“How to Make Your Marriage Gayer: Same-sex spouses feel more satisfied with their partners than heterosexual ones. What’s the secret?” (NYT):
Women in different-sex marriages reported the highest levels of psychological distress. Men in same-sex marriages reported the lowest. Men married to women and women married to women were in the middle, recording similar levels of distress.
Complex theories are proposed, especially regarding dishes (presumably the author has never met an actual man, e.g., Don Gorske, and therefore does not realize that an American man in his native environment does not generate any dirty dishes, only McDonald’s wrappers).
Could there be a simpler explanation? What if men get on women’s nerves after a few years (half of women will stop wanting sex with a husband after four years of marriage, says Good Housekeeping)? This makes those who identify as “women” unhappy. As a reflection of that and being constantly around a resentful person, those who identify as “men” in heterosexual marriage are not too happy.
This would explain why homosexual relationships are less distressing: there is no man to make a woman unhappy.
It wouldn’t be enough to explain why male homosexual couples are happier than female homosexual couples. For that, though, we could just posit the simple statement: “women are generally more open to expressing unhappiness.” Now everything in the article is explained without reference to who washes which dish.
[See “The happiest children in Spain live with two daddies”: “children who lived with their two mothers were extremely unhappy, one of the most dramatic differences in any two populations presented at the conference” (i.e., a same-sex marriage in which both adults identify as female is the most miserable situation from a child’s perspective, even worse than having separated or divorced different-sex parents).]
(The author suggests an alternative explanation for why male homosexual partners are happy: they’re having sex with their friends and neighbors.
One distinctive strength of male couples is that their tendency to candidly discuss respective preferences extends to sexuality as well, including choices that may startle some heterosexuals. For example, while the extent of non-monogamy in gay-male partnerships is often exaggerated, openly non-monogamous relationships are more common than among lesbians or heterosexuals. Many gay couples work out detailed agreements about what kinds of sexual contact are permissible outside the relationship, under what circumstances and how often.
If we assume that sex with new friends makes people happy (litigators told us that the only thing that makes Americans happier than this is getting paid to have sex with new friends), this would also account for male-male couples being happier than female-female. )
Separately, I think this article is consistent with a long line of American journalistic thinking. Americans can become like the French and run an awesome low-cost (as a percent of GDP) health care system. Americans can become like the Japanese and give up both guns and violent crime. Heterosexual Americans who identify as “men” can become just like homosexual Americans who identify as “men”, except when in the bedroom, and extra happiness will ensue. (Diversity is our strength, but we don’t want glum heterosexual married people. Everyone needs to strive for the level of happiness achieved by homosexual married people.)
Some fun reader comments:
Full post, including comments
Molly in Boston: 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.
AW, NYC: They make more money and don’t have kids. Simple.
A New Yorker: As a gay man who has been life-long single (by choice), I would like to note that this article might be missing the ultimate summary. Among gay men, only those who really want to get married and have kids, go that far. That maybe why their marriages work better. Hence, the corollary could be that maybe fewer heterosexuals should get married and even fewer should have kids.
GP, from Oakland: This is fake news. First, the article makes the mistake of conflating correlation with causality. “Doing the dishes” may correlate with “marital unhappiness,” or whatever, but the author doesn’t even try to show causality. Couples who share the dish-doing might also enjoy greater wealth creation or longer lives, but that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with dishes. Second, why look at only one household task–one that typically women have been expected to perform? Why not look at lubricating the deadbolts or replacing missing shingles on the roof? Because in fact, the “studies” knew the answer they were seeking before they asked the question. Not exactly scientific. Third, when you’re writing about some group or other, always reverse the order to see how it reads. How about an article entitled “Gay Couples Should be more Hetero” or the like? Immediately the bias becomes clear. Articles like this encourage right-wing pushback, and for good reason. The articles are biased, the logic is specious, and the data corrupted.
Angelica, Pennsylvania: Dishwashing is just symptom of a larger, hidden issue not openly discussed in the article: women are expected to fully carry the burden of planning and managing the household. It’s meaningless if my husband washes dishes when I have to ask him vs him taking initiative. If I have to manage my “partner” the way I manage my kids, that is a problem that causes discord. Who wants to have sex with someone who needs the same level of management as kids do? I’d rather be single in that scenario.
David H, D.C.: I bet that a study of second marriages among heterosexual couples would reveal far less stress for women. [At a minimum, they’d have a lot more cash to spend if they planned that first marriage properly!]
Amanda, Nashville: 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.
British Columbian: Also, I would expect that hetero couples engage in child-rearing more often than same-sex couples do. If that is the case, it’s well-known that much tension between partners arises from the stresses of child-rearing. So this could well be another explanatory factor.
Charlie L: It’s always “dishes and laundry”, the wicked duo of drudgery. Worse, actually, than being shackled in the hull of a slave ship. Two jobs which are done indoors and have been made vastly quicker and easier by machines invented by men. [A Bill Burr fan?]
Stephen, NYC: The problem with opposite sex couples, is that men and women may be lovers, but they are also enemies. It’s a paradox. [Let’s send some woke “allies” to his apartment!]
Caroline st Rosch, Hong Kong: There is a theory that you should have 3 loves in your life – your first, young, romantic love; the love you have children with and the love you grow old with. [Until the “love you grow old with” lawyers up and sues: “When 80-Year-Old Parents Divorce” (nytimes, same date!)]
Nancy Robertson, Mobile, Alabama: “Would you like to guarantee the marriage and birth rates plunge even lower than they are today? Then go ahead and insist that straight men do more housework.” [She might have met Don Gorske!]