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Same-sex married couples handle stress better than different-sex couples

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Dyadic coping, the process through which couples manage stress together, is important for relationship well-being. However, very few studies have considered dyadic coping and its link with marital quality in same-sex marriages.

A new study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin examined gender differences in various forms of dyadic coping and the associations of dyadic coping with marital quality. In particular, they examined how the gender and gender composition of a couple affect their dyadic coping or how they manage stress together.

Scientists found that same-sex married couples cope with that stress more positively and collaboratively than different-sex couples. They also reported that women married to men report more negative support — meaning that their spouses react ambivalently or even hostilely in response to stress — than women married to women.

Yiwen Wang is a Ph.D. candidate in UT Austin’s Department of Sociology and a graduate research trainee at the university’s Population Research Center.

Wang said, “This research shows that while there are some gender differences in dyadic coping efforts, supportive and collaborative dyadic coping and negative dyadic coping on marital quality is the same for all couples. Our findings also emphasize 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 well-being.”

For the study, scientists surveyed the responses of 419 couples in both same- and different-sex marriages. They discovered that dyadic coping was equally crucial for men’s and women’s marital quality in both same- and different-sex marriages. They found that both men and women in same-sex marriages are more likely to cope with stress collaboratively than those in different-sex marriages.

The scientists aimed to address this imbalance and show the significance of considering the gender composition of marriages while researching marital dynamics by incorporating same-sex couples in their study. According to the study, men and women married to someone of the same sex are more likely to cooperate in dealing with stress; this could be because they have similar gender-related experiences and responses to stress.

Debra Umberson, a professor of sociology at UT Austin, said, “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 how gender dynamics unfold in marriages. Same-sex couples face unique stressors related to discrimination and stigma. Coping as a couple may be especially important as they do not receive as much support from extended family, friends, or institutions as different-sex couples do.”

Scientists also noted, “It’s important to consider the perspectives and experiences of both partners in a marriage when studying marital dynamics, including the ability to cope with stress. By analyzing individual responses from more than 800 people who make up the 419 couples studied, their research is helping to fill a gap in understanding. It could improve intervention or prevention programs that address marital functioning.”

Umberson said“It is imperative that we advance our understanding of how spouses influence each other’s well-being for same-sex as well as different-sex married couples and that we consider both spouses’ perspectives within couples. Research should identify areas of risk and resilience for men and women in gay, lesbian and heterosexual marriage to ground the most effective strategies for policy and practice.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Yiwen Wang et al. Dyadic coping and marital quality in same-sex and different-sex marriages. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. DOI: 10.1177/02654075221123096
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