Gay couples are more likely to problem-solve cooperatively, share work equally, and cheat less. In fact, same-sex couples are more likely to discuss open relationships than to go behind their partner’s back. But due to being a marginalized group, among other factors, members of the LGBTQ+ community also face higher instances of domestic violence.

I wanted to understand more about the dynamics of same-sex relationships, so I turned to Dr. Joanne Bagshaw for answers. She is a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Montgomery College as well as a sex and relationship therapist. Check out her blog, The Third Wave, for more on gender, sexuality, feminism, and more.

Is there research that shows gay and lesbian people possess higher emotional intelligence? 

​This is an interesting question because it’s likely that due to having to manage their identities for so long, gays and lesbians may have developed emotional intelligence skills that help them scan and survey their environment to survive and stay safe. However, I haven’t seen any reliable data to support this idea. ​

Are same-sex relationships more successful in the long run? How does their divorce rate compare to heterosexual couples? 

​Marriage equality is still fairly new, so it will be interesting to see how trends in divorce among same-sex couples will change over time. Currently, the divorce rate for same-sex marriages is slightly lower than heterosexual marriages ​(Badgett & Mallory, 2014).

You said that same-sex couples are less likely to take things personally. Why is that?

​According to Gottman & Levenson (2003), same-sex partners are more willing to accept some amount of negative feedback, without it damaging the good feedback they’ve received from their partner. Openness to constructive criticism is an important skill in relationships, and helps resolve conflicts with less hostility. I also think that the ability of same-sex partners to use affection and humor during conflicts plays a role. Even during an argument, they may be more likely to stay connected, and because of that connection, can more easily brush off criticism. ​

Because power-sharing is a common value in same-sex relationships, are there less instances of domestic abuse? 

​Unfortunately, no. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is statistically very high in LGBTQ+ relationships, and some research suggests it may even be higher than in heterosexual relationships. This may seem surprising, but ​violence in relationships is a complex social problem, and is caused and influenced by many variables. IPV in same-sex relationships is typically very similar to the dynamics found in abusive heterosexual relationships, in that there is physical, psychological, and financial abuse. But there are some differences too. Because the LGBT population is still a marginalized group, access to services and resources is limited. Plus, the abuser can threaten to out his or her partner, as an additional aspect of abuse that straight couples don’t experience.

Are gay women as open to non-monogamous relationships as gay men? 

There isn’t a lot of research on this, but here’s a study ​that indicates that the majority (61%) of lesbians prefer a monogamous relationship, compared to 50% of gay men who prefer consensual non-monogamy (Hoff, 2010).

Are children of same-sex couples less likely to conform to gender roles themselves? 

​In general, research supports that children raised by same-sex parents tend to develop similarly to their peers raised by heterosexual parents (Patterson, 2004).  However, some research suggests that children raised by same-sex parents play in less gender-stereotyped ways, and other research has suggested that children from lesbian parents are less likely to conform to gender stereotypes, and children from same-sex parents are less likely to see their gender as superior (Bos & Sandfordt, 2010). These studies indicate that children from same-sex parents  may be less influenced by traditional gender-roles.

 

References:

Bagshaw, J. (2017, June 5). Equality Makes Same-Sex Couples Happy. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-third-wave/201706/equality-makes-same-sex-couples-happy

35 Comments

  1. This is a very important topic! I’m in a same-sex relationship and I can relate to pretty much all of the points made by Bagshaw.
    I don’t want to support gender roles in any way, but I feel like the biggest difference for me and my girlfriend when compared to relationships between men and women is this sense of common understanding between us. Even without the gender roles there are physical differences between genders, for example in nervous systems which can have an impact on the way we think. I feel that my and my girlfriend’s brains just work almost the same way for the most of the time and that’s why we fit together so well.
    I really wonder those IPV-rates, it would be nice to know why they’re so high.

