Same-sex couples have less stressful marriages, according to science

A new study says collaborative stress-management skills are higher in same-sex couples than in different-sex couples

Science has finally confirmed what we already suspected was true: Same-sex married couples have less stressful marriages than couples in different-sex marriages. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that couples in same-sex marriages were better at handing stress as a team than different-sex married couples. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, studied the effects of gender on dyadic coping, the process through which couples manage stress together. After analyzing survey results from 419 couples, they found that both women and men in same-sex relationships are more likely to handle stress collaboratively than those in different-sex relationships. Women in relationships with women were the most likely to successfully handle stress together. 

“Our findings also emphasize the importance of coping as a couple for marital quality,” co-author Yiwen Wang told the University of Texas News. The study found that the ability to manage stress collaboratively had an equally positive effect on all marriages, regardless of the couple’s genders. 

The study linked its results to gender-related differences in how people experience and respond to stress. The authors note that prevailing cultural norms emphasize similarities between people of the same gender, so men and women often have different expectations around coping with stress. In different-sex couples, this can become a source of misunderstanding. Conversely, in a same-sex couples, shared experiences can bolster stress management. In couples with two women, for example, partners may also have similar experiences of gender-related stress and discrimination that can help them understand each other better. 

Shared experiences of minority-related stress—specific stressors related to the experiences of stigmatized minority groups—might also contribute to same-sex couples’ ability to cope collaboratively, according to the study. This works on two levels: first, same-sex couples may have developed stronger stress-management skills than their different-sex counterparts due to experiences of homophobia. Second, shared experiences of discrimination can strengthen the bond between same-sex partners, potentially making them more willing to work through stressful situations. 

“Same-sex couples face unique stressors related to discrimination and stigma,” said Wang’s co-author Debra Umberson. “Coping as a couple may be especially important for them as they do not receive as much support from extended family, friends or institutions as different-sex couples do.”

While plenty of research has been done on dyadic coping in general, not much of it has looked specifically at same-sex couples. Wang and Umberson hope this study will start to correct that imbalance.

“Including same-sex spouses and looking at how they work with each other to manage stress as compared to different-sex spouses can help us better understand the ways in which gender dynamics unfold in marriages,” said Umberson. 

 

This isn’t the first time that researchers have found proof that same-sex relationships have unique perks. Previous studies have found that same-sex couples are more likely to communicate effectively, divide housework equally and provide support when their spouse is distressed. They are also less likely to have power inequality in their relationships

The science goes beyond the two people involved in the partnership—studies have also found that children might benefit from having queer parents. In 2014, a study from the University of Melbourne found that children of same-sex couples had above-average physical health and social well-being. Another study, conducted in 2019 by researchers in Belgium, found that the children of same-sex couples performed better in school than the children of heterosexual couples. 

“It’s often suggested that children with same-sex parents have poorer outcomes because they’re missing a parent of a particular sex,” wrote Simon Crouch, a researcher with the Australian study, in The Conversation. However, he wrote, research shows that this isn’t the case. 

Some political actors are currently waging legal battles in an attempt to separate and penalize queer families. Science, however, continues to find reasons to keep them together. 

Maddy Mahoney (she/her) is a journalist and writer based in Toronto. You can find her work at CBC Arts, Maisonneuve, Toronto Life, Loose Lips Magazine and others. She lives in Toronto and speaks English.

Keep Reading

What you need need to know about gender-affirming care for youth

What sort of healthcare is available? Do parents have any say? Is the healthcare safe and effective?

Could this week’s Supreme Court abortion pill case affect gender-affirming care?

OPINION: The Comstock Act, a 150-year-old federal obscenity law, has advocates on edge

Raising the bar: How an Edmonton gym is making exercise accessible

Run by queer and trans professionals, Action Potential Fitness was created with LGBTQ2S+ clients in mind
The Ohio state legislature building with a blue star with stars and stripes behind it.

Ohio’s trans healthcare ban sets dangerous precedent ahead of 2024 election

ANALYSIS: Ohio has set a new precedent for using gubernatorial powers to indirectly outlaw transition—other states may follow