Common Predictors Of Divorce Among Same-Sex And Heterosexual Couples

For decades, researchers have been intrigued by studying factors that seem to make marriages last and discovering those that contribute to an eventual divorce or separation. However, most of these studies have focused on heterosexual couples, as data from same-sex unions is still relatively new in the U.S—until now. A newly published study examined both same-sex and heterosexual marriages and looked at common predictors of relationship dissolution. The findings, published in Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, shed some light on key factors that influence the success or failure of both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.


Methodology And Key Findings

Researchers in Vermont studied a mix of male-male, male-female, and female-female partnerships (515 couples total) from 2002 to 2014. Overall, for all forms of partnerships, the longer the relationship lasted and older ages of the partners increased the relationship’s success. Interestingly, they found no differences in separation rates between same-sex couples who had a legally recognized union and those who did not.


The study also found that male-male couples were the least likely to divorce or separate, while female-female couples were twice as likely as male-male couples to terminate their relationship. Heterosexual couples were more likely than male-male couples and less likely than female-female couples to dissolve their union.


Predictors of Marital Success

After the data from this longitudinal study was analyzed, several key factors for marital success were found. For all couple types together, each year of relationship length reduced the likelihood of a breakup by 9%; each additional year of age of the partners lowered the odds of a breakup by 2%; and each unit of increase in relationship quality reduced the likelihood of separation by 61%.


For female-female couples, which the study found to be the most at risk for separation, each year of increase in education of the partners reduced the likelihood of a breakup by 16%. Also, each unit of increase in relationship quality reduced the likelihood of separation by 82%.


Future Implications

This study is one of the first of its kind to explore long-term relationships in both same-sex and heterosexual couples. While there is a lot of follow-up research and work to be done, this study provides a solid foundation from which to further explore factors that contribute to healthy, long-term relationships.


“Our study is important not only for its findings but also because of its methodology. By following the same demographically-matched couples over a 12-year period, we identified both similarities and differences in relationship dissolution according to sexual orientation and gender,” said Kimberly Balsam, the author of the study and a clinical psychologist at Palo Alto University. “Intimate relationships are dynamic, and longitudinal designs allow us to capture these changes over time in a more nuanced way.”


Whether you are in a same-sex or heterosexual partnership, your relationship is bound to have its ups and downs. If your marriage is suffering, Lee Tyler Family Law, P.C., a dedicated collaborative divorce lawyer, is here to help you. Contact our friendly office today at (503) 233-8868 to speak to a compassionate Portland same-sex divorce attorney.

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