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Why equality matters in same-sex relationships

With Valentine’s Day upon us, love, romance and the yearning for a satisfying relationship often becomes more magnified than at other times during the year.

If you are in a committed relationship, it’s not unusual to wonder if it will last. If you can’t seem to make that perfect connection, you may ask yourself what you’re doing wrong. And if you are the type of person to go from one romantic hook up to the next, finding a partner who will rescue you from what you may think is a road to nowhere may seem impossible.

To help us decipher some of the science behind romance, lust and love, we thought Valentine’s Day would be a good time to ask Charlotte Markey, a professor of psychology at Rutgers University-Camden who recently studied the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, to help us understand which relationships seem to work, why others don’t and how to look at your partner in a realistic light.

The study – which Markey co-authored with Patrick Markey (Villanova University), Christopher Nave and Kristin August (both at Rutgers-Camden) – surveyed 72 gay couples and 72 lesbian couples to explore how partners’ compatibility affected the quality of their relationships.

Her discovery: Lesbian women who find their partners too controlling and gay men whose significant others have personality traits that swing too far to one extreme might want to reconsider sticking around for the long-term.

“We found that women with partners who are domineering overwhelmingly report low satisfaction in their relationships,” she says. “Women value equality and don’t want to be bossed around. This finding suggests that over time assertiveness doesn’t wear very well with women.”
For men, the study found that any extremes in their partners’ personalities – whether they were overly passive or domineering, for example – led to discord in the relationship.

In both men and women, individuals who were distrustful and ambivalent to the happiness of others tended to report low levels of relationship quality.

These findings may suggest associations between relationship satisfaction and how individuals interacted socially. “For example, it may be that if you’re more interpersonally awkward, you exhibit negative qualities that cause others to not like you as much, which means you have less positive relationships,” Markey says. “This may become a cycle: Socially awkward people have bad relationships, which devolve into worse relationships.”

So, what should you do if you think you’re at risk of finding yourself in bad relationship after bad relationship? Markey suggests that you spend some time working on yourself before jumping into the next relationship. Working with a therapist may have long-term benefits for both you and your future significant other.

Also, be cognizant of your partner’s traits and don’t dismiss them as behaviors that can be changed. “If your partner is domineering now, they likely will be that way 10 years from now,” Markey says.