Gay Couples Excel in Gottman Couples Therapy…Why?

Gay Couples Thrive in Gottman Couples Therapy

A Breaking study is now showing, for the first time, outcome measurement comparing gay and straight couples going through Gottman Method Couples Therapy. We have known for a while that most couples, as a rule, improve about half a standard deviation. But a recent study of gay couples showed an improvement of approximately 1.2 standard deviations. Does this mean gay couples sail through couples therapy twice as fast straight couples? We don’t know yet… but it’s a very intriguing question.


I don’t want to bore you explaining standard deviations… but trust me, a half a standard deviation compared to 1.2 standard deviations is quite impressive. This is a study I am looking forward to reading. Perhaps other recent research might shed some light on these new findings.

Research Indicates Particular Strengths of Gay Couples

  •  We have a lot of research suggesting that same-sex couples are gentler to each other when they fight (Gottman et al. 2003). Gottman’s research tells us that lesbian couples and gay men use more humor and kindness when bringing up a disagreement, and partners are more positive as they engage in disagreement with one another. They also found that gay and lesbian couples use fewer hostile words and have fewer power struggles than straight couples.
  • This might translate into less escalation, less diffused physiological arousal, and less stonewalling and contempt. It might be true that gay couples can more easily co-regulate one another more skillfully than straight couples. After all, the gender differences, especially as related to diffused physiological arousal are not a factor. This factor may tend to offset the fact that gay men can sometimes be more negative while making complaints than straight couples. More research here would be interesting.
  •  Balsam, Beauchaine, Rothblum, and Solomon (2008) posited that same-sex partners are socialized congruently about perceived gender roles, and tend to employ more similar communication styles than straight couples. These similarities also would tend to inhibit escalation and promote more productive dialogue.
  • gay couplesFals-Stewart, O’Farrell, and Lam (2009) also reported better results with gay couples therapy when there were addictions. Although Garanzini and Yee are intrigued by this study, I am skeptical of this research as lead author, (Fals-Stewart) was at the epicenter of a large, bizarre fraudulent social science research scandal. Perhaps they have a reason to value this research that I am not privy to.
  • Antonelli, Dettore, Lasagni, Snyder, and Balderrama-Durbin (2014) found that gay and lesbian couples, (as compared to heterosexual couples) reported a higher level of satisfaction with the quality of leisure time they spent together, as well as a higher satisfaction with their physical and sexual encounters.

Thanks to the Researchers

Salvatore Garanzini, MFT, is the Executive Director and Cofounder of the Gay Couples Institute, based in San Francisco, CA. He and his husband, Alapaki Yee, MFT, also a co-founder and Director of Operations, supervise clinical staff performing couples therapy at the Gay Couples Institute’s San Francisco, San Diego, and New York locations. Salvatore is also an adjunct professor in the University of San Francisco Counseling Psychology Department. I appreciate the essential ground-breaking research they are doing in Gottman Couples Therapy.

About the Author Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.

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