Are there any similarities between how same sex attracted couples and opposite sex attracted couples view relationships? Research indicates that same sex attracted couples may have very similar relationship desires and needs as opposite sex attracted couples. But how same sex and opposite attracted couples develop, may impact upon how they manage and understand relationships.
Due to traditional gender roles, opposite sex attracted couples develop compatibility within their relationships. For instance, the traditional roles of wife being the principle carer and home maker, and the husband being the main bread winner, create compatibility. Traditionally there has always been clearly defined roles for opposite sex attracted couples that increased compatibility and reduced conflict. But as society has developed over time, there is now the potential for decreased compatibility, due to the change in gender roles.
Opposite sex attracted couples today face different types of issues to their parents and grand-parents, who may have upheld more traditional gender roles. If a couple has been socially conditioned to more traditional gender roles they may now be facing gender compatibility confusion. If the husband is a stay at home dad does he still wash the car like his father or does that now become the domain of the wife? Who organises the finances and pays the bills, who organises the car repairs and fixes taps, who does the washing and ironing?
There have been many traditional gender roles that created compatibility, which now may be creating compatibility confusion. It may be now more important for couples to clearly define their roles and responsibilities in the relationship, and work towards creating new compatibility. Today, opposite sex attracted couples can no longer presume that they will have relationship compatibility, similar to their parents. Couples may now need to negotiate and define exactly what is compatibility for their relationship. They will also need to be sensitive to how their partner may have been socially conditioned to perform particular roles within relationships.
In contrast, same sex attracted couples have always experienced gender role incompatibility within their romantic relationships. Research has indicated that same sex attracted couples may consciously choose to develop compatibility. For example, if one partner loves to cook their partner may feign a disinterest in cooking to reduce conflict and create compatibility. Research has indicated that same sex attracted couples are less likely to stick to traditional gender roles and are more likely to be egalitarian in their relationships. But social conditioning may still impact upon how same sex attracted couples manage compatibility. One partner may still expect to perform particular roles that were traditional in their family of origin.
It is important for couples to acknowledge their individual strengths and weaknesses. This includes where they compliment each other, and where they need to create compatibility. Being sensitive to your partner’s social conditioning and needs may assist you to improve your relationship and happiness.
Christopher Swane - Relationship Counselling and Psychotherapy - Wellington New Zealand