity, arc and dissolution of our relationship? Had we given up on each other because we were men or because we were gay? Or neither? Friends offered clichés: Some people just aren't meant for each other. But our straight friends usually stayed married. Why not us?The results he found are fascinating. First, he listed some of the positive advantages gays have been shown to have over straights in relationships:
John Gottman, a renowned couples therapist who was then at the University of Washington, and Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, led a team that evaluated 40 same-sex couples and 40 straight married couples. The psychologists concluded that gays and lesbians are nicer than straight people during arguments with partners: they are significantly less belligerent, less domineering and less fearful. Gays and lesbians also use humor more often when arguing (and lesbians use even more humor than gays, which I hereby dub "the Ellen DeGeneres effect"). The authors concluded that "heterosexual relationships may have a great deal to learn from homosexual relationships."
Researchers have long noted that because gender roles are less relevant in gay and lesbian relationships--it's a canard that in most gay couples, one partner plays wife--those relationships are often more equal than heterosexual marriages. Both guys do the dishes; both women grill the steaks. Straight couples often argue along gender lines: the men are at turns angry and distant, the women more prone to lugubrious bursts. Gays and lesbians may be less tetchy during quarrels because they aren't forced into a particular role.However, gay relationships suffer from weaknesses that are less present in heterosexual relationships, too.
But Gottman and Levenson also found that when gay men initiate difficult discussions with their partners, the partners are worse than straight or lesbian couples at "repairing"--essentially, making up. Gottman and Levenson suggest that couples therapists should thus focus on helping gay men learn to repair.And then there are factors that don't apply equally to homo and hetero relationships--factors that mean good things if they are present in gay relationships and bad things if they are present in straight relationships.
Gottman, Levenson and their colleagues found that gays and lesbians who exhibit more tension during disagreements are more satisfied with their relationships than those who remain unruffled. For straight people, higher heart rates during squabbles were associated with lower relationship satisfaction. For gays and lesbians, it was just the opposite. Gays conduct their relationships as though they are acting out some cheesy pop song: You have to make my heart beat faster for me to love you. For gays, it is apathy that murders relationships, not tension. Straight people more often prefer a lento placidity.Interesting. In what ways are gays and straights relationships equal? The rate of falling apart.
[Lawrence] Kurdek says in a 1998 Journal of Marriage and the Family paper that even though gay and lesbian relationships end more often than straight marriages, they don't degrade any faster. In other words, it takes squabbling gay and straight couples the same amount of time to enter what is known as "the cascade toward divorce."That's where the similarity ends, however.
But straight couples more often find a way to stop the cascade [toward divorce].The author concludes with statistics on gay relationships being shorter on average than straight relationships and offering some theories why that may be so.
This leads the author to press for normalization of gay relationships--definitely with legal marriage recognition, but also at the deeper level of societal normalcy.
Although the world is changing... many gay kids still grow up believing that what they want is disgusting. They repress for years, and when they finally do have relationships, they need them to carry sufficient drama into those emotional spaces that were empty for so long. Gays need their relationships to scorch.
That's one reason gays and lesbians end relationships sooner than heterosexuals. In a 2004 paper, psychology professor Lawrence Kurdek of Wright State University in Ohio reported that over a 12-year period, 21% of gay and lesbian couples broke up; only 14% of married straight couples did. Too many gay relationships are pulled by the crosscurrents of childhood pain, adult expectation and gay-community pathologies like meth addiction. Kurdek has also found that members of gay and lesbian couples are significantly more self-conscious than straight married people, "perhaps due to their stigmatized status," he writes.
hat tip: Google News