Gottman Institute’s 12-year study of gay & lesbian couples

Source: The Gottman Institute
Undated, but seems to be from 2004

12-year study of Gay & Lesbian Couples

Gay and Lesbian Couples Research: A case of similarities of same-sex and cross-sex couples, differences between gay and lesbian couples

Using state-of-the-art methods while studying 21 gay and 21 lesbian couples, Dr. John Gottman (University of Washington) and Dr. Robert Levenson (University of California at Berkeley) have learned what makes same-sex relationships succeed or fail.

One key result: Overall, relationship satisfaction and quality are about the same across all couple types (straight, gay, lesbian) that Dr. Gottman has studied. This result supports prior research by Lawrence Kurdek and Pepper Schwartz: They find that gay and lesbian relationships are comparable to straight relationships in many ways.

“Gay and lesbian couples, like straight couples, deal with every day ups-and-downs of close relationships,” Dr. Gottman observes. “We know that these ups-and-downs may occur in a social context of isolation from family, workplace prejudice, and other social barriers that are unique to gay and lesbian couples.” The research uncovered differences, however, that suggest that workshops tailored to gay and lesbian couples can have a strong impact on relationships.
What have they learned? Results from the Gottman gay/lesbian couples study

Unique emotional qualities of same-sex couples: strengths partners can capitalize on

* Gay/lesbian couples are more upbeat in the face of conflict. Compared to straight couples, gay and lesbian couples use more affection and humor when they bring up a disagreement, and partners are more positive in how they receive it. Gay and lesbian couples are also more likely to remain positive after a disagreement. “When it comes to emotions, we think these couples may operate with very different principles than straight couples. Straight couples may have a lot to learn from gay and lesbian relationships,” explains Gottman.

* Gay/lesbian couples use fewer controlling, hostile emotional tactics. Gottman and Levenson also discovered that gay and lesbian partners display less belligerence, domineering and fear with each other than straight couples do. “The difference on these ‘control’ related emotions suggests that fairness and power-sharing between the partners is more important and more common in gay and lesbian relationships than in straight ones,” Gottman explained.

* In a fight, gay and lesbian couples take it less personally. In straight couples, it is easier to hurt a partner with a negative comment than to make one’s partner feel good with a positive comment. This appears to be reversed in gay and lesbian couples. Gay and lesbian partners’ positive comments have more impact on feeling good, while their negative comments are less likely to produce hurt feelings. “This trend suggests that gay and lesbian partners have a tendency to accept some degree of negativity without taking it personally,” observes Gottman.

* Unhappy gay and lesbian couples tend to show low levels of “physiological arousal.” This is just the reverse for straight couples. For straights, physiological arousal signifies ongoing aggravation. The ongoing aroused state—including elevated heart rate, sweaty palms, and jitteriness—means partners have trouble calming down in the face of conflict. For gay and lesbian couples this lower level of arousal shows that they are able to soothe one another.

Gay and lesbian differences—mostly gender differences—on emotional expressiveness

* In a fight, lesbians show more anger, humor, excitement and interest than conflicting gay men. This suggests that lesbians are more emotionally expressive—positively and negatively—than gay men. This result may be the effect of having two women in a relationship. Both have been raised in a society where expressiveness is more acceptable for women than for men, and it shows up in their relationships.

* Gay men need to be especially careful to avoid negativity in conflict. When it comes to repair, gay couples differ from straight and lesbian couples. If the initiator of conflict in a gay relationship becomes too negative, his partner is not able to repair as effectively as lesbian or straight partners. “This suggests that gay men may need extra help to offset the impact of negative emotions that inevitably come along when couples fight,” explains Gottman.

How did Drs. Gottman and Levenson study same-sex couples? Gottman and Levenson recorded gay and lesbian couples interacting and coded partners’ expressions to learn more about their emotions. They also used more common self-reporting and interview methods, in detail and over time. The combination of these measures provided a thorough assessment. The results of this research are currently under review for publication.

Advertisements

1 Response to “Gottman Institute’s 12-year study of gay & lesbian couples”


  1. 1 notesofasexiststayathomefather 22 January 2010 at 5:51 am

    LESBIAN DOUBLE STANDARD: This week we had in-laws over for dinner. Inspired by Chuck we made our own pizzas, including a goat cheese, roasted butternut squash, arugula, olive oil pie…yum! yum! Anyway, over dinner conversation my wife was telling Grandma & Grandpa about how we got a free subscription to Showtime, and that we’re recording ‘The L Word‘, a drama about lesbians. My wife observed: “How come we hear about women who are sick of men and start dating other women? But we never hear a man say, ‘I’m sick of women! I think I’ll start dating men!’”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Archives


%d bloggers like this: