RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A first-of-its-kind study conducted at the University of California, Riverside finds same-sex couples do a better job of having high-quality interactions with one another than their straight counterparts.
Besides just daily interactions between those two types of couples, researchers also compared typical social networks between same-sex and heterosexual couples. This led them to conclude that couples including two men usually feature the smallest social networks.
This isn’t the first study to find homosexual couples generally do a good job of maintaining a positive vibe, open lines of communication, and appreciation of individual differences. This is the first research project, however, to compare daily interaction quality between partners and larger social groups.
Comparing same-sex couples to heterosexual partners
“The comparison is important because there is so much research linking the quality of romantic relationships and other social ties to health and well-being, yet it is unclear if this applies similarly or differently to people in same-gender romantic relationships because they have been historically excluded from past research,” says study co-author Megan Robbins in a university release.
A total of 77 couples took part in the research. Of that group, 24 were two females, 20 were two males, and 33 were a man and woman. Each couple was married or “married-like,” living together for over a year, and had no health conditions impacting day-to-day life.
Each participant met with researchers for an in-person survey on two occasions one month apart. In the days following those meetings, participants also received periodic texts messages. These asked if the participants interacted with their partner or someone else (friends and family) within the previous 10 minutes. If they had, participants rated the quality of that interaction on a scale of 1-5; with one being unpleasant and five being pleasant.
Do smaller groups have more in common?
Circling back to social networks, women in a relationship with a man tend to have the biggest social circles. As far as why homosexual men tend to have the smallest social circles, the research team has a theory. Robbins speculates it may have something to do with cutting unsupportive people out of their lives.
“We hypothesized that one model for how the social life of people in same-gender couples might differ from those in different-gender couples was a honing model, where people in same-gender couples reduce their social networks down to only those people who are supportive. We found some support for this by learning that the men with men had the smallest social networks in our sample,” the associate professor of psychology at UC Riverside adds.
But, why do same-sex couples have better interactions with one another than other couples? The study finds it may be due to greater similarity and equality among the two members of a relationship.
“When male and female partners interact, they may do so from a culturally imposed frame wherein men and women are considered ‘opposites,’ which creates more potential for tension in interactions,” the UCR researcher concludes.
The study is published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.