How to Make Your Marriage Gayer

Same-sex spouses feel more satisfied with their partners than heterosexual ones. What’s the secret?

Comments: 264

  1. It all comes down to money. Housework and child care have no monetary value in our society. My observational assessment of married relationships is that the spouse with the higher income does less of the housework and child care.

  2. I have had the totally opposite observation. In the relationships I know and have observed, even when the women are the higher earners, they do more of the housework, or they outsource it to housekeepers, nannies, and/or their own parents.

  3. Your observation that when women earn more than their husbands they do MORE housework has been supported by research.

  4. @clementine You are right, and the women that outsource still have the emotional labor of having to think about it and plan for it. So, at the end of the day, it's still "women's work".

  5. Reading this article, you'd think the only thing that matters in a relationship is the distribution of chores. I hope, near this day of love, that your relationship is a bit more dynamic than that. Given that physical intimacy (not sex, per se) is huge reducer of stress/increaser of satisfaction, the fact that it's not mentioned here at all is a bit telling of how accurate this all is.

  6. @DJG The article is specifically about gender roles & gendered work in relationships, not every possible factor that contributes to the quality of a relationship.

  7. @DJG In our relationships we live day to day amid the myriad things that must be done. Call them chores, but who does what has a very definite influence on how spouses feel about one another because it's about power. When the majority of the work is left to one half if it is to be done at all, it engenders little resentments that accumulate. Talking about that does not always result in a change. Speaking from experience in a same sex marriage.

  8. @DJG I can tell you that every woman I know feels more affectionate toward her husband when she isn't doing hours of extra work each week compared to him, when she isn't exhausted from keeping track of almost everything having to do with the kids while he needn't bother, and when nearly all of that work is invisible to the culture at large. These things are not unrelated.

  9. Coontz is a wonderful scholar and writer. Her Marriage, a history is a revolutionary look at an institution that has dominated human society for millenniums and is so entrenched we don’t examine it, as if it’s a natural phenomenon, not a human-created arrangement. I say this because I want to ask, respectfully, that bisexuals not be left out of the conversation. In this analysis, we hear of gay, lesbian and heterosexual people and marriages. But bisexual people exist, there are actually quite a lot of us, and many, if not most of us, are involved in monogamous relationships. Bisexuality does not equal polyamory. A bisexual person is still bisexual, whatever the gender of their partner in a monogamous relationship. There can be one or two bisexual people in any monogamous relationship. Please, going forward, try to include bisexuals in the discussion. Perhaps just using the terms same-sex and different-sex instead of gay and heterosexual is a place to start.

  10. @Ann Herendeen As a lesbian, what is the difference between a bisexual who is in a same sex marriage and a bisexual who is married to the opposite sex? I honestly don't understand what the difference would be as discussed in this article. The article simply explains that a survey found that same sex married couples said they are happier than people who are married to people of the opposite sex. And women who are married to men are the uphappiest of all. I've read this several times in other studies in the last 25 years.

  11. @Ann Herendeen I was so happy to see this comment so I didn't need to make it myself! The way that I view my relationship with my partner is filtered through my bisexuality. I didn't magically become straight when I began a monogamous relationship with a male partner, and I don't see my relationship as being a "straight" one. My queerness informs the frankness of our conversations about sexuality and household tasks, especially given that as an adolescent, my hazy vision of the future involved me in a relationship with another woman, rather than a man or someone of another gender. Obviously studies have limits, and I understand the utility of referring only to two man, two woman, or one man and one woman combinations without slicing and dicing the sample further based on each person's sexuality. But I would love to see research focused on bisexual people in different-gender and same-gender relationships, and I would love to see coverage referencing that this area requires further study.

  12. @Sasha Love This article discusses possible reasons why same-sex marriages appear to be happier than straight ones—and one of the aspects discussed is the sexual aspect of the relationship and how that's often negotiated differently. As the author notes, for example, gay marriages often permit sex outside of the marriage, dictated by an agreement about who/when/where/how. But that's when both partners are the same sex. A difference might be how sexual needs are met in a pair with one or both partners being bisexual. In a same-sex marriage, one assumes that both partners have their basic sexual needs met (I'm oversimplifying here). In a pair with even one bisexual, the bisexual person's attractions to (and need for sexual interaction with) people of the sex who are not their partner may surface. As a gay man in a 20-year relationship (not married) I would be interested to know if such bisexual people navigate this aspect of their relationships in the same way that many gay men do (negotiating agreements about sexual permissions) and, if so, whether that differs depending on whether the bisexual partner is male or female.

  13. Gay couples have not been married as long. The study should correct for that, then see if there is still a difference.

  14. However, gay people have been around as long and have been in long term relationships for as long as straight couples. The legal definition of marriage is important for our rights as citizens, but has nothing to do with how happy we are in relationships.

  15. Oh, indeed we have been. Just not in a legal sense. Which was not our fault. But now that injustice has been rectified.

  16. Acustus - Same-sex MARRIED couples may be a newer phenomenon but, as a lawyer who has worked with both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, many of the same-sex couples I’ve met have been together (pre-marriage equality) for decades (in my own case, over 35 years but only married since 2005). My first clients (gay male) met in the Army and were together for nearly 60 years until one died. Same-sex couples stick together even in the face of prejudice, legal discrimination and frequent disapproval from families. Could opposite-sex couples sustain their relationships in similar circumstances? Could you?

  17. Asking people how they "feel" about their "marriage" is a dubious method for establishing accuracy or truth. Too subjective. I suspect the "happier" gays are mostly relieved they have finally achieved some legal rights--- which every single person also deserves. The heterosexuals have had their heads filled with so many "romantic" notions and fantasies that it's inevitable disappointment reigns. Those who love the institution of marriage the most are caterers, flower shops, realtors and divorce lawyers.

  18. @David Henry Certain industries just happen to get lucky (of course, they also promote the situation!). The marriage-industrial complex benefits wildly from the promotion of the bogus concepts of 'perfect,' 'magical,' and 'beautiful,' which are programmed into many of our young females beginning at birth (and extending for as long as the sales hold up -- for decades, the 'beauty'/'youth' industry hopes!).

  19. @David Henry You sound like someone whose had some marital disappointments.

  20. Big surprise here! NOT! I was in a traditional marriage for 36 years and took on the expected role of a wife and mother (on top of having a career in Science)! That is the role that I was taught by my parents by example and I didn't realize why I was so unhappy since I was doing what society dictated. It's only since I've been separated and living by myself for almost 5 years that I've been so much happier and I know I couldn't go back to that situation again! I would rather be in a partnership, but I'm not sure there are any men of my age group (I'm 62) who would be able to adjust to the new age of marriage, so it's better to be on my own, I've concluded. I'm happy for my granddaughters that maybe they will have higher expectations of a good partner than I did!!

  21. @Englishgal I'm your age and found a man who is a real partner. It's been 25 years now. We raised two children. He stayed home for the first 8 years with them while I worked a high stress corporate job. He wanted to go back to work so I dropped to a less responsible role with less travel and spent the next childrearing years as primary caregiver. If I had to guess, I think he carries more of the chore load today than I, although I always strive to make sure I am doing my part. It is a second marriage for both of us (the children are from our relationship). I never could have believed it was possible, but we are living proof that it is. Certainly we weren't the norm in our age group--but we see some younger couples heading in this direction and we are sure they will be happier than those choosing hard line gender roles. Men and women need to be given opportunities and support to step outside the lines. Everyone needs to be very thoughtful about the qualities they look for in partners and be sure these qualities actually meet their needs. Stay far away from 'traditional' men and women if you have the slightest bit of dissatisfaction with gender norms. But be open. My husband would not have been many women's choice; I would not have been almost any else's choice. Neither of us had an education when we met. Now both of us have almost completed Ph.Ds.. We support each other always.

  22. @Englishgal Don't give up! I'm your age and have been married for 5 years to a wonderful man whom I met through Match.com. He would do the dishes if I would let him, but as he is terrible at it, we have agreed on different chores for him to take responsibility for.

  23. @Englishgal I've heard and read this from so many older widows or divorced women -- that they would never go back to (heterosexual) marriage. It so was not worth it.

  24. Interesting that there is zero mention of how physical traits, and the changes we all go through, affect happiness in marriages. If one partner prioritizes exercise and eating a rather healthy diet, while the other cares not one bit about the same, tension and stress occurs, and attraction, and thus happiness, decrease. Second, how important is it to give your spouse space? These seem to me to be just as important as who does the dishes. Would love to understand how non traditional couples manage these as well.

  25. This is an article housework and childcare and hetero v gay and lesbian couples’ satisfaction, not about all the variables that impact satisfaction. There are volumes elsewhere about virtually anything you could think of that impacts marital satisfaction. If you’re interested, there are many excellent PhD programs in Family Science.

  26. How about when men do the majority of dishwashing in a male-female couple? Would that category of couples show less or more marital strife than when the woman does the majority of the dishwashing or when dishwashing is shared equally? The results might be interesting, or not. In any case, it is hard to come to conclusions about dynamics within couples when data from one of the possible permutations is not even considered.

  27. @History Prof That's because it's only a theoretical possibility.

  28. @amy Nope. I do all the dishwashing, cleaning, yardwork, etc. while my wife does shopping, cooking, etc. It works pretty well as we do the things we are each better at (and for almost 50 years now too).

  29. @amy If so, the article should give the data showing that in no couples surveyed did the men do the majority of the dishwashing. Wouldn't that say a lot about gender norms, if true? But we will not know because the article fails to give us the data.

  30. This Fascinating essay on a subject so close to so many lives clarifies many issues that plague relationships in the age old "battle of the sexes". What it did not address fully is the the transactional nature of dependency that can be a powerful component of couple relationships. Regardless of gender, wealth/income parity in couples is rare, one side often trading a degree of autonomy for financial support. This lopsided power dynamic would seem to have as much, or more, influence on relational harmony as task sharing.

  31. An intriguing article, and anything that reminds us to further evaluate equity of our relationships is net positive.

  32. I bet that a study of *second* marriages among heterosexual couples would reveal far less stress for women.

  33. @David H No, not really. At least when it comes to stress during the second marriage. The divorce rate on second marriages is higher than for first marriages. However, it could be that the stress after the second divorce is less than the stress after the first divorce. Put another way, the stress is greater after that first divorce than it is or well be after the second divorce. Practice makes perfect, one has been down that path before, etc.

  34. @David H Nope. The more you've been divorced, the more likely you are to be divorced again in the future.

  35. Same-sex couples have chosen each other largely on the basis of sexual compatibility, which is a big predictor of marital satisfaction. Heterosexual women in particular are often guilty of entering into marriages where their sexual needs aren’t being met, if they even know what those needs are.

  36. @Amanda I beg to differ on the issue of sexual compatibility. I have found that sexual compatibility often stems from attraction and emotional connection, which then yields compatibility. But in my own experience and from counseling with hundreds of straight and gay people, that compatibility lasts at most 5 years after which the same issue of differing levels of sexual interest kicks in. So one person feels unsatisfied and unloved, while the other feels pressured... and also unloved. I've seen this dynamic consistently across relationships of all kinds, and their success and satisfaction in the relationship usually rests on how they deal with it. Learning new ways to be intimate, expanding their repertoire, or opening up their relationship are potentially positive approaches.

  37. Really? Care to cite recent, credible research to support your assertions?

  38. An article I saved from many years ago surveyed a group of straight couples who had been together for over 25 years and found that those people who least adhered to traditional gender roles were generally more satisfied in their marriages. Rigid sex roles are restricting and put people in boxes. I’ve been in a same sex marriage for 8 years and while obviously not every single gay marriage is smoother than every single straight marriage, making our own choices about what roles we play based on what we enjoy and/or are good at works wonders!