  2. Awesome article! This addressed a lot of things that I had wondered myself as well as bringing up some things I hadn’t thought about before. Something that really caught my attention was the section about how same-sex parents effect how children are brought up. I think that’s a point that a lot of people use against same-sex couples when they’re unsure of it.

    1. Thank you for reading and responding! I agree. I think that people are afraid that children brought up by same-sex parents will not have a role model for the other sex, but it really doesn’t matter. I don’t have a link but I also read somewhere that child abuse rates are lower with gay parents.

  3. As a member of the LGBTQ community, it was refreshing to read that genuine studies have been made showing that not only are same-sex relationships successful but that the aspect of parenting in a same-sex couple has been shown as possible and perhaps positive on the gender openness of a child raised in a same-sex home. The usage of citations and references to different studies is satisfying and displays a thoroughness in research and preparation, on both the author and on Dr. Bagshaw’s part. However, there is a lack of formality in the article, and the author failed to use Dr. Bagshaw’s appropriate title as a doctor, since she received a PhD, and that she additionally wrote a book titled “The Third Wave” that notes on gender and sexuality (as well as feminism) in the modern day. The author should refrain from speaking in the first person if she chooses to pursue a more professionally oriented career in news articles and other facets of the news, though this does not disrupt the article. I was able to relate to the different notations of different natures in same-sex relationships, and it was comforting to be able to do so.

      1. Of course! Thank you for the fantastic information, it was really wonderful and satisfying to see a different take on the different gender and sexuality articles on this site. Keep writing, I’ll definitely read more by you in the future!

  4. The article raises a red flag about domestic violence in same sex relationships! As the author continues to point out with other issues, there may be more data in the future to highlight this disturbing occurance.
    There may need to be an outreach in communities a call to action, to provide support for those in same sex relationship partners, reporting domestic violence.
    While domestic violence awareness has received attention in media, dame sex that is usually addressedas men hitting women.

  5. Very, very, very, relevant topic with an extremely eye-catching title. I was intrigued immediately and wanted to know how an outsider would view the relationships between people in the LGBT community–assuming Joanne Bagshaw is not a part of said minority.

    I too believe that due to the fact people of the LGBTQIA community suffer under such constant criticism, their relationships are far more open and understanding towards each other: they are “more willing to accept criticism” as they have been facing it their whole lives and will not overreact to something constructive in nature. The concept of same-sex relationships having high domestic violence rates is actually not as surprising as you might think: inner homophobia still exists within LGBT relationships and couples will fight loudly if there is ever a conflict within themselves or against their partner. Emotional manipulation would still exist if one partner isn’t out yet and the other tries to force them to confront their family and friends: as Bagshaw says, “an additional aspect of abuse that straight couples don’t experience.”

    I would have loved to see links to research that supports these ideas: possible case studies, statistics or government census. In the gender role portion of the questions and answers, there was information on several cases over the years, but no links to provide easy access to further research.

    A way to improve would be to–just as you added an introduction for the topic–include a conclusion on what was discussed and possibly your own take on the topic. Do you support what the professional discussed? Do you think there were inconsistencies with how they answered? Was their argument sound? What did you learn from this interview?

    Love the topic as it is extremely relevant and relatable. Thank you for posting!

  6. Loved this topic! I’ve read a handful of articles here today and this has to be my favorite. I never thought to look into something like this, even as an LGBT+ woman myself, haha! Big kudos to the author. I think I would chalk most of this up to gender stereotypes/roles in our society, such as those that deem women as the emotional, nurturing types and men as the breadwinners. I think with the lack of hegemonic heteronormativity and the stereotypes connected to it, LGBT+ couples can focus more on their collective emotions and problem-solving rather than fulfilling old-fashioned gender roles.

