If you think same-sex couples face enormous cultural and social stressors, you'd be right. And the Gottman research took on the task to try and understand exactly what kind of strengths, vulnerabilities, and adaptations are found in this pairing of both lesbian couples and gay relationships. And there are particular features that make these relationships stable.
While there are similarities across all kinds of couples, whether gay or straight, there are some unique qualities like humor and the ability to regulate during a fight, that are especially important to same-sex couples.
Fairness & power-sharing may be more common and important in gay and lesbian relationships than in straight ones.
Whether you love your own sex, or another gender, relationship satisfaction and qualities are just about the same. No big surprise that every relationship has ups and downs. However, the strains are greater when there is social isolation from family, discrimination in the workplace, and other barriers that are especially harmful to these relationships.
Research trends suggest that gay & lesbian couples are more upbeat in the face of conflict, and show more affection and humor when they bring up a disagreement. The partner, also, is more positive in how they receive it. They take it less personally. Gay/lesbian couples use fewer controlling, hostile emotional tactics. There is also less display of belligerence, domineering and fear between them. Even after the disagreement is over, gay and lesbian couples tend to remain positive. Gottman proposes that these couples may operate from very different principles than do straight couples.
Read more about this research in the Journal of Homosexuality.
These are "control" emotions, and as there are less displays of them, Gottman suggests that fairness and power-sharing may be more common and important in gay and lesbian relationships than in straight ones.
Among the positive dynamics observed, complements and positive comments have more impact on feeling good, while negative remarks are less likely to produce hurt feelings
Another difference is worth noting: In straight relationships, it is easier to wound your partner with a negative comment than it is to elevate them with a positive one. The opposite appears to be true in gay and lesbian relationships. Complements and positive comments have more impact on feeling good, while negative remarks are less likely to produce hurt feelings.
When unhappy in a relationship, gay and lesbian couples show less physiological arousal, as measured by biofeedback instruments. This is just the reverse for straight couples, who show elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and jitteriness. The straight partners have a hard time calming themselves (or each other) down when fighting, whereas this is not seen with gay and straight couples.
Read the full article, titled “Observing Gay, Lesbian and heterosexual Couples’ Relationships – Mathematical modeling of conflict interactions,” in the Journal of Homosexuality here.
Gay marriage is currently recognized by the Federal Government, and increasingly the number of gay couples, both lesbians and gay men, who are marrying, continues to motivate research of this type. Whether it is referred to as gay couples therapy, gay marriage counseling, LGBTQI couples counseling or lesbian couples counseling, the need for this type of couples therapy will only increase.
Our couples therapists are trained to understand relationship differences in lesbian women and gay men. Our retreats help all couples get to the heart of the problems in their relationship and develop stronger ties.