Same-sex couples have less stressful marriages, according to science

A happy looking couple

Same-sex married couples handle stress better than different-sex spouses do, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships by researchers at the University of Texas Austin, found that while stress is common in all kinds of marriages, same-sex couples are able to deal with it better together.

By analysing survey responses of 419 couples on dyadic coping – coping as a couple – in both same-sex and different-sex marriages, researchers revealed that same-sex spouses were able to be more positive and collaborative in handling stress compared to their counterparts.

The differences, researchers said, stem from links between gender and coping strategies.

For example, women married to men said that their spouses were more ambivalent and hostile in responding to stress compared to women married to women.

According to study author Yiwen Wang: “This research shows that while there are some gender differences in dyadic coping efforts, the effects of supportive and collaborative dyadic coping as well as of negative dyadic coping on marital quality are the same for all couples.

“Our findings also emphasise the importance of coping as a couple for marital quality across different relationship contexts, which can be an avenue through which couples work together to strengthen relationship wellbeing.”

The study’s authors believe that because the stress was handled better by both male and female same-sex couples, the key to their dyadic coping is their ability to work together to deal with stress, using their similarities in stress responses and their shared gender-related experiences.

Debra Umberson, Wang’s co-author, said that coping with stress collaboratively may even be more important for same-sex couples, who are less likely to have familial and institutional support compared to straight couples.

“Including same-sex spouses and looking at how they work with each other to manage stress as compared to different-sex spouses can help us better understand the ways in which gender dynamics unfold in marriages,” she said.

“Same-sex couples face unique stressors related to discrimination and stigma. Coping as a couple may be especially important for them as they do not receive as much support from extended family, friends or institutions as different-sex couples do.”