As acceptance of lesbian and gay couples committing through marriage spreads across the United States, more and more same-sex couples are able to come out about their sexual orientation. The rapid social change may leave you wondering just what is so different about lesbian couples compared to heterosexual couples. Committed lesbian couples differ little from committed heterosexual or gay couples, but the differences that do exist -- greater honesty, longer-lasting relationships -- are generally positive.
Just Like Any Other Committed Relationship
Committed relationships between two women are overwhelmingly similar to committed relationships between any two adults. A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Urbana-Champaign shows that lesbian couples experience similar levels of satisfaction in their long-term relationships to straight and gay couples. The more committed couples, no matter whether they are in lesbian, gay or straight relationships, resolved conflict more readily than those who were less committed. The gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign estimates that 3.1 million Americans in same-sex relationships co-habitate and that members of the LGBT community have become parents to more than 1 million adopted children. These children do just as well in school and have just as many friends as children of opposite-sex unions, according to a research study.
Equipped to Resolve Conflict
While the 2008 University of Urbana-Champaign study showed that all committed couples are more equipped to handle conflicts than those in more casual relationships, studies have also shown that same-sex couples are better at resolving conflict than opposite-sex couples, as reported by PBS. The Urbana-Champaign study went even further, showing that lesbian couples stand out as the most effective at resolving any conflict that might arise. One factor that may contribute is the stronger focus same-sex couples have on equality in their relationships when compared to opposite-sex couples.
Affected by Social Discrimination
The Human Rights Campaign says 17 states and the District of Columbia issue same-sex marriage licenses as of time of publication, while no state or district did in 2000. This means that committed lesbian couples living in 33 states are unable to attain marriage licenses. While another 2008 study by researchers at the University of Washington, San Diego State University and the University of Vermont found that committed same-sex couples reported more satisfaction in their relationships than straight couples, the same study found higher separation rates among same-sex couples not in legal unions than among those same-sex couples in civil unions or in heterosexual married couples. Researchers think that this may mean the inability to enter a legal union has a negative impact on relationships. Furthermore, otherwise happy families with lesbian parents face more bullying and violence than families of straight couples.
In It for the Long Haul
Committed relationships between two women may have a longer shelf life than any other type of romantic relationship, according to research by John Gottman, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Gottman's research shows that, over a 40-year span, 64 percent of same-sex relationships will end, while 67 percent of opposite-sex first marriages will end in divorce over 40 years. These numbers, while comparable, give a slight edge to same-sex relationships. Throw in the fact that lesbians are much more likely to stay in long-term relationships than gay men, and it's clear that two women in a committed relationship have the best odds of sticking it out, according to Gottman's research.
- Psychology Today: Queer IQ: The Gay Couple's Advantage
- Washington Post: Same-Sex Couples Just as Committed as Heterosexual Counterparts
- Human Rights Campaign: Americans for Marriage Equality: The Impact
- PBS: This Emotional Life: Same-Sex Couples
- American Psychological Association: Answers to Your Questions About Same-Sex Marriage
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