“E.R.” submitted the following question:
My brother is homosexual and I am a heterosexual female, we often argue about who has more drama in our relationships. He claims that heterosexual relationships have more drama, and that he and his boyfriends have argued less then me and my boyfriends. I think that hetero and homosexual relationships have the same about of arguing and drama. Who is right? Do homosexual and heterosexual relationships differ?
Setting aside the irony that you and your brother fight about who has less conflict in your relationships, the short answer is that you are right! The unfortunate reality is that no couple is immune from conflict. In fact, research indicates that gay and lesbian couples not only fight about the same things as heterosexual couples, but they do so with about the same frequency.1 We all fight about money, sex, lies, minor annoyances and irritations (e.g., your partner’s driving habits), and which set of parents to spend the holidays with.
Thus, speaking very generally, gay and heterosexual relationships have similar kinds and levels of “drama.” When you start comparing specific couples, however, you will see wide individual variability. If your brother does fight less with his partners than you do, this is probably not because his partners are of the same sex; rather, it probably has more to do with the fact that some couples just approach conflict very differently. For example, research by John Gottman indicates that some couples attempt to avoid conflict at all costs, whereas others seem to thrive on constant conflict.2 It is important to note that neither of these couple types is “better” than the other and regardless of whether you fight a lot or a little, you can still have a very satisfying, long-lasting relationship. What matters most in relationships is not how much conflict is present, but how that conflict plays out. Specifically, couples who use downright mean or disrespectful language when fighting with each other are the most at risk of breaking up (for additional information on this idea, check out our post on The Jersey Shore: Ronnie & Sam’s Break-Up). Couples that are more civil and considerate of their partners’ feelings during conflict tend to have much healthier relationships. Thus, even if you find that you fight with your partners more than your brother does, it does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with you or your relationship.
1Kurdek, L. A. (1994). Areas of conflict for gay, lesbian, and heterosexual couples: What couples argue about influences relationship satisfaction. Journal of Marriage and Family, 56, 923-934.
2Gottman, J. M., Coan, J., Carrere, S., & Swanson, C. (1998). Predicting marital happiness and stability from newlywed interactions. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 5-22.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller’s research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.