  39. Interesting article. I'm a married gay man. I do ALL the housework. It works for us as my husband isn't much good at it (he can't cook etc.). I was in Croatia a few years ago and my phone rang. It was my husband with a question about how the dishwasher works. It works for us as I'm a bit of a control freak and prefer to do the house stuff myself.

  40. @Patrick Doyle Me too! Although my partner does the laundry , I fold it , Kondo style of course!

  41. @Patrick Doyle My husband and I are together 30 years and we divide household duties by enjoyment, I love to cook and do dishes, he loves to do the laundry, paying the bills and checking the mail. He was out of town once for 10 days, I had to call to get our mail box number to check the mail...

  42. @Patrick Doyle I'm married to a control freak as well. When my husband reloads the dishwasher you realize you may as well let him load it in the first place. Another weird thing, I have a little OCD when I clean. I'm comfortable with mess until I start cleaning, then I pull out the toothbrush and it could take me 9 hours to clean the bathroom while he's already done the rest of the house. I pull my weight in other ways. It works for us.

  43. Some great insights here, I just wish the researchers resisted to boiling all male female differences down to socialization. It's the hip way to see the world, but haven't can't we get over that faddish, demonstrably untrue notion yet? There are really physiological differences at play, and denying they exist helps no one.

  44. @Charles There are no physiological differences that impact playing with your kids, doing the shopping, washing dishes, planning a budget, or discussing a problem. Apart from pregnancy and lactation,everything is up for discussion.

  45. @Charles There are, as you say, physiological differences involved—specifically, the respective ratio of testosterone and estrogen in each sex—but the effect these have on emotional life is relatively small compared to that of socialization and how our individual behaviors are modeled on those we see around us (especially that of our parents). Further, this is not 'fad' thinking of a woke, progressive era... it's established psychology with nearly 100 years of peer-reviewed research and consensus.

  46. @Charles I agree with this. There are hormonal differences. Have you read stories of trans people who found their emotions changed when they took hormones? A male transitioning to female found herself crying in situations where she wouldn't have when she was not taking estrogen. A trans man found himself getting into arguments after taking testosterone. Hormones affect our behavior. Both socialization and nature are at play.

  47. Are there so few men left who still do the maintenance on their homes, who mow the yard, paint their homes, clean the gutters, fix whatever is broken, maintain the automobiles, and do some of the housework? My wife and I are 70. If she cooks, I do the dishes and vice versa. We both do the laundry and the vacuuming. She makes the bed, I take out the trash and recycling. It is not always an even split, but it works well almost all the time. We share an implicit understanding that there is X amount of work to be done and it all has the same value. Having said all this, she DID have most of the responsibility for child rearing and we were both working. I am glad to see more dads today sharing this important job.

  48. @WHS In order for maintenance to be efficient, effective, and rewarding, you have to be good at it. If you are not participating in it is often worse than useless. These are perishable skills that you have to dedicate yourself to consistently. Time is in short supply. I think if you don’t grow up learning those skills they are hard to acquire them late in life.

  49. @WHS This is anecdotal of course, but every guy in my neighborhood is working in the yard on weekends, and every guy I know is constantly fixing this or that around the house. Including me!

  50. @WHS I (female) like doing maintenance work and painting. I love nothing more than assembling a piece of furniture. I like buying tools. My husband does the bulk of the cooking, though I do some on weekends. He enjoys yard work, even though I routinely tell him we can hire someone. We pretty much split it by who likes doing what. He will never clean a bathroom though - that is a battle I gave up.

  51. Everything matters. Everything you do matters, including dish washing. Think of it as a prayer as you do it, an appreciation to the universe that gave you this moment and this food, thankful for many things, thankful that you had the food that millions don't have. You may not have grown or raised the food, but now you get to touch the last of what remains. I'm an old man now, and when I wash my dishes I see my grandmother's hands. Hers were warm from the many chores of the day: cooking, sewing, cleaning, care giving. Mine are cold, now briefly warmed. If you believe that everything matters, then there's no need to hurry. Be here now, as someone once said. Annoyance over dish washing may be transference from something else, something unresolved. Best to communicate.

  52. @Alton I agree. The line that stood out to me most from the article was the description of housework as "the numbing work that must be done each day." Like it's a burden to make your home a comfortable, clean, and relaxing place for yourself and your family? What would you be doing otherwise, living in a pile of trash and eating fast food?

  53. @Maggie Yes, it's easy for the person doing all those things to recognize the benefits that come from the work. Unfortunately, the person being paid handsomely for their work outside the home learns very quickly to dismiss those domestic chores as bothersome and unimportant. At some point, living in a mess and eating fast food begins to look like an attractive alternative.

  54. @Alton What you say is more or less straight out of the book 'The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh'. It so happens I despise dishwashing, and I think in my instance it's because I never have a sense of 'accomplishment', the same way I do when I clean the bathroom. Every time I turn around, there's yet another dish in the sink, requiring washing. It also doesn't help matters that the kitchen sink in my rental apartment faces a corner. Blech! (What I wouldn't do for a sink that faces a window with the garden beyond!) But anyway, in the book I mention above, the author suggests that we don't just robotically wash dishes, but that we enjoy the physical process....the feeling of the warm water...the soft soap suds....the scrubbing motion of our hands.... the squeaky clean sound when rinsing... the shiny gleam of the plate as we stack in the drying rack... etc.

  55. Let the bell toll for the opponents of marriage equality, adoption equality, women's rights, and reproductive freedom. The only way to defend the family and marriage is to expand and protect these rights, not stand against them.

  56. @Christopher Hemingway rolls in his grave.

  57. I’ve counseled close to 100 couples, mostly in a professional capacity, but also informally, and while this is all anecdotal, my experience differs from the article. Yes, particularly in het relationships with children, the responsibilities shouldered by women tend to be far more than the men and can quickly lead to problems. But in regard to dating and relationships, whether het or same-sex, its hard to find compatible partners, hard to get along, cohabitate, etc. One of the big reasons is a dearth of role models regarding positive, healthy, constructive interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills. People just don’t have them or worse, have learned through negative examples, unconstructive, damaging interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. Learning how to fight, what behaviors work better than others, what to strictly avoid, etc., is essential to long-term successful, healthy, supportive relationships. What to avoid? A lack of emotional regulation during an argument. If you are above a 5 on a 10-point emotional intensity scale, time for a time out. There should be a zero-tolerance policy for swearing & name calling. Intense conversations should be conducted with everyone sitting down. Get couples counseling *before* things get really bad - counseling shouldn’t be the option of last resort, but among the first, evidence of a couple’s love for each other and valuing their relationship. .

  58. A professional relationship counselor will encounter a greater percentage of those couples who have serious problems. Thus it is highly skewed sample and not an accurate reflection of the universe of all couples.

  59. @Spanker /Unclear if you're talking about the article or my post? The relationship advice I note in the above post applies to all couples/intimate relationships. .

  60. I want to add that past a "5" on a 10-pt emotional intensity scale, neurological resources (oxygen, nutrients, etc.) start getting shunted away from the front lobe (where good judgement, high-order perceiving and thinking occur) to the Amygdala (fight, flight or freeze). Thus, past a 5 and arguments start not being very constructive. The thing about not swearing, name calling and everyone sitting down are all strategies to help everyone regulate their emotions. Anything that gets the heart rate up should be avoided as it can intensify one's emotional activation state, which in the case of intense conversations will already likely be heightened. Finally, good luck ! Its tough out there finding and keeping good people in our lives, intimate and otherwise, and being able to argue well (constructive, healthy, supportive, etc.) can help keeping good partners, good friends.... .

  61. I am a woman who has had a rather unique experience of being married to both women and men. I am married to a woman now for 5 years, and it is more satisfactory by far than when I was married to my ex-husband 8 years. None of my relationships involved children, and most gay relationships still have no kids involved, which lowers stress levels greatly in relationships. There are fewer money and time management issues and less housework without kids. Even in the most egalitarian heterosexual relationships, the unspoken undercurrent of "men's" vs. "women's" work still exists. Women are often expected to do it all: work full time, take care of the bulk of the housework and childcare, and be a happy, supportive spouse as well. It's little wonder they eventually decide being divorced is actually an easier option for them. Many husbands are equal partners in the mammoth challenge of running a household, but a lot are not. I take care of the majority of the housework but my wife brings home most of the money because I am disabled and my work hours are limited. We are happy with this. It is more traditional than most lesbian relationships in which both spouses usually work full time. When I was with my husband, we both worked full time at high stress jobs but I divorced him partly because of lack of equality in the division of household duties. Even without kids, partners need to feel they have equal roles in marriage to reduce resentment.

  62. I'm a gay man married to a man for 17 years (together for 20). He does most of the housework much to my embarrassment and guilt. It could be because I was married to a woman before and he was not, but I just think I'm more comfortable with mess than he is so he springs into action earlier than I would. I does enjoy cooking more than I do, even though I am a good cook. However, when he asks me to please pitch in, I ask him what he wants me to do and I make sure it is done. He wishes I didn't need to be asked or told but it is what it is. When my ex-wife asked, I felt attacked and left the house. I work from home. I suppose whether it is fair, when he asks I feel like he legitimately wants help and if he comes home to a messy house where I have been all day it makes him feel bad. She never asked. She demanded, and was enraged that I could not read her mind. The one lesson I am trying to teach my daughter (and to help her unlearn what her mother taught her) is that if you want something in a relationship you must ask for it. It is inherently wrong to assume that in a good relationship your partner will "just know". Nor is it valid to get angry at someone for not being able to read your mind.

  63. @Jonny Walker "He wishes I didn't need to be asked or told but it is what it is. When my ex-wife asked, I felt attacked and left the house." So interesting. When a woman asked, it was a personal attack, but when a man asked, it's different? Ignore the one (or leave so requests can't be made) so you could train her to quit asking? I'm sure both of your spouses wish you noticed their needs without asking, but as you say, it is what it is.

  64. @Jonny Walker The mind-reading comment strikes a chord. My wife often does not ask me for help when she wants it but still expects it. Sometimes I will even ask her what she would like me to do but still can't get it out of her. She thinks I should know. Our son, who is now 17, sometimes smiles and shakes his head when she does this. He too thinks it's oddly inefficient.

  65. @Jonny Walker I agree that people need to ask for what they want in relationships, not expect their partner to read their mind. But it has also been well-documented that a big part of the "emotional load" of running a household is keeping track of everything that needs to be done. A partner who only fulfills those requests assigned to him (or, theoretically, her - usually him) is not carrying half of the weight, even if he thinks he is doing half of the work. Take a look: https://english.emmaclit.com/2017/05/20/you-shouldve-asked/

  66. Based on my experience, I see the problem for hetereosexual couples like this: Boys learn everything from observing their fathers. My father loved my mother, but he also verbally and psychologically mistreated her; he was impatient with her, and generally thought she was not competent. He was NOT considerate of her feelings and perhaps most importantly NEVER thought about how his behaviour might affect others. I inherited the last miserable trait, and because I never even once imagined that it might be a problem, it took years of psychotherapy to learn to be different, and I was a changed man by the time I got married. Ironically, my marriage collapsed because it was my ex-wife who behaved toward me like my father behaved toward my mother. And there was nothing I could do to persuade her to seek counseling. Her father was a textbook case narcissist, and she was the same way. Fortunately, our kids came out great, just like me... probably because I spent most of the time raising them.

  67. In my experience, the most egalitarian relationships are those that involve roughly the same income and age, and the same gender.

  68. In our gay partnership, a balanced dynamic seems to have naturally evolved: My husband makes the messes, and I clean them up. Since we've been together for 21+ years, I guess it works well for us.

  69. Is it possible that many heterosexual couples marry young because of an unplanned pregnancy, societal expectations, or economic need? Meanwhile same-sex couples marry when they want to and for reasons that seem compelling. I have seen young people who married—or began living together—before they were emotionally capable of the level of responsibility and consideration that marriage requires. I suspect that young, single gay people don't have the constant pressure to "settle down"—in the case of women, fear that they will stay single and childless too late.

