What Gay Couples Can Teach Straight Couples

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Hot on the heels of California's legalizing of gay marriage comes a new social study on healthy marriages. The New York Times reports that "same-sex couples have a great deal to teach everyone else about marriage and relationships."

After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 couples, including same-sex couples and their heterosexual married siblings. The focus was on how the relationships were affected by common causes of marital strife like housework, sex and money.

Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. In heterosexual couples, women did far more of the housework; men were more likely to have the financial responsibility; and men were more likely to initiate sex, while women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship. With same-sex couples, of course, none of these dichotomies were possible, and the partners tended to share the burdens far more equally.

But it's not only about how often couples argue - which, according to the study, is just about equal between straight and gay couples - but the way in which they do it.

One well-known study used mathematical modeling to decipher the interactions between committed gay couples. The results, published in two 2003 articles in The Journal of Homosexuality, showed that when same-sex couples argued, they tended to fight more fairly than heterosexual couples, making fewer verbal attacks and more of an effort to defuse the confrontation.

Controlling and hostile emotional tactics, like belligerence and domineering, were less common among gay couples.

So what does this tell us? Well, that heterosexual couples need to put more effort into seeing things from the other side. Same-sex couples have an obvious gender advantage in perspective, but that's not the reason only reason it works out. It seems like the equality that they have in sharing the chores and responsibilities in the marriage spills over into how they view eachother's arguments.

That said:

One of the most common stereotypes in heterosexual marriages is the "demand-withdraw" interaction, in which the woman tends to be unhappy and to make demands for change, while the man reacts by withdrawing from the conflict. But some surprising new research shows that same-sex couples also exhibit the pattern, contradicting the notion that the behavior is rooted in gender[.]

You can read the whole article here, and then let us know what your tips for a happy, healthy marriage are. Do you agree or disagree with these findings? How do they relate to your relationship. Share your thoughts below!