Are gay relationships less stable?

Gay relationships

Gay relationships have traditionally been seen as less stable than straight ones

One of the most common arguments against same-sex marriage is that gay people should not be allowed to marry because they are more likely to be promiscuous.

Due to the pervasive narrative of unchasteness peddled by the media in rather stereotypical depictions of especially gay men, there is still an idea doing the rounds that there’s no point in granting marriage rights to gay people, since they won’t uphold the values of holy matrimony anyway.

Still, despite research pointing to the fact that homosexual people are no more and no less debauched than their straight counterparts, many people are still under the impression that gay relationships are somehow less stable than those of straight people. We know where this idea comes from, but is it true?

Settle down, now – gay relationships really aren’t all that different from straight ones

According to a 2017 study done by researchers at the Bowling Green State University in the US, the relationship stability in same-sex marriages is more or less as stable as, or even more stable than straight marriages.

On our own shores, where marriage between people of the same sex has been legal since 2006, the latest statistics show that 155 divorces were granted to same-sex couples in 2017 – 115 of these were female couples and 40 were male couples – and these numbers form a part of the overall divorce rate for the same year, which amounted to 25,390 in total. 25,326 divorces were granted in South Africa in 2016, with 48 of these granted to same-sex couples.

It’s difficult to compare apples with apples when there aren’t exact numbers available to compare the crude divorce rate for straight people with the crude divorce rate for heterosexual people, and even if the rate of divorce seems to be much lower for same-sex couples, one also has to consider that straight marriages far outnumber gay ones.

Given this lack of exact statistics, it might help to look at the stability of gay relationships in a different way. A 12-year study by the Gottman Institute, comprising 21 gay and 21 lesbian couples, found that same-sex relationships may be more stable for the simple reason that conflict looks different when compared to how straight couples experience disagreements.

You’re just as likely to break up as your straight friends

With gay and lesbian couples using fewer hostile emotional and controlling tactics in instances of conflict, “the difference on these ‘control’ related emotions suggests that fairness and power-sharing between the partners is more important and more common in gay and lesbian relationships than in straight ones,” says Dr John Gottman.

Contrary to straight couples, unhappy gay couples are also less likely to experience high levels of physiological arousal, during which things like jitteriness, sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate make it difficult to calm down during and after conflict.

As acceptance for unions between people of the same sex grows, we will probably see more accurate studies about just how stable these relationships are. Ultimately, at least for now, there is no definitive statistical answer, as very little data about same-sex marriage in comparison to marriage of heterosexual people is available, especially in our own country.

However, most researchers find very few differences between the stability of gay relationships and straight relationships when considering the current available statistics. Says Stanford’s Michael J. Rosenfeld, “Research on same-sex couple longevity using data that predated the era of same-sex marriage generally showed that same-sex couples were less stable than heterosexual couples. Once marriage and marriage-like unions are controlled for, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples have statistically indistinguishable rates of breakup.”

If you read this to determine what the chances are of your relationship being a lasting one, we’re sorry for not giving you a more clear-cut answer – save that you’re just as likely to break up as your straight friends are. Perhaps that is just comforting enough – unless your straight friends are of easy virtue and constantly at each other’s throats, of course!

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