  70. @Jim Casey Excellent points. It will be interesting in the future to track differences in male gay couples who marry young in that burst of sexual energy as they turn 18 and those who play around a while before settling down and thus are older and more mature and know what they are looking for in a partner than the young marrieds. Sowing those wild oats may be a good thing for later marriage happiness.

  71. Marriage is the problem. I have been happy in a 30 year old relationship with a man. No legal ties, just mutual respect.

  72. Wait until one of you requires surgery and the hospital will not allow you to make decisions for each other. Or the funeral home either.

  73. My background is Iranian-American. When I was dating women (mostly Iranian women), there was so much that was expected of me (financially and otherwise) and there was little that I could expect of them in return. It was asymmetrical and made me resentful. I'm now with an American man, and we don't expect anything from one another. We just do things out of love and caring. He cooks more often because he likes to. I usually wash the dishes. When I cook, I wash the dishes and it's not a big deal. I've never had things thrown at me or been yelled at or nagged at or accused.

  74. Married 47 years. I agree with the division of household duties being a problem however now that my husband and I are both retired there's more equality in the jobs we do. It continues to evolve. For us it always came down to who had the most flexible time. Working in education I had summers off so the task of yard work fell to me (the majority still does) but I also enjoyed the work so there's that. It's a conversation for sure but in my experience it's a winnable equation

  75. I don’t think my wife and I intended for our marriage to fall into traditional roles. My wife was the primary breadwinner throughout the first few years of our marriage and I did the majority of housework. But when my wife lost her job when our first daughter turned one, we decided to swap. It was the perfect opportunity for to be with our small child, who needed her more than me at the time. Our daughter refused the bottle, so even when my wife tried to go back to work and pump, the decision to stay at home made more sense for our family. She went back to work part time as our daughter grew older, but because my full time job offered us the security and insurance we needed, we didn’t want another parent to also work a full time job. We decided that one parent at home was better than putting our child in daycare. Could we have switched roles again? Certainly, but our job situation made it easier to stay the course. Now with a second daughter, I continue to work full time. While I do chores as much as I can at home (I do all laundry and share in cooking and cleaning) I also drop any dish I’m doing if my daughters want to play. This is because my time at home is less and we believe being with the kids is the most important job we have. Thus, a messy house! I’ll never equal my wife in terms of the time she has at home, either doing chores or being with the kids. But traditional doesn’t mean bad as long as it’s a true partnership.

  76. @NYLAkid Statistics, Sir. Traditional marriage doesn't mean bad, but it does come with more baggage than non-traditional, may come with statistical tendencies to be less happy. Meaning while there are definitely a lot of good traditional marriages, there is a larger percentage o them that are less happy (although your marriage sounds straight, not traditional). Divorce, for instance, didn't lead to more happy marriages, but it did lead to less unhappy ones. Therefore statistically, Marriages got happier after divorce, because the sample and therefore the average changed. The one big flaw in the analysis is the sample. Most straight people get married, but among gay people, it may be that only the best of us do. That would unfairly bias the sample in favour of wealthy, educated, happy, successful gay men and women. Doesn't invalidate her point, but might make it less true.

  77. @NYLAkid You two need to pay for housecleaners. Then both could play with children and both would have lighter chores.

  78. Ms. Coontz writes, "Another parenting advantage for gays and lesbians is that they seldom end up with an unintended or unwanted child, which is a risk factor for poor parenting. In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, 45 percent of pregnancies in America were unintended, and 18 percent were actually unwanted. If opponents of birth control and abortion continue to gain ground, same-sex parents may find themselves increasingly advantaged in this realm of family life." I have read this paragraph several times. Would future same-sex parents be "increasingly advantaged" because proportionately their children would be planned and wanted and sought after? And/or, does Ms. Coontz happily predict that same-sex parents would be increasingly "advantaged" because it might be easier for them to obtain babies to adopt? This paragraph is frightening in its implication for girls and women whose fertile years generally run from the pre-teens to the thirties. Girls and women who want a college education and a job and a partner with whom they have something in common will be further disadvantaged as "forced birth" right wing activists, who aren't really all that "pro-life" push against women's rights and dignity. Read from my perspective as a woman whose reproductive and brain health was damaged amid religious and legal gender bias, this article is much about gender bias yesterday vs gender bias today and, perhaps, tomorrow. I recommend Adrienne Rich's "Of Woman Born."

  79. @Debra Merryweather Ms. Koontz is clearly referring to the fact that when families lose their right to choose, there will be more unwanted children. In the case of a marriage, which is what the article is talking about, families can get stuck with children they didn't want. Gay people have to deliberately choose children, and often have to go through a lot to get them. It's a deliberate choice, not an accident, and from a statistical point of view, it means that gay men will make the happiest parents for a long time to come. If women had the right to choose, that would probably change and even itself out.

  80. @Mark Gay men being the "happiest parents" for a long time to come might come at quite a cost to any choice-less mothers of the infants the gay men parent. My point was and remains: gender bias against women underlies much of the happiness differences Ms. Coontz depicts in her graphs and describes in her text. And, a choice at seven weeks of gestation is much different in its ramifications than sticking by a so-called adoption plan when one's child is born, one is making milk and one sees one's child. One size does not fit all in anything and women are not widgets.

  81. @Debra Merryweather Your comments seems to imply that the only way for gay men to become a family is through adopting 'unwanted' children. In fact, what I increasingly see in my country (The Netherlands, where, incidentally, abortions are free and easy to have in government funded clinics) is that gay men will team up with a single woman or a lesbian couple and have a child (or children) together. They form large, unconventional families that tend to work very well for everybody involved.

  82. Straight and married 45 years. My husband does the dishes. I cook. I do laundry now. He does garbage. We grocery shop together, and hire someone to clean. It seems to work.

  83. @Marge That's more or less the same in our house and has been for many years. I don't think we ever talked about it, still less "negotiated". It's just how things have evolved over a long marriage where each spouse helps the other and bears a hand. Who wouldn't do that?

  84. @John The only thing we talked about was hiring someone to clean. I knew it would fall to me, and I was no good at it. So we outsourced it. And never looked back. And I agree, who wouldn't share the burden? Isn't that love?

  85. @Marge Yes, the older we get the more outsourcing we do. We've had a cleaning lady for the last few years, comes every two weeks for the heavier work and does a good job.

  86. I'm a woman married to a man I dearly love and class and hands off parenting shaped our approach to house work more than gender. He grew up with hired help. People were hired to mow the lawn, clean the house, do home repairs, take away the dirty laundry and bring it back clean and pressed, etc. I grew up in an extended family one generation off the farm and my people pitch in and do everything themselves. The men darned socks, did dishes, fixed cars and built their own houses. My hubby has done a pretty good job of embracing some chores and learning skills. But that default assumption of his childhood, that someone will tend to it, is still strong.

  87. Citing a research result from 14 years ago (2006), particularly of a quickly-shifting social dynamic, is not terribly compelling.

  88. She did not mention HOW MANY couples were in each of the 3 sets of couples. Therefore there is no way to determine if her theory is true or not. I have seen much other research showing that it is not true. There have also been just as many divorces. But who cares. Even if it was true, I guarantee making a straight couple act more like gay people is not going to make them any happier or content together.

  89. @Ttt From the linked study: "Method: The analyses are based on 10 days of dyadic diary data from 756 midlife U.S. men and women in 378 gay, lesbian, and heterosexual marriages. Multilevel modeling is used to examine the association of self‐ and spouse‐reported marital strain with psychological distress; actor‐partner interdependence models explore possible gender differences in these associations."

  90. @Baxter Although they don't mention controlling for potential confounders such as age, education, income, geography, length of marriage etc. Those are locked up, so it's still not clear the statistical power they are getting to resolve such signals in their data.

  91. @Daniel Not to mention that even rock-solid marriages and life-long romances go through rough patches, often for a lot longer than ten days.

  92. A fascinating and informative article. I kept expecting to see something regarding a sexual differentiation between the satisfaction of heterosexual women and that of lesbian women, but it wasn't mentioned in this article. Why? I know there will be a great deal of dissention regarding my contention here, but I feel the sexual satisfaction of lesbian women who are married also contributes to their overall happiness and willingness to work together on household chores and the minutia of life. I think this aspect of cohabitation and co-parenting needs to be explored. Being sexually satisfied contributes to one's overall happiness and willingness to compromise. It should be mutual and equal. So much regarding women and women and sex is left out of research. It's time we changed this, please.

  93. @Pamela L. "I feel the sexual satisfaction of lesbian women who are married also contributes to their overall happiness" Three letters, LBD.

  94. Also, there is much evidence to show that women were much happier in the 50's and even 70's when they were subject to the man's "authority." You might be surprised at how well relations get on in those types of relationships. Unfortunately the mainstream media and schools have been teaching women to completely reject traditional gender roles, which has effectively ruined the dynamics in many male female relationships.

  95. @Ttt If people are happiest subscribing to traditional gender roles, that is totally up to them. However, I don't see many men being the sole providers for their families to allow women to fully focus on the domestic sphere. Dual-income households are basically the norm to keep up with all of the expenses related to raising a family.

  96. @Ttt Or perhaps many women of that generation were trained to hide or suppress their real thoughts and feelings and to respond to questions about their role or their happiness, especially coming from an outsider and/or authority figure like a (probably male) social scientist, with pleasantries and positivity. And why not — it was only the roof over their heads, their money and credit and social status and healthcare and food and at times their very life or limb that depended on putting on a happy face and giving sugar-coated answers those few times when their opinion was sought at all.

  97. @Her Good catch. One of my now deceased women friends, who would be 96 if alive, had a career later in adulthood. She described the 50's for women in suburbia as "booze, bridge and boredom."

  98. Not sure about the pre-teen reference, since many girls don’t have regular monthly menstruation until at least 13. Also, I know almost no one whose “fertile years” ended by the time she reached 30 (“...to the thirties,” doesn’t include the 30s) and almost all the women I know still menstruated into and often several years after their 40s. Your data, like the attitude expressed in your comment, are outdated by at least 100 years.

  99. Oops. My comment was a reply to an earlier comment by someone afraid of that hetero women will become something like the “handmaids” of a Marge Piercy dystopian story.

  100. The words “husband“ and “wife“ have gender-specific origins In the English language. If we care for accurate language use, the word that in English describes anyone’s partner in marriage without reference to gender is SPOUSE, which is also used in a number of other languages.

  101. @citizennotconsumer The etymologies are very telling: husband = caretaker (think animal husbandry); wife = gift (think how some women make themselves up to look like presents, and think of themselves in this way also)

  102. I am single and have been for the past 56 years or so. I do everything and always have. I don’t listen to myself but I also never have anything to say, so it all works out.

  103. There are many challenges in life, but I'd bet for most of us one of the biggest is relationships. Of whatever nature. What I've learned is that when I'm truly honest, what I see in another also resides on some level, subconscious at times, within me. So all those faults and shortcomings we see in our partner reflect to some degree our own. Straight or LGBT relationships offer an opportunity for each to help the other grow and evolve. It clearly requires honesty, caring, fair adult compromises and self reflection. I don't think the sample size is large enough to conclude that one group is clearly superior to another. It's a tough shared experience at times for most everyone, but also includes joy and love. In my view honest self reflection is the key, by both partners. Good luck to all on their journey, whatever the form.

  104. In my experience a lot of this is external. A man can be an ideal partner who fully believes in equality in the home, but that doesn't stop the external expectations on women-- that you are constantly the 'perfect' mom, make amazing dinners, take your kids to and from sports practice and/or activities, and so on. In American society, these expectations just aren't the same for men and a man is lauded for doing these things whereas a woman is likely still judged for whether she did it correctly. These expectations affect behavior. Similarly, fields of work that pay higher and which are traditionally male also require long hours, which bleeds into household questions of who's cooking dinner, doing the dishes despite everyone's best intentions. I believe it's also passed down through generations. A male partner whose mom did the bulk of the dishes, cleaning, laundry, and household labor may-- consciously or not-- expect the same from his eventual wife. Lots of cultural shifts are necessary to make an impact on any of this.

