The ‘Secret’ To A Happy Marriage All Same-Sex Couples Know
It’s 2020 — guys, it’s time for you to do your share of the domestic duties.
It shouldn’t have to be said — again — but yet here we are. In the same week that marriage historian Stephanie Coontz noted how hetero marriages could learn a lot from same-sex couples when it comes to equality, came yet again another article on the ongoing struggle (for women) to equal the load.
Coontz references new studies that indicate that women married to men, aka hetero marriages, have the highest levels of psychological distress. Gay spouses had the lowest while lesbian spouses and men married to women were somewhere in between.
Because women are still doing the bulk of the domestic duties.
Ask me why women are much more likely to leave their husbands.
As Coontz notes, “For most heterosexuals, marriage continues to increase the gender stereotyping of duties.”
Same-sex couples are able to escape that because when you have two wives or two husbands, who does what cannot be an assumption based — wrongly and frustratingly for hetero women — on gendered roles.
When I wrote about what hetero couples can learn from same-sex couples awhile back, I referenced a study about how same-sex couples divvy up the child care. It’s more equally shared by about 74 percent of gay couples versus 38 percent of straight couples. They also more equally shared the responsibility of caring for a sick child, 62 percent versus 32 percent for straight couples. And who makes more or works more had little to do with who did what domestic chore and how often, unlike in different-sex couples.
This led to same-sex couples feeling a lot more satisfied with the division of labor than women in different-sex marriages.
This is not surprising. But how does this happen? What’s their secret?
They talked about it.
Hardly a “secret.”
Why aren’t hetero couples having these conversations?
In part because we gals aren’t always vocal about our needs and wants. The survey found that 20 percent of coupled hetero women said they hadn’t talked about how to divide chores, but wish they had. At the same time, 15 percent of women in same-sex couples had those conversations. According to the survey:
“Perhaps because they can’t default to gender, people in same-sex couples are in more of a position to have these conversations. That’s probably the biggest takeaway of the survey: how important it is to talk and say what you want, rather than stay silent, not wanting to start a fight, making assumptions, and then letting things fester.”
Talk. Say what you want. Stop making assumptions.
Gals, we got this!
But talking may not be enough to bust up deeply ingrained gendered beliefs, which is why I’m a big fan of relationship contracts. It helps a couple clarify their goals and needs, come to mutual agreements and because it’s written, hold each person accountable.
And it also helps keep a couple aligned from the inevitable societal push back that keeps enforcing those gendered roles.
When I spoke to law professor Deborah A. Widiss a few years ago, before same-sex couples could legally wed in all 50 states, she was concerned they might start to take on more gendered roles once they could wed, in part because marriage laws tend to incentivize specialization.
Clearly that hasn’t happened.
Which means something is keeping hetero men and women stuck in gendered roles even though women don’t want to be.
It’s men. Hetero men.
As writer Andrew Solomon says of his arrangement with his partner, “If there’s one thing same-sex parents could teach is that it’s not that one of us is ‘really’ the mom and one is ‘really’ the dad. Those are irrelevant concepts. We’re just both in this together.”
Repeat after me — “We’re just both in this together.”
Gals, if you don’t want to be a housewife whose domestic tasks are based solely on society’s expectations of what a “wife” is and does, and if you can’t find a man who fully believes that you’re “in this together” and who will honor that no matter what (like you decide to have kids), it might be time to ask yourself if marriage is truly going to give you what you want.
Want to learn how to create a relationship contract? (Of course you do!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore (please do) or order it on Amazon. And we’re now on Audible.