Thursday, July 3, 2008

Are Gay Unions More Equal?

On June 10, The New York Times published the analysis of an interesting study of how marriages of same-sex couples.

In the analysis, the author, Tara Parker-Pope, explains that there are few differences between committed gay couples and committed straight couples, but
the differences that do emerge have shed light on the kinds of conflicts that can endanger heterosexual relationships
According to this, the most difficult problems in marriage are not exclusive of men and women, and therefore, they can be solved.

The article elaborates on the study findings:
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.
The interesting was that same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. How were they more egalitarian? To begin with, the burdens of marriage were shared more equally. The fact than in heterosexual couples, women did more of the housework, men were more likely to have the financial responsibility, men were more likely to initiate sex and women were more likely to refuse it or to start a conversation about problems in the relationship could not happen in the same-sex couples.

Besides, even if the conflicts were more or less the same, they had more relationship satisfaction.

“Heterosexual married women live with a lot of anger about having to do the tasks not only in the house but in the relationship,” said Esther D. Rothblum, a professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University. “That’s very different than what same-sex couples and heterosexual men live with.”
The way the couples argue changed too. When there is an egalitarian relationship, the conflicts seems easier to resolve.
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.
Tactics like belligerence and domineering were less common among gay couples. Same-sex couples were less upset during arguments, while straight couples continued physically agitated after a conflict.

“When they got into these really negative interactions, gay and lesbian couples were able to do things like use humor and affection that enabled them to step back from the ledge and continue to talk about the problem instead of just exploding,” said Robert W. Levenson, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
It seems that heterosexual couples need to see the other person's point of view, and indeed studies show that those straight couples who manage to listen more, understand what the other is saying and avoid conflict last longer in their relationships.

Also interesting was finding that
same-sex couples also exhibit the pattern, contradicting the notion that the behavior is rooted in gender, according to an abstract presented at the 2006 meeting of the Association for Psychological Science by Sarah R. Holley, a psychology researcher at Berkeley.

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