  105. @Emily Good comment. But in my experience part of the problem is that a lot of the “external expectations” on women to do more or to be “perfect” are either self-imposed, at least somewhat imaginary, or imposed by other women or female-dominated groups. It is a tough state of affairs and one that takes a lot of care work from male partners that probably goes unseen or unappreciated, just like a lot of care work provided by females to males is unseen and unappreciated by men as the article mentions. “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of you if you realize how little they did so.”

  106. @Emily This has been my experience almost exactly. My wife and I are pretty equivalent in the tasks we split up (well, maybe 60/40, but I try!), but when I take our young kids out it the world without her people heap praise like I'm doing something abnormal. I had one person once say, "Superdad!" and give me a high five, because I had two kids in a stroller by myself. That is an extreme example, but more subtle kinds of encouragement happen all the time. And when I take them to the doctor without her? I'm treated like some kind of alien royalty. My wife has never reported anyone saying anything encouraging to her when she has them. It just is.

  107. @Emily I like your view Emily because it is not blaming anybody.

  108. My observation among straight, middle-aged, relatively affluent couples in Manhattan is that many women married men who are very good providers and fathers, but not nearly as emotionally open or sophisticated as they are and over the years they have often grown frustrated with the lack of intimacy or the failure of the relationship to evolve because of their partner's emotional limitations. This, it seems to me, is infinitely more important than who spends more time doing the dishes. In cases where the male partner is not as emotionally sophisticated and also not a good provider, the couple is either divorced or miserable.

  109. My observation among straight, middle-aged, relatively affluent couples in Manhattan is that many women married men who are very good providers and fathers, but not nearly as emotionally open or sophisticated as they are and over the years they have often grown frustrated with the lack of intimacy or the failure of the relationship to evolve because of their partner's emotional limitations. This, it seems to me, is infinitely more important than who spends more time doing the dishes. In cases where the male partner is not as emotionally sophisticated and also not a good provider, the couple is either divorced or miserable.

  110. If sexuality is not a choice, as we frequently hear, what is the point of this comparison? The takeaway is that heterosexual people should abandon their miserable partnerships and marriages and find a same-sex partner/spouse in order to be happy but how does that work when one is “born straight?”

  111. Did you read the same article as me? The article was in no way shape or form encouraging readers to ‘change’ their sexuality. It was offering insight in how outdated stereotypes can negatively affect marriages; how different couples divy up household chores, navigate arguments and handle child care. The take away I got was that straight men need to help out more across all fronts, lesbians could use a little more emotional restraint and gay men (who seem to be killing it at parenting) need to not allow masculine tendencies to escalate during fights. No need to ‘become’ gay or vice versa. The article encourages us to open our eyes and ears. To have more open dialogue with our partners and to share responsibilities fairly, communicate our sexual and emotional needs clearly - whatever that may be for us individually.

  112. @Lynn in DC Hmmmm...I sure didn’t see the part of the article that said that. Can you point that out to us?

  113. @Lynn in DC --- there's missing the point, and then there's ducking out of the way to make sure the point misses YOU. Sexuality is not a choice, but talking who is going to wash the dishes is.

  114. I'm a middle aged, hetero female, raised near and now living in NYC, married for 10 years, stepparent to one child who lives with us full time. My life experience just doesn't fit with this article at all. During my own childhood my dad did his full share of cooking, cleaning and general household work (both dad and mom worked). Prior to my marriage, my boyfriends in several long term relationships were completely comfortable with cooking and cleaning tasks and yes, they undertook them regularly. My husband is the most focused and productive laundry and dish do-er I've ever met! He is also an extremely hands on dad to his child. Bio mom is not particularly interested in parenting at all, by the way. I just can't believe that my experience is so unusual. It is tiring to find the heterosexual male yet again blamed for so much that is wrong with marriage and family. The silliest line in this article was the one about how gay and lesbian parents are less likely to produce unwanted kids during the course of their marriages. Gee, I wonder why?!?

  115. @Louise Yes and No. I am the work from home dad who also does not fit the mold. My wife travels for work as a busy executive and I am the housekeeper and chef. These arrangements do exist; but, flipping the work/home roles is not the norm. I was fired from my last job because I was not spending 55+ hours in the office. I have worked with many younger guys who have children and go home to play video games every evening. I assure you they are not worrying about the dishes.

  116. @Louise Agreed, there seems to be many potential limitations to this study and not sure who it's relevant for, are we all supposed to hunt down same sex couples and ask how to be more like them? Like, "oh so you do the dishes more, cuz you're a guy married to another guy - I should do that more" - turn to wife - "right honey?" Oh man that'd be really bizarre.

  117. @Louise Agreed, there seems to be many potential limitations to this study and not sure who it's relevant for, are we all supposed to hunt down same sex couples and ask how to be more like them? Like, "oh so you do the dishes more, cuz you're a guy married to another guy - I should do that more" - turn to wife - "right honey?" Oh man that'd be really bizarre.

  118. There is so much wrong with this article I won't be able to fit it all here. Anyone married for 5 years or less is still in the honeymoon stage. "Historical reasons?" What is that? I studied social science and "historical reasons" were never mentioned. The "historical reasons" mentioned are an assumption. I have known many housewives (not as many as once I did) who thoroughly dominate a household/marriage. Polyandry? Riiight, that's a huge factor in my marriage, I assume yours too. Husbands taking control of sex, money and behavior? Sounds like another assumption. I could go on and on. How about the fact that same sex couple have to really want children and go far out of their way to have them? They plan for kids whereas hetero couples often just have them, over and over. Why assume "historical reasons" rather than biological which is unchanging through history and across culture? I know biological differences are not pc, but that doesn't mean they're not real. You can't say there's a gay gene but no differences between sexes on a continuum.

  119. As a happily married woman (to a straight man) I know the answer to this one. Do not marry someone who isn't willing to treat you like an equal. the end.

  120. @Justice: Without defining equal, your advice is a normative demand. Like saying you go outdoors only when the weather is right, meaning much to you; less to others. Equality, like weather, varies with circumstances. If you are a justice or a lawyer, you know the meaning of ambiguous; if otherwise, are entitled to know. But, congratulations, you have no problem.

  121. @MAX L SPENCER We know equality, respect and integrity when we see it.

  122. @MAX L SPENCER The fact that the feeling of being equals is subjective is entirely the point. The currency of any relationship is how it makes you FEEL.

  123. Fewer have children than heterosexual couples. Children challenge a relationship.

  124. @Judy Petersen I think the distinction is that fewer have unwanted children, or children they can't afford. For a gay couple, adoption or IVF is a long and expensive proposition that they won't go through unless both really want to do so. Straight couples can end up with a kid after a night of netflix and chill. Children are less of a challenge for financially stable couples who are all in on raising a child, straight or gay. This is reflected in better outcomes for college educated straight couples who have children over those who have them earlier and end up under enormous financial strain. The lesson here is don't have kids until you are ready, if you are straight please please please use protection.

  125. I’m a single gay man, but nearly every one of the married gay couples I know spent a long time together before they married (because they had to). There was a much longer lead time in determining if “we are a couple” than I see in the heterosexual community. I also think it’s very informative that there aren’t “accidental” pregnancies in gay unions. Children are a much discussed and planned for/paid for activity rather than sometimes being a “night out” that got out of hand. Gay families also tend to be smaller, one or maybe two children, meaning the children are wanted and are the absolute focus of the couple — which shows in the data presented here. That’s not to say I don’t know successful straight married couples with happy well adjusted children. They are plentiful (ordinary families raising happy children tend to not make the news). Did gay marriage “ruin” straight marriage? Not in the way most opponents expected. Instead it revealed what was wrong in their own marriages.

  126. ‘Here’s where same-sex couples can offer their different-sex counterparts useful tips.’ I’m so glad to have a purpose in the privileged lives of straight people who seem to have nothing more important to do than whine about how much harder their lives are. First she says SS couples don’t face gender stereotypes like straights and then she says we do. Gender, orientation, they seem to be very fluid terms as they change meaning from paragraph to paragraph depending upon the point she’s trying to make. My husband and I have been together 41 years and we’re one of California’s original 18000 married couples. Reading this article I would think we’ve never faced any discrimination. That no one in America is trying dilute or nullify our marriage. Every straight person I have ever met views their marriages as superior to ours. The ones who claim otherwise are lying to us and/or themselves. SS couples keep internalising this as well, which brings me to my final point. I don’t know the orientation of this writer, but do know the orientation she is writing for.

  127. The bottom line is, Who cares? Among my friends and family are both supremely loyal and loving gay couples and devoted, happy straight couples. I've met couples of both sorts whose relationships were nightmares. All families are pretty much happy in the same way and for the same reasons; the unhappy ones have myriad problems. The New York Times should, at this point, have more important topics to investigate and write about.

  128. @B. Evidently, you cared enough to read and comment on the article. News flash: there is lots of research and investigations conducted that you might not personally care about, but are interesting and meaningful in their own right. Your personal anecdotes and subjective opinions are not equivalent to data.

  129. To Maggie and HB, No, no nerve struck at all. As I say, I have all my life had examples of loving, loyal gay couples to look to, as well as my parents' and aunts' happy heterosexual marriages. And I've seen very messy relationships both gay and straight. Of course I read the article. I read lots of articles. But after finishing them, I can still say "So what?" about many of them. Don't you? The Times really has more important things to report on than the relative happiness of gay and straight couples. More important is that the strides our society has made towards marriage equality can easily be wiped out in the next year. And that is definitely not a "So what?" to me and to the people I love.

  130. @B as I read this, the author is outside the Times newsroom and is not paid to write for them or work for them. I don’t see that this wasted any Times resources that could have been used elsewhere.

  131. So - here is what we actually know about the length and success of hetero, gay and lesbian marriages from actual data. Males in same sex and hetero marriages have similar success and divorce rates. Lesbian couple divorce at twice the rate of the other two comparators. Of the sampled lesbian couples who were married in 2005, 30% were divorced ten years later compared to 18% for heterosexual couples and 15% for gay male couples. So - maybe the headline could be a bit more accurate: "What lesbian marriages could learn from their male counterparts"

  132. @SteveRR see a YouTube version of Alan Kings ‘Survived by his Wife!’...why did women live longer than men then? Because they weren’t married to women! But now, not so much...

  133. This is interesting research, especially given the unfounded arguments against same-sex marriage or allowing same-sex couples to adopt. However, understanding the underlying reasons for these findings is a complex and non-trivial exercise; indeed, there are many variables to consider. For example, many gay people grew up in a time when homosexuality was not as widely discussed and featured in mainstream media as it is today. So while many of their hetero counterparts saw models of their future romantic lives all around them, gay people did not have such a reference. This contributes to differences in the emotional and psychological development of gay people versus hetero people. So perhaps one of the reasons same-sex couples report higher satisfaction is due to less precise expectations, whether conscious or subconscious, which allows them to approach relationships in a more open and flexible manner. It is certainly an interesting area for researchers.

  134. Good point. I think as a gay man in a 37 year relationship bonding was necessary so you figured it out. We did not come into it with expectations. We did not have a manual and biologically we better understand our partners. Sex in many cases are satisfied in ways not always acceptable by straight couples. We are also fortunate to have helped father two children with a friend who raises them. Again we did not have a book but we have worked through the development of not only the kids but ourselves . Perhaps the real takeaway is coming into a relationship with an open mind and a willingness to empathize with your partner. Communication is key as is adaptability. I do think you Marry and then you marry agin when you have children. The couple and dynamics change and so should the relationship.

