Copyright 2014 Roberta Gallagher
Same-sex couples I have seen in my practice have often shown a notable freedom from some of the role biases of the last century that are still insidiously entrenched in heterosexual couples when it comes to working together to create a happy home life.
In straight couples, biased assumptions and expectations – such as:
It’s the wife’s job to cook and clean
Mommies take care of the kids
It’s the husband’s responsibility to repair stuff and make big decisions
Daddies go to work to make the family’s money
can form a sore spot in household, parenting and relationship dynamics.
The work of famed marriage therapist John Gottman and his group, as well as that of sex as relationship sociologist Pepper Schwartz and sociology researcher Philip Blumstein, point to at least 4 ways that same-sex couples in relationships and parenting can inform us.
It is particularly important to define these characteristics since there is so much external criticism of the value of same-sex couple relationships. Indeed, it is uplifting to know not only my clinical observations but a vast body of research shed light on what lesbians and gay men can teach heterosexual couples about relating as partners and parents.
1. Lesbian and gay male couples are more egalitarian when it comes to role relationships. They are not bogged down in old fashioned division of duties determined by gender-based tradition.
2. Gay males and lesbian couples in general are more upbeat and affectionate with each other. They tend to use more humor when fighting than do straight couples. And same-sex couples seem to struggle less for power and control.
3. It is rare for the men in heterosexual couples to do the same amount of housework and child care as I see in same-sex couples. There is an expectation in same sex couples that both will work. If there are children, it is more often assumed that both will pitch in.
4. Same sex couples appear to divide chores, work and money according to what is fair. Heterosexual couples are more bound by gender stereotypes. Hence Mommy is more powerful with the children. Not true with same sex couples.
In short, same-sex couples tend to negotiate partnering roles and parenting responsibilities in the direction of fairness and equality. It’s a lesson that straight couples could incorporate too, for creating happier, more balanced relationships.
Whether you’re a same-sex or straight couple, lesbian, gay man, or heterosexual individual, if you are facing challenges with relationships, I’d like to help. See details on relationship repair counseling here, or ask me about getting back in the dating game.