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What heterosexual couples can learn from homosexual mariages – MMXLII

What heterosexual couples can learn from homosexual mariages

Atlanric Magazine did a whole in-depth look at mariage as an institution and how same-sex couples are changing it. “Are same-sex marriages different from heterosexual ones? Does the institution change when it’s expanded to include gay couples? For a long time there wasn’t enough data to answer those questions. But now that same-sex marriage has been legal in parts of the United States and Europe for a decade, there’s finally enough research.”

Mariage as an institution has changed a lot over the years: for centuries it defined society, but today fewer and fewer children are being conceived within wedlock and the institution has been in steady decline since 1980. At the same time there is a growing movement in support for same-sex mariage in the US (Michael Bloomberg shares here with the Guardian  his thoughts in favor of same-sex mariages). Even cinema is embracing stories with gay romances with a lot of success. So how has the notion of mariage changed now that it is also being embraced by same-sex couples and what can we learn from it? By providing a new model of how two people can live together equitably, can same-sex marriage help haul matrimony more fully into the 21st century? Here are a few points we can learn from homosexual couples:



This is also the argument in favor of homosexual unions:  support for same-sex mariage is growing because ” it is consistent with democracy’s promise of equal rights for all people”(Mayor Bloomberg). And since women have massively entered the workplace in the XXth century, the notion of equality is the couple is central.

[He] has found that heterosexual couples persist in approaching these topics with stereotypical assumptions. “You start throwing out questions for men and women: ‘Who’s going to take care of the money?’ And the guy says, ‘That’s me.’ And you ask: ‘Who’s responsible for birth control?’ And the guy says, ‘That’s her department.’ ” By contrast, he reports, same-sex couples “have thought really hard about how they’re going to share the property, the responsibilities, the obligations in a mutual way. They’ve had to devote much more thought to that than straight couples, because the straight couples pretty much still fall back on old modes.”

Each type of partner—gay, straight; man, woman—reported satisfaction with his or her family’s parenting arrangement, though the heterosexual wife was less content than the others, invariably saying that she wanted more help from her husband. “Of all the parents we’ve studied, she’s the least satisfied with the division of labor,” says Patterson, who is in a same-sex partnership and says she knows from experience that deciding who will do what isn’t always easy.


There were still some inequities: in all couples, the person with the higher income had more authority and decision-making power. This was least true for lesbians; truer for heterosexuals; and most true for gay men. Somehow, putting two men together seemed to intensify the sense that “money talks,” as Schwartz and Blumstein put it. (…) Among lesbians, the contested terrain lay elsewhere: for instance, interacting more with the children could be, Schwartz says, a “power move.”

Even as they are more egalitarian in their parenting styles, same-sex parents resemble their heterosexual counterparts in one somewhat old-fashioned way: a surprising number establish a division of labor whereby one spouse becomes the primary earner and the other stays home. Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told me that, “in terms of economics,” same-sex couples with children resemble heterosexual couples with children much more than they resemble childless same-sex couples. You might say that gay parents are simultaneously departing from traditional family structures and leading the way back toward them.

a 2008 study in the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at couples during their first 10 years of cohabitation. It found that childless lesbians had a higher “relationship quality” than their child-free gay-male and heterosexual counterparts. And yet a 2010 study in the same journal found that gay-male, lesbian, and straight couples alike experienced a “modest decline in relationship quality” in the first year of adopting a child. As same-sex couples become parents in greater numbers, they could well endure some of the same strife as their straight peers.

It is simply too soon to tell with any certainty whether gay marriages will be more or less durable in the long run than straight ones. What the studies to date do (for the most part) suggest is this: despite—or maybe because of—their perfectionist approach to egalitarianism, lesbian couples seem to be more likely to break up than gay ones. Pepper Schwartz noted this in the early 1980s, as did the 2006 study of same-sex couples in Sweden and Norway, in which researchers speculated that women may have a “stronger general sensitivity to the quality of relationships.”

You can also read “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss” in the Atlantic for more about those studies.

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