  135. I have seen several different versions of this article recently, and one thing that seems to be a glaring omission is the number of hours worked on average between the partners. In a marriage where one spouse works a full-time professional job requiring 40-60 hours per week and the other spouse doesn't work outside the home or works part-time, should those couples still strive for equality when it comes to household chores? If so, how is that equitable? I agree that couples with relatively equal work schedules should also work towards equitable division of household duties, but that isn't the default, and pretending that it is makes the results of these studies misleading.

  136. Why don't you consider heterosexual couples where the dad is the primary caregiver and the mom is the wage earner? That seems more like a fair match to heterosexual traditional roles. This seems like a more fair comparison than to gay couples. I have seen that women are much more interested in taking care of children and will actually hinder men from getting involved. Have you ever been to class gatherings organized and run by the Moms? Ever been to class gatherings organized and run by Dads?

  137. With marriage becoming more and more self-selecting, a complete picture needs to include unmarried couples cohabiting. Marriage is slowly becoming more and more upper middle class and higher, with lower middle class couples becoming less likely to marry. Said another way, if you sorted the heterosexual marriages by age, would you see the trends found in the gay couples more frequently (since, like gay couples, young straight couples are opting in to marriage rather than defaulting into it)?

  138. “Like heterosexual couples with children, same-sex parents often have one partner quit or cut back at work for a while. Gay-male couples have about the same percentage of stay-at-home parents as do heterosexuals.” Now THAT’s telling. About persistent gender-/sex-based wage discrimination. Female same-sex marriages don’t even get a mention in the discussion of this metric. That’s likely because as a result of lasting sex discrimination, women are still paid less then men working the same job and with the same (or lower) level of education, experience, productivity, and achievement, whether straight, gay, or something else.

  139. @Her Yes—economics has absolutely got to affect the findings here, along with a panoply of other social locators, including race.

  140. Did the study cited at the beginning of this article control for children in the picture? I can't see the full methodology since it's behind a paywall. If it didn't control for kids, that 's a huge issue. Children are a big stressor on relationships. If more of the hetero couples in the study had kids than the gay couples did, that could explain the entire findings!

  141. @Kas Try to read the whole article and your question will be answered. Of course children are factored into the picture. It's a huge, fundamental issue.

  142. @Kas Of course there was no control for children, let alone other factors that may apply. In today's PC world it is just understood that, somehow, someway, same sex spouses feel more satisfied than heterosexual. Everyone/everything except what pertains to straight white males is simply "better." Duh!

  143. @Maggie Of course gay/lesbian are “better” parents, All protected class members are just “better” people, to say otherwise is obviously “homophobic.” PC eye-roll please

  144. As an older gay man, who could not get married until recently, it appeared to me that straight people were pressured to get married. It was what they were supposed to do instead of what they wanted to do. It seemed that some people tried to fit the mold of marriage and kids before they were ready. Like following a road map and not planning for obstacles the journey might bring or really considering if that is the destination they want.

  145. @Andy Maxwell Great point. Straight people feel an enormous amount of pressure to get married and have babies, and/or it happens by accident. Conversely, societal pressure on gay people is for us to stay unmarried and certainly not to have children, even today. So, for the most part, we gay people don't get married and don't have children unless we REALLY want this. Therefore, this dynamic will naturally result in gay couples being more likely to be happily married.

  146. @Andy Maxwell so true...the map is NOT the terrain...

  147. By traditional standards, men and women have many differences, biologically and environmentally; gay couple are less likely to have many of these differences (Henry Higgins once asked "why can't a woman be more like me?"). Homosexuals are also more likely to be open with their feelings in personal relationships, except for anger, which they tend to repress, or express carefully. It can also be more difficult for homosexuals to find partners because the homosexual population is smaller than the heterosexual population, and discrimination encourages many of them to hide their sexuality, so salvaging a relationship can be easier than finding a new one.

  148. I (gay man) recently vacationed with long-time friends (straight couple). I expected to do my share of the chores in our rented condo, but was surprised that the lady did the majority. She was up washing dishes before I even finished eating. She did a load of laundry, whereas I had intended to stretch my clothes for the duration. She would begin food prep before the guys even thought about eating. I couldn't match her pace and couldn't get her to delegate chores to me before doing them herself. I actually would have preferred to do more.

  149. @Jomo Sometimes jumping up to do chores while others are still kicking back is a way of masking anxiety.

  150. The happiest couples split homekeeping and childcare duties? I guess that means these couples also split financial expenses too? Perhaps both have a career, or there is enough inherited wealth neither have a career.

  151. @Non Applicable Yes, that's exactly how it's done when both spouses need to work.

  152. So yet another confirmation of what prior research indicated: hetero women get the short end of the stick in marriage. They are more stressed, their life expectancy is shorter, their earnings suffer. Every married woman knows this firsthand, which is why re-marriage rates for divorced women are much lower than those for divorced men, women are not looking to repeat the experience. As more women catch on to this trend early on in their lives we may have some "leftover men" problem.

  153. Men generally do not love longer. If you ever go to assisted living or independent living you will hardly see any men.

  154. @Sophie K second marriage...the triumph of hope over experience...

  155. Very interesting article, though I think it missed some salient stressors, and glossed over some distinctions. For one thing, the article didn’t discuss the effect of pregnancy and childbirth on the mother. This is a very consuming biological process. Pregnant mothers see their bodies change, experience a surge of hormones, and deal with lingering effects for years after giving birth. These changes affect their sleep, their status at work and in the world, their physical appearance and their psychological body image, and all of these changes put huge amounts of stress on relationships and women’s quality of life. A more welcoming and supportive culture for new and expectant matters might go a long way toward mitigating these stresses. Because there are fewer cultural precedents, gay couples are forced to self define their roles within relationships and how they divvy up the work. But we are mistaking equitable for complementary. In any relationship, individuals tend to gravitate toward roles and duties they are naturally suited for. Washing the dishes doesn’t stand for anything. A typical heterosexual married woman may resent washing the dishes just as much as a typical heterosexual married man may resent being the one who gets up in the middle of the night to check out a suspicious sound (bat in hand). There’s horrible stressful work on both sides of cliche gender norms. The main thing making women unhappy, it seems to me, is the horrible way our society treats women.

  156. There are plenty of fathers who want an expanded role in the upbringing of their child, but honestly the deck is stacked against us. Primary education is rife with caretaker bias. I read nightly with my child and have read thousands of children's books. The modern father is disgustingly underrepresented. Hardly any books portray a father as an equal or primary caretaker, a consoling figure, or an emotional problem solver. Their homework assignments are even worse with hardly any representation of fathers in general. I have actually resorted to replacing "Mom" with "Dad" on assignments just to get some semblance of recognition. On top of that, many Mom's don't want to give up the primary caretaker stereotype. Personally, when I tried to be more emotionally supportive and spend more time with my child, I got push back from my wife. If my child showed any preferrerence to me as a consoling figure or a play partner, my wife would get jealous. Without knowing it she started to overcompensate and ended up promoting these gender-based stereotypes even further. When trying to discuss it she would get dismissive and say things like "kids need their mother more." These mindsets are not nature, but are rather nurtured through stereotypes. Other fathers have described similar situations as well. I think we need to address primary education as well if we want to expand the role of fathers in childrearing.

  157. Gay men spending more time with their kids prove that apparently it’s possible for men to do it, even though fathers are underrepresented in children’s literature. Quite possibly the books are more a reflection of reality than the other way round. And for the second part of your comment, women not wanting to give up the last area where they have some power might have something to do with it. This might be especially true for women who have already taken on the traditional role of a full time caretaker. If she feels like you’re taking away her sole area of (perceived) expertise, the only sector where she is the boss, it most likely won’t come as a relief. I know many women who are working full time (as many hours as their partners), paying half of the bills, having very down to earth expectations when it comes to housework (as people who work full time tend to do), and are still having a hard time getting their male partners to do their fair share of chores, and not for a lack of trying.

  158. @Alex I appreciate your comment and I'll work backwards to address it. In dual income homes, I don't think your position holds water. Especially when you consider that women traditionally do not partake in regular maintenance type house work. In my experience, in dual income households men definitely perform the same household chores (maybe not in proportion) in addition to regular and unexpected maintenance tasks which are duly ignored. Making a comparison for a between a non-working mother to a working father is a wholly unfair comparison especially when you consider school aged kids. I'm not discounting stay at home mothers, but after +8hrs of home related work plus transportation, whatever is left over should be quantified equally to determine which equitability. So your point about traditional full-time caretaker is not only moot but also promotes the stereotype. As for literature, in my anecdotal experience, Moms were represented in about ~90% of books and assignments. However, according this article the split of housework and child-focused time between female and male is both ~60/40. Even if 90% is too high, a representation of 80% or even 70% is not commensurate with your "reflection of reality" of 60/40. And that doesn't include male dominated of household maintenance tasks. Finally, gay men spending more time with their kids helps prove my point as they are not burdened with gender-normative roles promoted by straight wives/mothers.

  159. This year my wife and I will be married 47 years. We married when we were 21, knew absolutely nothing about building and maintaining relationships, and the over/under betting in our families for how long it would last was 2 years. I don't know exactly how we did it, but there are a few things that are directly related to this article, starting with the idea that if you are a truly autonomous person, socially imposed gender roles simply don't matter. Not they don't exist... they don't matter. For example, I like a well-prepared meal and a spotless kitchen, so I cook and clean. It has nothing to do with who "should", it has everything to do with my desires. To be sure, there are many things neither of us like to do, one of them being house cleaning. At various times we've solved this by either not cleaning the house until neither of us could stand it and then doing it together, or hiring a house cleaner when we could afford it. Again, this has nothing to do with whose job it is, it has to do with how much dirt we're willing to tolerate. I know the answers are not as simple as this, and the longevity and stress level of a marriage is complex to manage. We've had our share. But expectations seems to be a major factor: Keep them low, and solve them for yourself. If you want a clean house and a well-cooked meal, then make it so.

  160. @Jim Don't generalize from your own preferences! I'm female, I've been married for 59 years, and I do most of the housework. Which you say that you and your spouse both dislike. But I love some aspects! and the one phrase that stuck out to me in this article was "the numbing work that must be done each day." I love ironing, and we use ironed cloth napkins daily! I love hanging the wash out to dry and resent winter snow, when I have to use the dryer. And I love shopping for food and cooking, and now (realizing that no one else is going to do them, don't mind doing the dishes. The one thing I do not like is house-cleaning, and after about 45 years of a neat but not really clean house we finally broke down and hired a cleaning lady,

  161. @Jerry Don't let snow stop you from hanging your wash to dry! I use a collapsible drying rack indoors for everything but sheets. The dryer winter air helps clothes dry relatively quickly.

  162. The author confirms a situation we've acknowledged for decades. There's nothing new here except the same sex marriage data conditions to compare to heterosexual marriages. The author skips a major factor in her assessment of the comparison: the individuals involved have all the responsibility for the conditions which describe their union , and no one else . Loving relationships are a learned behavior each individual must accomplish well . The variables here are toooo great to allow the generalizations the author comes to.

  163. The reactions here confirm something I have long understood: that society's overwhelming heterosexist bias leads more than a few straight people to be incredulous, resentful, even angry at the suggestion that their "choice'" of style may not be the happiest state of humankind. Still, if straight people are not even curious about what they might learn from the unprecedented phenomenon of same-sex marriage, I think I understand why they are not happier.

  164. Pretty elitist viewpoint overall. I would separate categories and compare heterosexual and same sex marriages separately. In my opinion they are not comparable because one have two different genders while another is composed from same gender. There are happy and unhappy marriages in both categories. Ultimately people get out of marriage what they put in. That is same for both categories.