  7. This interview touched on so many topics that I found interesting and I want to know more! I think it’s fascinating that same sex couples are more likely to problem solve cooperatively. I can understand this when it has to do with tackling a logical problem but wonder if it still holds true for emotional issues in the relationship and if so, how? I thought the third question was a bit confusing because it referenced something that the doctor had said before but not in the article; I was looking for where she said that same sex couples are less likely to take things personally. However, I thought the statement that same sex couples are more open to constructive criticism is amazing and want to know more about why that is and if the answer to that question can help heterosexual couples. It seems to me from this interview that heterosexual couples can learn a lot from same-sex couples. Overall, I thought the questions were broad, interesting and covered many important topics. I wish there were follow up questions to some of the more vaguely answered ones but I’ll just have to look into the studies that the answers were based on 🙂

  8. This was a very interesting topic and not like anything I have come across so far. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel like there is not enough information to back up the claims. More references to the studies that have been conducted would add to the overall credibility. As a heterosexual woman, I have never thought to look into something like this. I would like to know more about the factors that have influenced same-sex couples that have changed how the relationships compare to heterosexual relationships. As someone who has never experienced those things, it would help my understanding of the topic and why this trend is appearing. I appreciate the format of the article because while it is question and answer, it also includes an exposition to introduce the articles. That being said, at certain points it felt a bit disjointed and rushed. The questions seemed to be very unrelated, so more cushion would help with that. Overall very good. I would love to learn more.

  9. I think this article clearly shows how same-sex and heterosexual couples have very much in common and can show us a lot about how psychologically the relationships are very real. I open with a comment like this because I read too much about people who discriminate against the LGBTQ society and claim the people in a relationship can’t actually love one another in the same way as a heterosexual couple. It’s comforts me to see things like this being written about and given exposure so more people will understand and see how heterosexual and same-sex relationships are similar in every way. I don’t think both types relationships are the SAME, but to make a clear point that they are also very different, and that is what I think this article helps to define and point out.

  10. Interesting findings! Being a straight person, it does bring about in me a different understanding and deeper insights about same-gender couples. Are there any reasons why lesbians prefer monogamous r/s as compared to gay men? Or what is your take on this?

  11. I find it very interesting that there is work out there committed to bringing more understanding to the LGBTQ+ discussion. We find that there is little work out there to show how the LGBT community works, in comparison to heterosexual couples. I have not run into many studies that break this barrier. One interesting point made during this interview is how gays and lesbians tend to be more emotionally secure than the heterosexual counterpart. Could this be a view into the evolution of LGBT? There have been studies on sex differences across gender and how what we have learned has evolved from our ancestors and has developed into the processes and strategies we all use today. Is it possible that the LGBT perspective evolved like that of our ancestors and it wasn’t until recently that this “lifestyle” only recently developed because of the lowered barrier to remain concealed? I also enjoyed reading about gender roles and what kind of impact same-sex parenting might have on a child. As I read, it appears that same-sex parenting is no different then heteronormative couples. Even more interesting is the findings that same-sex parenting might lead to genderless play time. In a world without gender roles, we might be less likely to conform to a certain stereotype or feel like we belong to a certain group based on what gender we are born with. The less we focus on gender, the less likely we are to conform to gender roles and have a more open understanding of unanimity and sameness? Being gay and having a certain level of understanding within this topic, I always find it interesting to read the different topics and posts pertaining to this. It is rare to see an interview, let alone article on this subject. I conducted a study in one of my classes that focused on mating, and I brought up the question on how heterosexual couples differ from homosexual couples. There was no study conducted, per se, but rather research on the topic of mating and my desire to understand how the genders, let alone orientations differ.

    Overall, I feel that this interview was very well done. It accomplished so much in such little space. There is a lot of relevant information within this text to spark many debates and discussions. Thank you for taking the time to write this and share!

