Comparison of Gay and Straight Relationships
The Gottman Institute conducted a 12-year study of gay and lesbian couples to examine what makes same-sex relationships succeed or fail (Gottman et al., 2004). When the researchers compared the findings to results of their investigations with heterosexual couples, they discovered that overall relationship satisfaction and quality were similar for lesbian, gay, and straight couples. However, most of the differences between gay/lesbian and straight couples revealed more strengths in the same-sex relationships. Compared to straight couples, gay and lesbian couples:
1. Used more affection and humor in the face of conflict and disagreement.
2. Were more likely to remain positive after a disagreement.
3. Displayed less belligerence, fear, and domineering behavior with each other.
However, gay men were less skilled at making up after a disagreement than were straight and lesbian couples.
Additional studies have found greater relationship quality, compatibility, and intimacy and lower levels of conflict in gay and lesbian relationships; lesbians were especially effective at working harmoniously together (Balsam et al., 2008; Roisman et al., 2008). Researchers speculate that the greater strengths of same-sex couples may be due to the lack of the gender-role conflicts that are inherent in heterosexual relationships.
With regard to sexual interactions, lesbian sexual patterns tend to have more of the characteristics often associated with greater sexual enjoyment for women. A review of the research comparing lesbians’ and heterosexual women’s sexual experiences found that lesbian couples had more nongenital sexual interaction before genital contact, took more time in a sexual encounter, felt more comfortable using erotic language with each other, were more assertive sexually, and had lower rates of problems with orgasm than did straight women (Iasenza, 2000). Further research that compared the subjective sexual experiences of partners in heterosexual relationships to those of partners in same – sex relationships found that heterosexual men derived somewhat less satisfaction from tender, sensual, and erotic sexual activities than did heterosexual women and gay and lesbian couples (Holmberg & Blair, 2008).