  165. "Women in different-sex marriages reported the highest levels of psychological distress. Men in same-sex marriages reported the lowest." Both can be explained by the fact that most men prefer and need the company of other men. When women gain a foothold in any social group or professional field, the men disappear. I am a feminist, but facts are facts. The nuclear family is simply not the ideal--most women who are primarily dependent on the company of a man for validation will be spend lives of loneliness and disappointment, with much of their potential wasted.

  166. I appreciate the call to action around re-thinking gender norms but was surprised this article was silent on income. A 2017 study showed that gay men now out-earn straight men on average, overcoming decades of discrimination. But lesbian, bi, and straight women still face a large gendered wage gap. Does the data cited in this article control for income? If not, it seems fair to assume that at least some of these differences come down to earning power: couples that can afford to hire cleaners are happier with their chore arrangements; they also have more time to spend with their kids. Higher earners are also less likely to divorce.

  167. @Meg I agree that income plays a huge role and should be used as a control in this study. Those who have resources to pay for extra help, buys them time, and time equals freedom, and freedom reduces stress and resentment.

  168. Very good and important points.

  169. @Meg Can you source that study? The studies I've read show that gay men are likelier to be impoverished than straight men. They are also more likely to take jobs that have been traditionally gendered as female (grade school teaching, nursing, etc.).

  170. You should have noted in the article the study was very small. The analyses are based on 10 days of dyadic diary data from 756 midlife U.S. men and women in 378 gay, lesbian, and heterosexual marriages. We have 340 million people in the US. One thousand people is not indicative of anything. Add on to that, how many want to keep diaries? How many gay couples want to appear happy to prove that gay marriage is to be accepted and legalized? You haven't factored in human nature.

  171. @Dolphin That study is on the smaller side but a sample side of 700 or larger isn't necessarily unrepresentative of the general public.

  172. @Kelsey Rodriguez yes, but just ten days self-reporting observational data is far from the gold standard for anything

  173. @Kelsey Rodriguez 700 represents 340 million people? Really? Sounds like you wish something in the study to be true.

  174. As a lesbian I found this information very interesting. I have two comments. First is an exclamation of shock and surprise that almost half of all children conceived in heterosexual marriages are unplanned. Married people can't figure out how to use contraceptives? Having a kid is such a minor deal that we can just leave it up to chance? Yikes. Second is the study's observation that gay men have better emotional boundaries than lesbians and therefore their relationships tend to last longer. Speaking from experience, I think that's true. We women are socialized to be caregivers, and we tend to get codependent and over-involved in each others' lives. A bit more privacy and independence in a marriage, i.e., having separate friends, activities, and solitary pursuits, can go a long way in keeping a relationship on track. We could all take a lesson from the guys on this one.

  175. Heterosexual marriage is encouraged by various (and sometimes subtle) social pressures, religion and related forces. Some of the marriages are fulfilling and joyous, some end up on an episode of "Cops" or "Forensic Files", and some are pairs of people checking off a box on their imagined life trajectory and tolerating each other in the process. So of course any group who chooses to get married mostly absent of such pressures is far more likely to be choosing to be together and stay together because they actually want to be together. That is the "secret" - people exercising freedom and agency.

  176. Gay relationships just have way less rules. We have not been conditioned by normative expectations, Hollywood movies, etc. to have a singular "ideal" relationship with our partners. Because we are able to define our own relationships, the stress to live up to any ideal does not exist.

  177. The data comparison here reminds me of the introduction to a book on mindfulness. How wonderful if we could all just see washing the dishes as washing the dishes. I now find it meditative and relaxing. Not a chore but a mantra. Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

  178. When I see straight couples – whether in the media, or among friends/family – I am always so thankful I don't have these traditional gender pressures in my life! In my relationship, we can decide who gets to do whatever. It doesn't matter who's who. It's so freeing. I am so proud and happy to be gay!

  179. I found this article fascinating. However, one thing it doesn’t address is the extent of traditional “men’s work” that’s done within any given heterosexual marriage. My husband and I have a traditional division of labor, but I don’t resent the laundry and the dishes because he works hard too. We have horses and a pasture that he maintains. The guy can fix anything and he does, whereas I don’t have a mechanical bone in my body. He prunes the fruit trees and tills my big organic garden, and today he’s installing a new propane stove to replace a wood-burner in the nearby cabin we were lucky enough to buy this past summer. Because of his stressful and well-paying job, I was able to go part time near the end of my teaching career, and then retire early. I think about that when I’m folding his clothes. It’s hard to resent doing housework when I know he puts in as many hours as I do. If he was plopped in front of the TV every night while I was doing the dishes, well, that would be another matter. It would be interesting to compare urban, suburban, and rural levels of hetero marital satisfaction, because urban life has eliminated so much traditional men’s work. I wonder if there’s a correlation between tension in a marriage and the number of hours the husband spends shoveling snow, mowing grass and other typical guy jobs.

  180. @Rural Girl Such an insightful comment and questions! I also think about revisiting this topic with couples who have been "married" 20+ years. Overall, we can all learn from one another and how to become more flexible and communicative. Relationships are individual and we would be best served to learn about what general qualities and methods (behavior and communication skills) we apply in relating result in long-term success and happiness. I am willing to bet that key factors are not so different for same sex and heterosexual couples, ultimately.

  181. @Rural Girl It’s similar in my relationship. But what is challenging for me is that the jobs that I do tend to be more menial and involve less problem-solving and less novelty than the kinds of jobs that my husband does. The only exception to that is the financial work, which I do the bulk of. But it’s not the same. I could learn to mend a gate, fix the sink etc. but we’re always so pressed for time that it’s often just more efficient for him to just do it. I often feel like I am stagnating.

  182. @Rural Girl Very good points. I am in a same sex partnership (two women), but given that I’m the handier person, I tend to take on the majority of the traditionally male jobs and will argue that these are no less demanding. All the outdoor yard work, installing, assembling, fixing, maintenance of items falls on me (or traditionally the man). Men/we too also carry a “mental load” that is often attributed to women, such as remembering to change out the furnace filters or schedule car maintenance.

  183. The tricky thing with these sorts of statistics is teasing out cause from effect. Does a failure to share chores lead to unhappiness in the marriage? Does unhappiness in the marriage lead to a failure to share chores? Do couples from a more traditionalist background both fail to share chores and feel unhappy in their marriages? There are plausible arguments for all three of these. There are also important other confounders at work here. I would expect that, since marriage equality is a relatively recent phenomenon, same-sex couples have been married for a shorter time, on average, than their opposite-sex counterparts. Maybe recent spouses are happier? Are same-sex couples older or younger? Are they wealthier or poorer? Do they live in different places? Do they have different social circles? I am not claiming that Stephanie Coontz is wrong here. But the argument is not yet conclusive.

  184. @Robert Stadler Indeed. There's also the fact that there is less pressure on same-sex couples to marry, meaning that you cut out the whole cohort of different-sex marriages among people who really wouldn't have gotten married if they didn't feel like they had to. There's really no such thing as a shotgun gay marriage.

  185. I was married to an alcoholic and stepped up and cared for my four daughters. It was maybe the hardest and best thing I did in my life. Like the Grinch, my heart expanded three or four times on a day that I thought I could give no more. Many of these menial tasks that men neglect, are also the tasks that connect and bind you to your family. Nobody tells you that, you have to learn by doing. I am now a senior manager at my company (also divorced). The lessons I learned in caring for my children are the same lessons I employ every day in the office. I also employ the lessons I learned through years of therapy on trying to understand how to deal with a depressive alcoholic. The biggest lesson I learned was that men face huge obstacles. The most rewarding thing you can do in life and terms of satisfaction and career is engage with your children. Yet, we are told that earning money is enough, but it is not enough for your soul.

  186. @Bike Rebel You are enlightened and it’s clear how much work you have put in, to arrive where you are. Please reach as many fathers with your message.

  187. The biology of reproduction - that women get pregnant, give birth, and breastfeed - means the mother in a heterosexual relationship will tend to develop a stronger bond with the baby. This connection is then reinforced by societal norms and expectations. That doesn't mean straight couples can't agree that both parents should be as equally involved in childcare, cooking and clean as possible. But it depends on many things (the parents' jobs, their attitudes and expectations, etc.). Mostly it takes good communication. Or, in my case, a husband and father (me) who has always wanted to be involved with the kids, and doesn't mind cooking & cleaning. Plus because my wife doesn't like conflict, we pretty much bury everything under the rug. (I don't advise it, but it can work, especially for the repressed mother-wife.)

  188. I really appreciate this post and the comments. I am a heterosexual woman, married to a man. My partner and I had an agreement before getting married about expectations. We have the conversations constantly. He is a gentle soul who does his best, and understands that patriarchal ideas are so deeply imbedded that it is imperative to remain vigilant. He does the cooking, cleaning, and the grocery shopping. We never fight about the dishes! Though we have argued about who is the one who comes up with recipes. I hope we can continue to be vigilant forever!

  189. @Diana You are very lucky!

  190. Great article, with some interesting insights. The aspects about better in-depth communication about mutual needs in same sex couples is particularly insightful. A factor that is almost never discussed, however, it the root cause of gender stereotypes to begin with. Although it's not "polite" to talk about religion, when it comes to gender differences, and the roles and expectations of women and men, it is hard not to pin a fair amount of blame for persistent gender stereotypes on Judeo/Christian and Islamic influences. Each one exposes a heavy handed doctrine of male superiority and female subservience. Maybe it's not in use as much now but I remember clearly the line for women in Christian marriage: "Do you Mary promise to honor and obey Roger". It then becomes the chore of anyone steeped in those doctrines to figure out for themselves how to navigate a more egalitarian marriage. Same for matters of positive consent and sexism.

  191. @larry Why only Judeo-Christian and Islamic impulses? I see it in other religions too - Hinduism, Buddhism - and it probably exists in the native religions of Africa as well.

  192. I am a straight white male, but I'll admit to having a gay thought twice a month .. Thanks for this fantastic and insightful piece.

  193. @Aaron You don't have to convince us, just convince yourself.

  194. While I can appreciate those in gay relationships who argue that the absence of rules and expectations allows them less stress, I'd like to point out that rules and expectations also have a way of reducing ambiguity and stress. For many of us, having infinite choices and decisions can be oppressive and stressful. Falling back on societal norms and expectations can be incredibly liberating and stress-relieving (so long as the specific norms we fall back on aren't repressive).

  195. @Jeff Although according to the article, was the data suggest that gay relationships are a source of greater, not less, satisfaction for the partners. Choices about housework and childcare are not infinite and overwhelming, so I don’t think the model you describe here applies.

  196. @Jeff The author does not claim that gay relations show an "absence of rules and expectations", but that there is better communication regarding rules and expectations.

  197. @Pete Thanks, Pete. I was responding to many of the commenters.

  198. Marry a bisexual man. The emotional intuitiveness and housework splitting comes much more naturally and from experience-- they are often more gifted and equitable lovers. Everyone wins.

  199. @Whitney LKB: Yes! I came to comments section to say exactly this. B free.

  200. Isn’t it possible that women understand women and men understand men better than the genders understand each other? Remember Mars and Venus?

  201. It is unfortunate that dishwashing chores are causing so many problems in heterosexual marriages. Current dishwasher models do not require rinsing of dishes, etc. You just scrape off any chunks of food and place the items in the washer. Rinsing is not necessary! However, my adult daughter does not believe me and continues to spend a lot of time rinsing. Guests in my home are shocked that I do not rinse, and are more shocked when they see that everything comes out crystal clean. I hope this helps.

  202. @Bill Wet streets do not cause rain, and it is unlikely that unequal distribution of dishwashing chores causes relationship problems per se. It is likely a good marker for a number of other attributes of the relationship. You are very right about the dishwasher. The pre-rinsing that people do wastes water and time. I also suggest ensuring the water coming out of the kitchen faucet (most dishwashers receive hot water from the same supply) is hot before starting the dishwasher. While mentioned once in most manuals, I've found that the dishwasher works better when the water it receives is already hot.