  12. A very interesting topic! Just a couple things I noticed though, Bagshaw tried to explain why same-sex couples “Take things less personally,” but there was nothing that could be concluded as to why they do such things. I believe she may have been trying to allude back to her mention of higher emotional intelligence levels, but it was not stated. Though it is an interesting take, I would like to know if this is a true statement or a personal observation, especially for comments such as, “Even during an argument, they may be more likely to stay connected, and because of that connection, can more easily brush off criticism.” I would also like to know what causes them to connect. As a member of the LGBT+ community and someone who is in/has been in these relationships before I could say I agree, but that doesn’t mean I speak for everyone. Just curious as to why that may be. A connection because of the hardships we face regarding acceptance by our peers? A deep level of understanding by living similar lifestyles? So many questions!
    I enjoyed all the questions asked and answered, though I wish there were more studies to help. It’s one of the first interviews I’ve read on same-sex couples and their dynamics. I hope as time goes by, more research is put into answering some of the questions that stumped Prof. Bagshaw. I would also suggest getting more takes on this topic from others in the psychology field. Even if it someone of the same specification, it would be nice to see the different perspectives and if they are similar to her’s. Would love to hear more about it regardless!

  13. I enjoyed reading this article very much, it relayed information about same-sex relationships that was eyeopening and left me wondering many things. For example, what are some of the causes of increased abuse in same sex relationships compared to heterosexual ones? I found the parallel drawn between emotional intelligence and hiding identity to be thought-provoking. I, personally, have met couples on both sides of the “emotional intelligence spectrum”, so I feel as though the author also discussing some of the negative impacts of repression would be interesting. I love the awareness brought to the issue of “outing” one another and how that is emotionally abusive, especially since this is a commonly overlooked issue. Lastly, I feel as though listing the author’s credentials in a separate paragraph would have been more effective, as well as including more background information about the author; however, overall this was a well written article.

  14. I really enjoyed reading this article! I have always wanted to learn more about the dynamics of same-sex relationships and their differences from heterosexual ones. However, coming from a country where same-sex marriage is not legalised and same-sex relationships are still largely viewed as inappropriate, such discussions are not engaged in very openly. This interview is thus an eye-opening one for me.

    Many relationship problems and struggles have been attributed to gender differences (e.g. men complaining that they do not understand the way women think, and women complaining that men’s brains are too simple or compartmentalised). I was thus wondering if being in a same-sex relationship will perhaps facilitate understanding of each other’s perspectives and allow each party to see eye to eye in an easier manner? Of course, there are definitely other factors that may come into play in a relationship aside from gender.

    One thing I would like to know more about would be the effects of same-sex parenting on children. On top of Bagshaw’s reply in the interview with regards to whether children of same-sex couples are less or more likely to conform to gender roles, I would like to question about the more long-term and indirect effects on the child. If the child were to grow up in a family environment that do not stereotype gender roles, but face a contradiction in the outside world (e.g. in school), is it possible that this will induce fear and shame in the child about his or her family background?

  15. I truly enjoyed reading this interview because it was based on subjects not normally talked about, especially domestic violence. It was written very well but it was also quite short and i would have loved to read more questions based on the subjects of domestic violence and family.

    From my university textbook (the road to social work and human service practice) i have formulated some other questions i thought would have interesting answers, these include:
    – Have institutions like law, workplaces and family been influenced by the LGBTQI communities ‘coming out’? How?
    – How has society shaped mental issues seen in th LGBTQI community such as internalised homophobia? could this impact the rate of domestic violence?
    – How are same sex couples different from heterosexual couples with children? how greatly does being raised by each influence the children?

    Also, at the start one of the question was said “Same sex couples are less likely to take things personally” this is not written in the piece prior to the question and got me a little confused although it was explained in the article.

    Thankyou, this article was really informative and interesting

  16. This article brought to light some issues that I was not aware of. Not knowing many LGBTQIA couples the article revealed that the dynamics of many heterosexual and LGBQIA couples’ relationships are different and yet similar. I wonder how the individual’s family relationships growing up contributed to the dynamics of the current relationships. Also, the prevalence of intimate partner abuse was surprising and whether there has been any restudies about how much was influenced by society’s treatment of gay and lesbians as individuals and/or their previous family history before the two people met. It is a fascinating topic for someone not familiar with the dynamics of gay couples and I hoped there would be references to other works by other researchers or by Professor Bagshaw.

