Whilst the lesbian, gay and bisexual community has been subjected to intense political and social debate about our right to marry and raise children, there is very limited research conducted into the intimate relationships of LGB people. Most available research is from the United States.
Using data from 25,348 individuals in the UK and 9,206 individuals in Australia, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter from the University of Queensland have conducted the first large, nationally representative study to investigate the quality of intimate relationships of gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual people in Australia and the UK.
Published on December 7, their research, "Sexual Identity and Relationship Quality in Australia and the United Kingdom," confirms what those of us in committed same-sex relationships already know - we're as happy or happier than our hetero mates.
“Relationship quality in same-sex couples was as high as in heterosexual couples in the United Kingdom, and higher in Australia," the researchers wrote.
Sadly, outcomes for bisexual people are nowhere near as good, with bisexual people reporting "the lowest relationship quality in both countries."
According to the researchers, “Our results provide robust evidence to combat deep-rooted and erroneous social perceptions of same-sex relationships being conflictual, unhappy, and dysfunctional.”
Same-sex couples were not allowed to marry in the UK or Australia at the time this data was collected, and an inability to marry, minority stress and the need to hide our sexuality would be expected to lead to poorer relationship outcomes for same-sex couples.
So why are we doing so well?
The researchers found that same-sex couples (particularly lesbian women) are more equal in their division of household labour than different-sex couples. Interestingly though, they found that biological lesbian mothers do more childcare than non-biological lesbian mothers.
In different-sex relationships, men and women tend to divide the housework by gender, which leads to unequal households and unequal household burdens are associated with poor relationship outcomes, including marital conflict and divorce.
The researchers also found two other factors that increase relationship satisfaction for same-sex couples: they are likely to be more invested in the relationship than different-sex couples and may feel more connected to their social group.
So why are bisexual people so unhappy?
The researchers found several possibilities.
Bisexuals are a minority within a minority, which increases their minority stress. They are often typecast as being “confused (with bisexuality being regarded as a transitional phase), uncommitted, unfaithful, and promiscuous.”
Bisexual people may experience less social, legal and institutional supports than lesbian and gay people and there seems to be more jealousy in relationships where one partner is bisexual. Bisexual people are also more likely to experience intimate partner violence than gay, lesbian and heterosexual people.
The researchers say their findings “support policies that seek to legalize same-sex marriage and parenting rights. They also highlight the need to give further attention to bisexual individuals as a distinct group because their outcomes are comparatively poor.”