A study has found that, compared to heterosexual and lesbian couples, gay male couples are the most likely to stay together.
Researchers in the US following 515 same-sex and married heterosexual couples in the state of Vermont from 2002 to 2014 to examine the factors that affect the ending of relationships.
They found that female-female couples (29.3%) were twice as likely as the male-male couples (14.5%) to terminate their relationship, compared to 18.6% of male-female couples.
Researchers also found that, when considering all couple types together, longer relationship length, older age and better relationship quality reduced the chances of a breakup.
Higher education also proved protective for female-female couples, though greater social support among friends increased the likelihood of a breakup. There were no differences in break-up rates between same-sex couples who had legalised their relationship and those who had not.
“Other studies on heterosexual couples have found that women have higher standards for relationship quality than men,” said study author Esther Rothblum, a professor of women’s studies at San Diego State University and visiting scholar at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
“We suspect that similar dynamics may be at play with the lesbian couples in our study, leading to the higher dissolution rate. At the same time, we found that older couples were less likely to break up, and having children had no impact on the break-up rates.”
This is the first study to compare relationship breakups among same-sex and heterosexual couples over a 12-year time period during which legal relationships were recognised for same-sex couples in some US states.
“Our study is important not only for its findings but also because of its methodology. By following the same demographically-matched couples over a 12-year period, we identified both similarities and differences in relationship dissolution according to sexual orientation and gender,” said study author Kimberly Balsam, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at Palo Alto University.
“This kind of research is crucial in combating stereotypes about same-sex couples and can inform policy and program development to support healthy relationships for all couples. Intimate relationships are dynamic, and longitudinal designs allow us to capture these changes over time in a more nuanced way.”
The study was published in Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice.