What can gay couples teach straight couples about harmony?
Opponents of same-sex marriage often say it poses a threat to traditional marriage, and in fact, that was one of the arguments made before the Supreme Court. But what if the opposite were true?
Two weeks ago, Minnesota became the 12th state to pass a law allowing gay marriage. Yesterday, France legalized the marriage of same-sex couples. And in a culture where divorce is becoming more and more commonplace, maybe same-sex couples can teach the traditional husband and wife pairing a thing or two about couple dynamics.
In a recent cover story in The Atlantic, “The Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss,” Liza Mundy discusses how same-sex unions are happier than heterosexual marriages. Her studies show that gay and lesbian couples, whether intentional or not, are more in sync than straight couples across many areas. For example, chores.
“Study after study has shown that these unions tend to be more egalitarian,” Mundy said on Take Two Thursday. “There's still a fair amount of traditional division of labor in straight households, whereas gay couples start with a blank slate, and have to negotiate every duty.”
Mundy mentions how in male-female couples’ household duties, the wife tends to clean the bathroom while the husband traditionally takes out the trash. In same-sex unions, however, each couple divvies up chores more based on their strengths rather than gender roles.
This same logic applies to an issue oft-debated in marriages: parenting. While the woman is generally assumed to play the major role in child care in many couples (though men are taking the role more and more), Mundy says that taking gender out of the equation can lead to a better parenting dynamic.
“When it comes to parenting, for example, in gay couples, both parents tend to be present more at the same time,” Mundy said on raising children. “They’re co-parenting… together.”
Mundy’s study showed that in contrast, straight couples being around children together were more likely to have the mother interacting by herself with the kids, with the father “off on his Blackberry or playing with Tinker Toys by himself.”
The role of specialization in couples, however, is anything but gone. Mundy found that same-sex couples frequently specialize, with one partner being the primary bread-winner and the other being a stay-at-home parent or supplementary earner. She found this especially prevalent in gay households, leading to the third point of her study: women are more likely to leave marriages.
“In Europe, lesbian couples are twice as likely to break up as gay couples are,” Mundy said. “Could it be that women just have higher standards for relationships?”
There are other sides of the argument. A possibly divisive factor that Mundy pointed out is more prevalent in same-sex couples, is non-monogamy. She mentioned that while a member of a gay or lesbian union today is less likely to have multiple sexual partners than in previous decades, some ministers in states that recently approved gay marriage laws, like Maryland, refuse to marry couples not planning to be monogamous.
Since the legalization of gay marriage is so recent, statistics contrasting the divorce rate between same-sex and straight couples are not yet available.