Heterosexual, lesbian, and gay male relationships: A comparison of couples in 1975 and 2000

  • Gotta G
  • Green R
  • Rothblum E
 et al. 
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Abstract

This study examined the differences among lesbians, gay men, and heterosexuals at two points in time (1975 and 2000) using responses of 6,864 participants from two archival data sets. Groups were compared on variables representing equality of be-haviors between partners in seven realms: traditionally ''feminine'' housework, tra-ditionally ''masculine'' housework, finances, support, communication, requesting/ refusing sex, and decision-making. In addition, the current study compared monogamy agreements and monogamy behaviors reported by the two cohorts of couple types. Overall, the results indicate that on the equality variables, there have been many sta-tistically significant behavioral shifts among the different sexual orientations across 25 years. In addition, all couple types reported substantially greater rates of monogamy in the year 2000 than in 1975. The present study has important clinical implications for therapists working with couples because it provides new baseline evidence regarding how couples now interact with one another (especially about monogamy) and how this has shifted over time. In addition, it elucidates the differences that still exist between different couple types, which could serve to inform couple therapists as they strive to become more culturally competent working with same-sex couples. T he groundbreaking book American Couples: Money, Work, Sex (Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983) chronicled a nationwide study that compared four types of cou-ples: heterosexual married couples, heterosexual cohabiting couples, lesbian couples, and gay male couples. Two decades later, Solomon, Rothblum, and Balsam (2005) presented results of a similar survey of contemporary couples, using many of the same questionnaire items and subscales from the Blumstein and Schwartz study. In their analyses, Solomon and colleagues included a national sample of lesbians and gay couples from across the U.S. who obtained civil unions in Vermont, lesbians and gay couples who had not obtained such civil unions, and heterosexual married couples. The similarity between these two studies conducted at different periods of time in U.S. history provided an opportunity to investigate whether there had been changes in the relationships of lesbian couples as a group, gay male couples as a group, and heterosexual married couples as a group over more than two decades. Note that these comparisons were between separate cohorts of participants recruited at two points in time, not comparisons within samples of participants recruited at one point in time and followed longitudinally. The current study compared nine variables of interest that were examined in both the Blumstein and Schwartz study (1983) and the study by Solomon et al. (2005). These variables were: equality in division of finances, equality of traditionally feminine housework, equality of traditionally masculine housework, equality of communication, equality of support, equality of decision-making, sexual relations between partners in past year, monogamy agreements, monogamy behaviors, and couple conflict. RESEARCH ON EQUALITY BETWEEN PARTNERS Same-sex couples are unable to rely on socially prescribed gender-linked division of household tasks and therefore must negotiate their own system of dividing labor within their household, which usually results in a more equal division (Green & Mitchell, 2008). For example, Matthews, Tartaro, and Hughes (2003) found that les-bians were more likely than heterosexual women to indicate that their partners al-ways share in household tasks. In contrast, heterosexual couples tend to divide housework based on traditional gender roles (i.e., men doing work that is outside of the house and women doing work that is inside of the house; Peplau & Spalding, 2000). The present study examined whether there has been a change in the division of housework for lesbians, gay men, and heterosexual couples over a 25-year period. In particular, it was hypothesized that there would be a more equal division of house-work in 2000 than in 1975 for heterosexual but not for same-sex couples. Research also has suggested that same-sex and heterosexual couples divide money differently. Blumstein and Schwartz (1983) found that lesbian and gay male couples tend to be more independent and to have an equal division of finances wherein each person pays an equal amount of each purchase. Married heterosexual couples tend to separate their finances (Burgoyne, Clarke, Reibstein, & Edmunds, 2006). The present study sought to investigate whether division of finances changed over time and across couple types. In particular, it was hypothesized that there would be a more equal division of finances in 2000 than in 1975 for heterosexual couples so that they ap-proached the equality of finances demonstrated by same-sex couples. In addition, the present study examined differences across time between couple types on three additional variables of interest in the realm of relationship

Author-supplied keywords

  • Division of household labor
  • Gay couples
  • Gender roles
  • Lesbian couples
  • Monogamy
  • Same-sex couples

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