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Gay, lesbian couples can teach heterosexuals how to improve relationships

or herself to be influenced in a positive way. With married heterosexual couples a discussion is much more of a power struggle with someone being invalidated."

Gay and lesbian relationships seem to be marked by what Gottman calls "the triumph of positive emotions over negative emotions."

"Negative emotions have more impact in heterosexual relationships," he said. "This is why our previous research has shown you need a 5-to-1 ratio of positive to negative statements. This seems to be universal in heterosexual couples. But it may be different in gay and lesbian relationships where positive emotions seem to have a lot more power or influence."

Dan Yoshimoto, a UW psychology doctoral student who worked on the studies, added that the ways gays and lesbians resolve conflict may be the glue that maintains stability in homosexual relationships.

"They start and maintain a conversation a positive way and this may enable them to solve a problem and resolve conflict," he said."

What makes the new studies noteworthy is that they went beyond collecting self-reported data from questionnaires. While self reports produce important information, the researchers wrote, "there is considerable evidence that people's perceptions of their relationship may diverge quite markedly from their actual interaction." The researchers videotaped discussions each couple had about what occurred that day, a topic of ongoing conflict, and a pleasant topic to analyze the verbal and nonverbal content of their interaction during the talks and again at a later time when the partners viewed the tape individually. The researchers also collected an array of physiological data, including heart rate, during the conversations.

Homosexual couples in the studies were recruited in the San Francisco Bay area and they filled out a questionnaire that assessed relationship satisfaction. Forty pairs 12 happy gay couples, 10 unhappy gay couples, 10 happy lesbian couples and 8 un
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
20-Oct-2003


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