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New Study On Relationships Says Gay Couples Breakup Less Often Than Lesbian Couples

A new study looking into what affects the end of relationships found that male same-sex couples were the least likely to break up.

The study titled Longitudinal Predictors of Relationship Dissolution Among Same-sex and Heterosexual Couples, which was published in Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, was written by Kimberly F. Balsam and Robert E. Wickham with Esther D. Rothblum co-authoring.

For the study, the researchers followed 515 couples in Vermont from 2002 to 2014 and kept records of how the relationships blossomed or deteriorated.

The results found that older age, longer relationship length, and better relationship quality were the factors that kept most relationships strong. In addition, higher education acted as a factor for some couples, most notably lesbian couples, though lesbians were more likely to breakup if they had a strong and social group of friends.

Not only did the study find that gay male couples typically stayed together more than other, but it also had other findings.

  • Female-female couples (29.3%) were twice as likely as male-male couples (14.5%) to terminate their relationship, compared to 18.6% of male-female couples.
  • For female-female couples,
    • Each added year of relationship length reduced the odds of a breakup by 13%;
    • Each year of age lowered the likelihood of a breakup by 4%;
    • Each year of increase in education reduced the odds by 16%;
    • Each unit of increase in relationship quality reduced the likelihood by 82%.
  • When looking at all couple types together,
    • Each year of relationship length reduced the odds of a breakup by 9%.
    • Each additional year of age lowered the likelihood of a breakup by 2%.
    • Each unit of increase in relationship quality reduced the risk by 61%.
    • There were no differences in dissolution rates between same-sex couples who had legalized their relationship and those who had not.
  • For all groups, lower income and whether or not couples had children did not affect the odds of a relationship ending.

This study is the first of its kind to compare same-sex and heterosexual couples over 12-years with a focus on breakups. In addition, it was done so over the time that gay marriage was legalized in the U.S.

As the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law reports:

“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.”

“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.”