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Gay, lesbian couples can teach heterosexuals how to improve relationships

Married heterosexual couples can learn a great deal from gay and lesbian couples, far more than the stereotypical images presented by the television show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," according to the first published observational studies of homosexual relationships.

"Gay and lesbian couples are a lot more mature, more considerate in trying to improve a relationship and have a greater awareness of equality in a relationship than straight couples," said John Gottman, a University of Washington emeritus professor of psychology who directed the research along with Robert Levenson, a University of California, Berkeley, psychology professor.

"I think that in 200 years heterosexual relationships will be where gay and lesbian relationships are today," said Gottman, who now heads the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle.

In the first of two papers published this month in the Journal of Homosexuality, the researchers explored the conflict interaction of homosexual and heterosexual couples using mathematical modeling techniques. In the second study, they looked at factors influencing gay and lesbian couples' relationship satisfaction and dissolution.

"In the modeling paper we looked at processes, and they look so different you could draw a picture," said Gottman. "Straight couples start a conflict discussion in a much more negative place than do gays and lesbian couples. Homosexuals start the same kind of discussions with more humor and affection, are less domineering and show considerably more positive emotions than heterosexual couples.

"The way a discussion starts is critical. If it starts off in a bad way in a heterosexual relationship, we have found that it will become even more negative 96 percent of the time. Gays and lesbians are warmer, friendlier and less belligerent. You see it over and over in their discussions, and their partner is receiving the message they are communicating. In turn, their partner is allowing himself
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
20-Oct-2003


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