  203. @Bill Please don't assume that everyone owns a dishwasher. Many of us don't, and don't really want one My wife and I have a simple rule that works for us. Whoever fixes the meal washes the dishes. And we both share in the meal fixing duties.

  204. @N Browning Thank you for your insights. I agree.

  205. I would think that in same sex couples it might be more likely that they have similar jobs and similar workloads as opposed to (traditionally) the husband has the "job job" and the wife has the "wife job" and therefore does more housework and child care, due to time more than gender role attitudes? Might be interesting to specifically compare heterosexual couples in which the husband has the "spouse job."

  206. While expectations can weigh on couples, they can also be oppressive to individuals. I’m gay but have mostly worked with straight folks. The men in particular, blue collar & pretty traditional, were much wedded to macho. I saw how disabling it was for them. Failure to live up to macho in the extreme could catapult them into an actual state of panic (flushed, quickened breathing, pupil constriction, etc). After I learned this, I still resented comments that were lobbed at me when, in their eyes, I failed to achieve high macho (did they imagine I tried?), but less so because I realized that whatever level of oppression I felt coming from those comments was absolutely nothing compared to what the guys lived with internally 24/7. I always thought it would be great if I could grab several guys, force them to down a few shots then do funny duck walks and make Monty Python voices.

  207. Dishwashing is just part of the issue. The bigger issue is the entire grocery shopping, food preparation, food presentation, and clean-up task. In many marriages where both men and women work, women do it all! They plan the menus, buy the food, cook the food, set the table (plates, cutlery, glasses of water, condiments, napkins etc.), clear the table, load the dishwasher/or wash the dishes by hand. They freeze food, wrap food, dispose of food, store the washed dishes, wipe down the table. If their spouses did one quarter of the process, the resentment would fade.

  208. I would imagine the fairly absent nature of children in gay marriage is the origin of the lower stress. Heterosexual marriages are burdened with that whole raising kids thing. Which, in my own marriage, when our kids were home, was about 90% of the stress. I know, some gay couples do have children, but, most don't. So, IF we consider ONLY heterosexual couples WITHOUT kids compared to gay couples WITHOUT kids, well, I imagine overall stress in the marriage is about the same. But, that was not separated out in this study, which, honestly, is a bit disingenuous. Seriously.

  209. @Michael, plenty of straight couples don’t have kids.

  210. This is a great article. My husband and I have been together for 25 years and married for 6 and this housekeeping thing has never ever been an issue. The key is to be with someone who's just as OCD as you and voila...harmony!

  211. I married my male partner not long after it was legalized nationally, and since then, I've noticed a set of emerging norms among other gay male marriages, which may be increasing partner happiness (or not). First off, there's clearly a trend toward extramarital "discretion," whereas before legal marriage, it was almost taken for granted that gay couples have open relationships, which wasn't hidden. And second, there's more attention to financial management as a couple. So it looks to me like the emerging bottom line in same sex marriage regarding expectations has to do adopting the eternal "social respectability and money management" aspects of traditional marriage. Divvying up chores isn't what's interesting about gay marriages.

  212. I think it is the kids. While some gay couples have kids. The majority do not. Kids, while sometimes wonderful, at best complicate things tremendously. Instead of morning sex, often it is kids jumping into your bed. After finally getting the kids to bed, it is not uncommon to be too tired yourself for anything else. You also end up managing your kids schedules and balancing tasks instead having as much time for each other. And last but not least, kids are expensive. People without kids can spend that money instead on things for each other like more and fancier dates, and trips. Though it may sounds like it. I don't regret having kids one bit. We still go out with each other once a month. Which is a far cry from several times a week it was before, but my wife and I have made it work. Life certainly isn't any easier and it is definitely more stressful because of having kids. But I think it also it likely will pay dividends in happiness once our kids are grown. It is the just the process between now and there which is sometimes fraught. My parents' marriage didn't survive it. However my grandparents on both sides and in-laws' marriages did.

  213. I have great respect for the author but found the article to be a restatement of what is already patently obvious about dividing domestic chores, traditional gender norms and expectations. I would rather know about sex, romance, fidelity, autonomy, identity, loyalty, possessiveness, jealousy, forgiveness, intimacy, etc...and any difference in how those are enacted in the context of straight and gay marriage and whether they result in differences in marital satisfaction.

  214. I suspect that kids is a huge factor on this analysis.

  215. While my male partner of thirty years and I did not have to struggle as much against sexist stereotypes or sexist upbringing when distributing household cleaning we still had to talk a lot to reach a mutually agreed upon understanding of what needed to be done, how often it had to be done, how many hours each task required, and who would do it. We came from different families of origin. His family of origin appears to have been more comfortable living in more cluttered spaces while getting together as a group to polish things up for visitors. My family assigned responsibilities to different members trying to keep things good enough so that little was done when visitors flowed through. It appears that good enough was a lower standard in my family. My family probably talked more about these things. For those who can afford it, we found it to be much easier to agree upon how much cleaning we wanted to pay professionals to provide. There were fewer family of origin issues and less risk of having one of us feel judged. In addition, at times when we decided to take some chores back, professional cleaners helped us understand how many hours they spent on each task, making it easier for us to reasonable divide the work. It felt more like joint decision making and less like unspoken expectations. We learned that there are no elves who come in the night to do the work that needs to be done.

  216. One important variable was missing: the role played by outside, hired help. Many gay households (coupled or not) hire maids and gardeners. I don't know many gay couples with children, but I would guess a significant number do have a nanny. So with hired help, many of the traditional roles do not need to be discussed or challenged --- they are out-sourced! When it comes to cooking, well it depends on who had the talent. Although many gay male couples I know live in urban enivironments which provide extensive delivery and dining options. (I am shocked by how many gay guys who can not cook.) The issue of non-monogamy in gay couples true, but are they really, truly an intimate couple or just roommates with deeply interconnected financial obligations? Even those who claim to be in a "committed" relationship, yet an open one, are just co-dependent and not soul mates from my many years of observation. That's just my experience. Overall an interesting study. Now compare Nordic hetero couples with gay ones. Let's see the results.

  217. @R Rodgers, huh? I don’t know how it is in Spain, but here in the US straight couples hire as much help as gay couples. It’s something that is determined by income level, not sexual orientation.

  218. When friends ask my partner or me "who proposed?," we always say "our tax man." And indeed he did: soon after the SCOTUS decision, he called to say that were we to marry, our tax preparation would be more streamlined (aka less costly) and we would likely see benefits in regards to returns. So we made an appointment at city hall (Not San Francisco -- too busy) and married the next week. Nothing has changed. I do all the cooking because I am better at it and I do the cleaning up afterward because I am faster. (However, I suspect he may have feigned his tortoise act knowing it would exhaust me to watch such slow motion.) For his part, he does all the trip planning, so all I have to do is pack.....and complain if I don't care for the destination or accommodations. Well balanced, I'd say.

  219. So -- Men married to men -- lowest distress Men married to women and women married to women, medium levels of distress. Women married to men -- highest levels of distress. The common factor here is women. This is true even in lesbian relationships, in which household chores are divided equally. Why? From what I've seen, men are more apt to let things slide, rather than making a fuss over them. And that's crucial to the success of any relationship.

  220. Hello, I am usually a supporter of NYTimes, but also a Data Scientist. I just want to highlight that this study has been conducted "[...] based on 10 days of dyadic diary data from 756 midlife U.S. men and women in 378 gay, lesbian, and heterosexual marriages. ". This means not only we take only 378 couples (around 120 for each category), but also only from the US, only midlife, and most probably preselected with some parameters. You don't need to have a PhD to understand that there is a huge bias, and while the researcher can say their p-values is below 0.05, common sense tells us that those findings are NOT generalizable !!!! It is the duty of the journalist to check the sources and to provide nuances instead of stating biased results.

  221. “Bias”? Not really. “Generalizability beyond sample characteristics needing to be demonstrated”? Of course. But surely matching the groups on demographic characteristics, even if this restricts ranges, is an essential first step. Matthieu seems to want everything at once! But that's not how any science proceeds. (I am a psychologist, experienced and published in research, and familiar with these methodological issues.)

  222. I'd be more satisfied were David Sedaris to weigh in.

  223. Fascinating research. As brianpower trumps brawn and equality trends towards the norm, this type of introspection becomes even more important.

  224. I'm a single guy & an observer of my friends & coworkers. The key to cooperation seems to be communication & caring about a partners needs. Men get most of the blame for lack of communication, but Womens Liberation in many cases has given female partners the idea that they must be heard, but don't have to listen anymore. That doesn't work. One straight couple I know is inspiring. They both listen & take each others needs into consideration, just like a gay couple & have been happily married for more than thirty years. It's simple to say, but hard for many people to do: Love your partner as yourself.

  225. @Doug Agreed. I see this in too many young (20-ish) women. It's all about me, me, me, me. They expect men to behave like gentleman (and they should), but they have no expectation of themselves to act like ladies and to treat men with respect. They don't treat themselves with respect much of the time either. Binge drink until you black out is a preferred pastime. Broad strikes here, admittedly, but I do see a lot of it.

  226. Can only speak for myself and my own experience, but I feel that my queerness by its very nature makes me a better partner. Both my girlfriend and I--via the process of realizing our own sexuality in a heteronormative world and coming out in that world--have done a great deal of soul searching and work to know ourselves which in turn helps us to state our emotional needs more clearly and address each other's needs in turn. In general, it just seems that we have more practice in emotional intelligence than a typical different-gender couple.

  227. This fits my experience as a gay man happily married to a gay man for over a decade. I do most of the food shopping and cooking and he does the laundry and it works out well. I know I had to figure out how to be a happy and rooted man in the world by myself. Even growing up in a very progressive community, the overriding message was that being gay was aberrant. We still have the usual issues but as far as feeling at ease in the world? We found our way to such a happy place.

  228. @Molly ​I don't think that's it at all. I've met lots of people who have overcome difficult situations who are jerks, and plenty of people who sail through life without a bump along the way who are delightful. (and vice versa,obviously) More likely, it was just your personality type to be introspective and have higher EQ. We tend to see out lives through the lens of our lived experience, but the older I get the more I think most of it is genetic. For example, I had a perfect childhood - loving parents, safe neighborhood, no illness or loss of loved ones - so I tend to credit my current happiness and stable relationships to that. But I only have to look at my sister, whose life and relationships are far different, to realize that I probably just lucked out with a decent mental health and intelligence.

  229. @mem oh I would never say that these are the only factors (see my qualifiers that this is only my experience and that I'm speaking in generalities and not universally). I've known plenty of wonderful straight people and truly awful gay people (even dated a couple of them). I just mean that I see realizing ones sexuality (something every straight person does as well, just with much less fanfare) crop up as a factor contributing to queer people's emotional intelligence more often than in my friend with partners of a different gender.

  230. "The woman does the housework" idea in heterosexual marriages is so deeply internalized that a common phrase among the married female associates at a national law firm was "I wish I had a wife."

  231. @Hypatia Back in the Golden Age of Television, there was almost always someone home to do the maintenance, upkeep and to take care of the kids, like a maid, a nanny, a retired uncle or aunt, or a grandparent. Often, it was because one of the parents, usually the mother, had died. This person was considered a valuable member of the household, the glue that held the family together and someone who could offer comic relief and sage advice. I don't know if this reflected real life or not, but it was a wonderful idea, and one worth resurrecting.

  232. @Hypatia In my household, "the woman" left me to raise our two young children alone, without assistance of any kind. And I'm not the only single parent father out there. I have met many working fathers who carry there weight, and often more, when it comes to "housework." I tire of these trite generalizations.