  17. I thought this was a very interesting topic and would love to see ones more similar to it in the future. It answers questions that i think ive even thought myself without noticing. It would also be nice to see the same questions asked by different experts in the filed or elaborate on it in the future, i think this is a bit of a hard thing to do though. Reason i say it is because i would love to know more and from different perspectives. The bit i was most interested to read about was the last question, i wasn’t aware the children would be less influenced by traditional gender roles is raised by a lesbian couple. Very interesting article.

  18. On the subject of abuse, I wonder if there are many those of us within the LGBTQ+ who feel that they have emotional support outside of their romantic relationships. If no or limited, it would interesting to explore this as a factor in domestic violence. Furthermore, I am interested to see how studies compare with one or more partners being bisexual and how these dynamics present themselves.

    Lastly, I disagree with the comment made by Bagshaw that heterosexual couples do not face the issue of outing. Outing can occur with the disclosure of an individual’s mental health diagnosis or other medical condition; well as sexual proclivities as in the case of the distribution of revenge materials.

  19. I was very intrigued by this whole interview because I’ve never read anything discuss the downside of being in a same-sex relationship. The one thing that sparked my interest the most was the fact that LGBTQ people have a higher rate of domestic violence but are also better at receiving constructive criticism than heterosexual couples. I want to know what sort of arguments same-sex couples have that resort to physical, mental, and financial violence. When Bagshaw says, “Because the LGBT population is still a marginalized group, access to services and resources is limited,” what does that actually mean? I’m unsure what the sort of services and resources she is referring to that are limited.
    I also wonder why half of gay men actually prefer to be in a consensual non monogamous relationship rather than a monogamous one. Why should they even want to be in a relationship if they’re just going to see other people.

    Anyway, this was a fairly good interview that made me ponder on a lot of the things said. But I do not think the purpose of an interview is for people to ponder afterwards but, instead be educated further on the matter. Although, the interviewer asked open-ended questions to induce a thoughtful response, the answers were not as elaborate. For example, Bagshaw should incorporate explanations of terms in her responses.

  20. This was a very interesting read, and I hope we get to see more articles exploring issues as these in depth. I live in a country where even heterosexual domestic abuse and related issues are not talked about often, and homosexuality, as of now, is illegal, so it is nice to be able to get some perspectives on relationship dynamics of non-het relationships. I have often seen people assuming that relationship abuse is caused by the gender imbalance in heterosexual relationships, and while that may be a contributing factor, (especially in countries where sexism is a bigger issue) but as said in the article, there are many variables that influence this, and limited availability of resources and/or social support certainly affects many LGBT+ couples (closeted or otherwise).

    I hope that we get more articles talking about different dynamics of LGBT+ couples, especially those that aren’t aimed at straight people but rather the queer community itself.

  21. This was very interesting to read!
    A lot of the things discussed focused on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘why’ for example, statistics say that there are more cases of domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships, but it does not really say why. Is there research on the factors causing the postive and the negative?
    I hope I can read more like this in the future!

  22. As many of others have already commented, this is an extremely important topic to talk about. I am currently in a same-sex relationship and had no idea that domestic violence was so high in the LGBT community. It’s sad, but also reminds me that at our core, we are still alike, regardless of sexual orientation.

    As many others also said, I am very interested to know the “cause” of many of these trends. Why, if IPV in same-sex realationships is close to IPV in heterosexual relationships, is it suspected that IPV rates will be higher on same-sex relationships? What is causing this number to be higher, or why is it suspected it might be? What is it about being raised by same-sex parents that might lead children to not rank their gender as superior or play in less gender-stereotyped ways?

    I know more information on this subject will be available in the oncoming years, but this was a great article! I hope to see more like this in the future!

