Homosexual Relationships in Context
We sometimes hear references to the "gay lifestyle" in popular vernacular. What is the gay lifestyle exactly? The term does not imply that all gays engage in the same work, recreation, and spiritual activities. The word lifestyle seems to be a euphemism for sexual conduct between same-sex partners (Howey & Samuels, 2000). There is no "gay lifestyle" just as there is no "straight lifestyle." Homosexuals live as varied a life as heterosexuals. All social classes, occupations, races, religions, and political persuasions are represented among homosexual people. The only characteristics that homosexual people necessarily have in common are their desire for emotional and sexual fulfillment with someone of the same sex and their experiences of oppression from a hostile social environment.
Some people mistakenly think that homosexual partners always enact the stereotypically active "male" and passive "female" roles. However, more egalitarian relationships are being followed by both heterosexual and homosexual couples today. In regard to gender roles, a homosexual relationship may well be more flexible than a heterosexual one in our society.
Gay and lesbian couples face challenges similar to those heterosexual couples face in creating and maintaining satisfying relationships. In addition, they have distinctive concerns as members of a stigmatized minority (Mohr & Daly, 2008). Developing selfacceptance can be important because research finds that internalized homophobia is associated with increased relationship problems (Frost & Meyer, 2009). In the absence of social acceptance, couples face challenges regarding disclosing their relationship in their personal and work lives and coping with the stress from antigay discrimination and prejudice (Otis et al., 2006), such as we discussed in the previous section on coming out.