  233. @Hypatia Not disagreeing with you, but commenting from the other side of that law firm equation. As a man married to a female lawyer I started doing the bulk of chores when she went to a big firm. We move frequently and the balance of work and chores everywhere we go varies, so I knew this state of affairs was temporary and she had done same for me. While I embraced it, enjoyed it, and took pride in being the domestic anchor, it was not easy—in terms of time management or emotionally. I did think of the phrase “I wish I had a wife”—not to replace my partner as a human being but to do the things for me that I was doing for her. I was also working 45+ hours a week at a job that I loved where I could always do more work; I would be lying if I said the extra housework did not make it more difficult for me to accomplish things at work. The real truth is that regardless of what gender you and what kind of relationship you are in, law firms demand way too much, do very little in the way of spousal appreciation, and have either no realization of or have taken no steps to adjust to the fact that their employees are with people who also have demanding jobs and need emotional/professional support at times that the firm cannot control. Also, that 50s movie drama scene where the spouse makes dinner for the one who is working late, and they make a negative comment about it, and you (the one who made it) get upset: that is definitely not a gender thing.

  234. Lesbian here married for 24 yrs w/ kids. In general, I agree with the broad strokes of the article. Our larger friend circle is comprised mostly of straight couples with kids. And our male friends are definitely picking kids up at school, going to the bus stop, emptying the dishwasher etc. Probably more than those represented in the article. However, I'd say the intangible stuff - that mental and emotional energy of running the family - falls largely to straight women in a way that doesn't in my marriage. Scheduling doctor's appointments, arranging car pools, fielding sick calls from school in the middle of a meeting, being a girl scout cookie mom, planning dinners etc. - all that falls to the straight woman. And that is EXHAUSTING by itself but particularly exhausting when both parents are working full-time. I find that in my marriage and other same-sex marriages, that running of the household stuff is shared. An that is really helpful. OR, it is explicitly taken on by one and appreciated/acknowledged by the other spouse.

  235. @Kelly Your last paragraph here is just what I found, too, although I was in a same-sex couple with a man for 29 years (until his death--from old age). When work is either shared or--as you say--appreciated and acknowledged by the other, there is a satisfaction and pleasure in knowing that this is a true relationship. There is pleasure as well in the feeling that you are contributing to your partner's well-being. That is irreplaceable.

  236. @Kelly Yes, I agree with your point about the intangibles. My husband has always been terrific about doing his share of housework and parenting tasks outside the work day. But when the kids were young, there were *constant* interruptions in my workday, and my husband expressed frustration when I said I had to work during "family time." Even though he knew about the sick days and appointments and parent conferences and everything else, he couldn't truly grasp the overall impact. Finally I created a calendar that recorded all of the interruptions and tallied those hours each week. Being able to SEE the effect of being the go-to parent during the workday helped us restore balance and appreciation in our relationship. I imagine this happens in both straight and gay relationships, when only one has a job with flexibility.

  237. @Kelly Does it 'fall' to the straight women (in hetero relationships), or are many straight women 'taking it upon themselves'?? I tire of the stereotypical straight women who constantly 'complain' and belittle their men among the company of other straight women, considering them like another child for them to care for. (We've all seen the sitcoms and TV commercials as well, that do this very same thing...) Many straight women seem to take many such tasks upon themselves due to the firm belief that their men simply won't do the job as well. No one likes being nagged. No man likes knowing that his wife went into the marriage already assuming this or that about him. I believe many men just give up because with some women, they simply 'can't win' no matter what. I'm a hetero female, but yet, I really can't stomach your average hetero woman who's obsessed about 'being married'...judging the size of her own ring and that of other engaged/married women...who makes comments like 'ugh, my man expects me to thank him for putting his socks in the hamper'... 'all men cheat'....blah blah. You reap what you sow, and when certain hetero women think this way about men, that's precisely the man they are going to find themselves with. It becomes self-fulfilling.

  238. I have lived with my husband for 35 years. He is ten years younger than me. The secret? I make an attempt to let him know, as often as possible in as many ways as possible, that I love him. We both come from homes where this was not the norm. I also defer to him since this gives him a special power and reinforcement that helps him feel stronger, happier and more trusting. He never went to college. I have many professional degrees. We regularly discuss things and ask questions about life together. Our discussions, which are frequent, are very satisfying. He has a tendency to compare himself with others and has let me know that he felt intimidated by many of my friends due to his difference in formal education. So we also discuss what he has read online and with books, newspapers, and magazines. He is very curious and a natural learner. I make every attempt I can to reinforce this and to remind him that learning is lifelong and is not limited to formal schooling. Essentially, for a good relationship to work two people have to be committed to the relationship. If they are then it can grow. We need to continually nurture and support it with real love and sincerity like we would a child, a plant. This is our life. I don't think that this is a gay thing. It is really universal. As gay people we are given the opportunity to find a life that is often not modeled by our parents, neighbors. So this makes it a nice challenge.

  239. @Simon Sez Yes! Absolutely. My husband of 22 years and I kiss, hug, and say, "I love you" about 100 times a day. We sleep in each other's arms every night we can. We talk to each other constantly. We argue and we fight sometimes, but we get over it quickly and we grow from our conflict. And, as you say, we never forget that this is our life, and we wouldn't change a thing.

  240. @Simon Sez Believe straight marriages suffer because straight men (even unconsciously) want a sex object, a maid and an incubator rather than a friend they respect (they have same-sex friends, why do they want a spouse that is a friend?). As a straight woman and tomboy, my entire adult life was filled with frustration with heterosexual males, one of whom threatened my life. Sadly, there is a built-in gender inequality in straight marriages through physical size and strength inequality and centuries of male dominance. At age 70 I am a happily single straight female.

  241. Thank you for this excellent piece. The critical mass of open, socially accepted gay/lesbian marriages is validating what feminism has been contending for decades: gender is socially constructed and equality is better for everyone. This, of course, is why gay marriage has been so threatening to right-wing advocates of patriarchy. The data on happiness and attention to children is especially useful in countering arguments about the superiority of "traditional" heterosexual marriage.

  242. @Elizabeth MacLean. There were certainly valuable insights but the writers assumed "social construction", they did not show it. One other important little detail was skipped over too, as abysmal as heterosexual relationships are made out to be they are the only ones which produce children.

  243. @Elizabeth MacLean I know very few parents who have raised children of both genders (like I have) who believe gender is a completely social construct. Why some need to be so absolutist about it is honestly curious to me.

  244. @Carl: "heterosexual relationships are made out to be they are the only ones which produce children." Not sure you see this as a good or bad thing? And not all heterosexual couples do produce children.

  245. I read this article with great interest and sad to say, it confirmed my sense. In my heterosexual relationship of 40+ years, it's been a constant power struggle, (or should I say for me, a deferment to power.) My mother taught me it was a wife's duty to keep a marriage intact, and my husband's perfectly happy with that. For 30 years I was told, "if you won't do what I want, I'll find someone who will." When I finally began standing up for myself, I felt better, even if I was denied any compromise I was after. To me, men and women move through the world in decidedly different ways. I only seek compromise. My man seeks winning. I envy the women who have (happily) made a different choice.

  246. Going to take this opportunity to assert that I am just nuts about my hubby. I get what this article is saying about different approaches to household tasks, gender-assigned responsibilities that impact gay couples less than their heterosexual counterparts. But for me I feel it has more to do with the individual histories me and my guy bring to the equation. I’ve been out since college, a life of adventure and misadventure and one failed relationship that started when I was too young to commit and lasted way too long. Lessons learned. Not particularly eager to repeat that mistake. My other half came out very late in life, if he’ll forgive me for calling his 40s late in life. One botched go at having a boyfriend led to meeting me at our train stop. An awkward courtship followed, but somehow he got under my skin. Very different in a lot of ways. He’s Catholic, I’m not beholden to any religion. He’s unbelievably nice, me, brusque and snide sometimes. He’s generous, thoughtful … I mean, I can be at a part talking to someone about myself for 20 minutes, Charlie walks over and says to the person “How did your son’s surgery go?” Kind of a distinct contrast there. But oh my gosh, I never thought I could be so happy. We’re in our 18th year now, I just turned 61, we are so settled and so content. Husbands and wives, we extend our best wishes to you all.

  247. @Brian Wow. 32yo bi guy (tho mostly date men) in NYC. I could never imagine meeting a gay couple as content as you describe. Good for you.

  248. @Brian Please write and submit an essay to Modern Love :)

  249. I am long married, overall pretty happily, and I cannot figure out why, other than tremendously successful marketing, family pressure, or overly romaticized views of the institution, we are still getting married at all. The financial benefits? If so, let's work to change how financial benefits are allocated. Relationships, parenting, licenses, taxes, insurance, let's see each for it's own properties instead of conflating them all in the illogical and emotionally confused state known as marriage.

  250. @RE During the campaign for same-sex marriage, advocates identified 1000+ rights, obligations, and legal benefits that were conferred on married couples. You can try to untie that Gordian knot as many gay couples did, but the legal costs of replicating even a fraction of those rights gets expensive very quickly. Disbanding all those rights that each couple would have to secure on their own would turn marriage into an institution skewed toward the wealthy.

  251. @RE It is all about the benefits, which is why same-sex couples fought so hard for the right to marry. I agree — the government should not privilege people based on their romantic/sexual choices. I'd rather see them go to those who care-give, which all of us will do and need at various points in our life. Not likely to happen anytime soon: https://aeon.co/ideas/marriage-should-not-come-with-any-social-benefits-or-privileges

  252. @RE Because shared finances, legal obligations, tax benefits, insurance and so on, makes a corporation. Sharing the "...illogical and emotionally confused state" of a marriage makes a marriage. And after 25 years of marriage, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

  253. Correlation is not causation. While these authors have shown a correlation between household chores and happiness, such a finding does not prove the causation. There are many differences between hetero sexual and same sexual couples. Children, income, housing status or place of residence. All of these factors are likely to be different between these two groups. To isolate chores as the source of marital happiness fails to establish the causation which the authors are suggesting

  254. This was a surprisingly good article from the New York Times. Much better than typical. Thank you for writing it.

  255. https://www.economist.com/britain/2020/01/09/why-lesbian-couples-are-more-likely-to-divorce-than-gay-ones Cannot get past the title of this without thinking of the sky-high divorce rates among lesbians. The NYT ran a similar article earlier this week (albeit sans inflammatory title) discussing the gender imbalance between husbands and wives wrt household labor. The gist of the comments being--women value certain things moreso than men do and want those things done to a higher standard than men are willing to perform.

  256. The phrase "a woman in the household keeping track of emotional temperature" describes where a lot of heterosexual women's energy is devoted, and that is an exhausting job to take on.

  257. There is not a single sentence in this article that comes as any surprise to straight women.

  258. "But same-sex couples are less likely than different-sex couples to assign “women’s work” to the partner with fewer work hours." How I wish THAT were true. Signed - Lower Work Hours Gay Husband

  259. I'm 73, married 48 years, just finished shoveling the sidewalk with my husband. Last night I cooked and he washed, tonight it will be the reverse. Equality works!

  260. I'd better do more dishes!

  261. Confirming the reality that straight marriage has been and continues to be a bad bill of goods for women. Many industries profit from the old fairy tale. Women, resist!

  262. Well, it's probably a very small group, but they left out "man does most of the dishwashing." I do most of the dishwashing, I'm a man. I do all the cooking, most of the shopping. I did more hours child care than my wife (who did plenty), including al the stuff @kelly is talking about, picking sick kids up at school, dealing with playdates. Just saying. It's not (quite) all men.

  263. Hate to burst your bubble, but domestic violence rates are pretty comparable in same-sex and opposite-sex marriages/relationships. So, we need to do much more substantive research to better understand these complex dynamics and to foster more equal, respectful, healthy, and safe relationships for all people.

  264. "Group X is more something than group Y" Welcome back, stereotypes! We missed you! The Left most of all. How could we think we could ever do without you? As for "the secret". It's called a honeymoon. It will end quite soon and then all the other stereotypes will come back too.