  23. This was such an intriguing article to read!

    I live in a pretty liberal family, but there are a handful of relatives who view the LGBT community through a more conservative point of view so this article is very much of one that I would recommend to the ladder of my family. Many of the topics discussed were those that are debating a lot in my family, especially the last question asked to Dr. Joanne Bagshaw. There are those in my family who are firm believers of dolls being a “girls toy” and cars being a “boys toy”. This has caused much awkward silence at the dinner table when they catch my two-year-old brother playing with my younger sister’s Monster High dolls. My mom has to constantly remind them that toddlers do not have the knowledge of social constructs or gender-stereotypes. Seeing this topic addressed in the last question, I almost gave a sigh of relief. Finally, physical proof that my family can’t push against!

  24. This was an interesting article, and it would be interesting to know why IPV rates are higher and the long term effects on children from having two male or female parents. Also, it would be interesting to know why the domestic violence rates would be noticeably high while same sex couples have many positive attributes in the area of emotional intelligence.

  25. The article definitely piqued my interest on the topic discussed. I hoped that Dr. Bagshaw elaborated more on her answers; however, she provided the best insight possible given that there is limited research and knowledge regarding LGBTQ+ couples. I have no actual experience in a same sex relationship, so I can’t testify for or against what Dr. Joanne Bagshaw said. Nonetheless, I have noted amongst my LGBTQ+ friends that roles in the relationship are shared rather than distributed, such as in heterosexual relationships. I really appreciate that you brought up domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships because it is rare to shed light on the subject in mainstream media, but I wish that Dr. Bagshaw discussed some of the “variables” that influence this problem.

    Overall very interesting read for anyone who wants to begin understanding relationship dynamics found in LGBTQ+ couples! If possible, I suggest you could find credible research findings on the subject and compare/contrast them with Dr. Bagshaw in a new interview or perhaps someone of similar background. Also, when receiving answers, follow them up with questions, especially in this case “Why” oriented questions would be useful. For example: “Why do you think children are less likely to conform to gender roles?” or “Why do you think lesbian women lean more towards monogamy when compared to gay men?” The answers you’ll receive will probably be more opinion based, but I’d still like to hear her take on the matter. Awesome job!

  26. I think that this article is doing a good job at bringing up both positive and negative aspects on same sex couples. I just wish there was either more data to back up the questions and ideas brought up or more discussion on topics that have more research to support it. If anything, it is eye opening in the realization that LGBT+ persons are just now getting regarded as important enough to study as their heterosexual peers. I think another aspect to consider in regards to IPV between same sex couples is that most will not report because of the negative views already associated with being gay, lesbian, trans, what have you and that can lead to enormous amounts of pressure to give off the impression that their relationships go better than they actually may be just to preserve the dignity of these relationships. I did like that the aspects of limited resources and outing threats that could put their partner in real danger were included. I read an article a couple of months ago that discussed that many shelters are isolating and will refuse admittance to gay men because most shelters aren’t for men and for lesbians often their cases are brushed off and dismissed. You can only imagine how difficult it is even more for trans men or women to be admitted into shelters. So overall, I like that these points were brought up. I wish there were more of a flow to the interview instead of jumping randomly from one very open ended topic to another but it did bring up alot of very good points.

  27. Overall I find the article to be interesting. The only thing that seemed to be odd was the flow of the the line of questioning. They just did not flow naturally from one topic to the other. There does not seem to be a great deal of reputable studies in the LBGT community to actually make statements. The person being reviewed did not seem to be as knowledgeable about the topic as I would have like.

    I did not feel from personal experiences and from friends experiences that the answers where not quite correct. This could be due to where in the country you live but having lived in three geographic regions of the US and did not find the answers quite as common.

  28. Interesting read on a topic that initially piqued my interest. Some criticisms, however, are that the answers provided by Dr. Bagshaw were closer to article summaries and statements of correlation rather than explanation of social or cognitive phenomena – which could have provided more insight into same-sex couple dynamics.
    Another issue I have would be with the flow of questioning i this interview. The questions didn’t naturally follow one another, which doesn’t allow for a fluid transition for the interviewee or for the reader. It seemed like a interrogation on a very interesting and minimally researched field. I think readers would benefit more from an organically flowing discussion on this topic.

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