Gay relationships are all over the news these days. To legalize or not legalize is marriage is a hot button issue. So what is it that makes gay relationships different? Or are they? A recent article in Time magazine, “Are Gay Relationships Different” by Michael Cloud addressed this issue.
John Gottman, a well-known couples therapist and Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted a study that evaluated 40 gay and lesbian couples. The duo concluded that gays and lesbians are actually nicer than straight couples when arguing with each other. They were also less angry, less domineering, and less fearful. Gays and lesbians tend to resort to humor when arguing. After much research, the authors concluded that heterosexuals can learn a lot from gay relationships.
But Gottman and Levenson also found that when gay men initiate thorny conversations with their significant others, the partners are worse than straight or lesbian couples at making up.
The researchers also found that gays and lesbians who are tenser during arguments are also happier in relationships, while a lack of passion can render a gay relationship dull. It’s just the opposite for straight people. One possible hypothesis for this is because gender roles are largely irrelevant in homosexual relationships.
“In heterosexual couples,” Levenson remarks, “men become very sensitive to their wives’ sadness and anger. It’s toxic to most straight men and disappointing. They want their wives to idolize them, and they are very, very good anger detectors. And they don’t see any of it as funny. In gay couples, there’s a sense of ‘We’re angry, but isn’t this funny?’”
Although this all sounds very positive, gays and lesbians also tend to end relationships sooner than heterosexuals. In a 2004 paper, psychology professor Lawrence Kurdek of Wright State University reported that over a 12-year period, 21% of gay and lesbian couples broke up while only 14% of married straight couples did. Perhaps it’s due to societal pressures to stay together or stay together for the kids.
Either way there’s no doubt that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are different, but it doesn’t make them any less valid. Both have their pros and cons, but ultimately of course it boils down to your natural inclinations.