I think we’d all agree that relationships are relationships—and love is love—regardless of your sexual orientation. But according to many top relationship experts (and some scholarly research), there are plenty of things that same-sex couples are consistently doing better than straight ones.
Maybe that’s maintaining healthier friendships with past partners, maybe it’s approaching parenthood in a refreshingly equal way, or maybe it’s simply negotiating the more troublesome moments that any couple faces with a healthier sense of optimism. Whatever the case, we’ve compiled all of the pointers that any straight couple could learn from same-sex one right here—straight from the experts. And if you’re looking for more great relationship advice, don’t miss these 15 Signs Your Partner Is Marriage Material.
Forget About “Us” and “Them”
“In many straight relationships, the men have their ‘boys nights’ and the girls have their ‘girls night,’ as though men and women cannot be friends with one another,” notes Juliette Prais, CEO of Pink Lobster Dating and Matchmaking. “This also forces the husbands to befriend each other even if they don’t like one another, and vice versa. In gay relationships, there is no segregation of a particular gender (apart from in the bedroom of course). So if gay women and gay men can be friends, why can’t straight women and straight men be friends?” To make your group dates even better, check out the 8 Exclusive Trips to Take With Friends.
They Know That Those Who Mind Don’t Matter
If someone doesn’t like your relationship, well that’s just too bad for them. “A lot of gay couples have learned to take the judgments of others in stride and to move forward,” says Chris Armstrong, a Certified Relationship Coach in the Washington D.C. area. “Straight couples should really take this lesson to heart. Live your relationship life as you see fit. Friends that want to judge you are not friends.” For more great relationship advice, don’t miss the 50 Best Bonding Activities for Married Couples.
Open Relationships Can Work
“Research indicates that the rate of open relationships in higher in gay couples,” says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, founder of online relationship community Relationup and relationship therapist. “Many of those open relationships are very successful and something that heterosexual couples have a harder time pulling off.” But there’s no reason it has to be this way—read up on 15 Ways You Can Actually Make An Open Marriage Work.
Sometimes You Really Do Need to Talk Things Out
Some straight couples have a hard time hashing things out, but there are times when it’s really necessary. “When there are two women in a relationship, there is always a great deal more communication, which helps to get to the bottom of any issues which may be boiling beneath the surface,” Prais points out. “Straight couples often mask over the issues and don’t communicate enough—keep talking!” And if your relationship is only just beginning, be sure to check out these 40 Irresistible First Date Ideas.
Honesty Is Key
With each other, but also with yourself and those important to you. “Take a cue from couples who are out,” suggests April Masini, relationship expert and founder of a relationship advice forum. “For many of these couples, they are more honest with their families and friends and work colleagues than they have been in the past, because coming out has been a big step. Once that issue is broached and processed (and continually processed), the relationships all around them change, and become more honest.” And speaking of honesty: here are 17 Secrets You Should Never Keep From Your Partner.
Don’t Get Hung Up on Stereotypes
It’s pretty difficult for both partners to both fulfill traditional gender roles in a gay relationship, so they simply don’t. “In many straight relationships, men and women are often worried about fulfilling their roles and forget to just be themselves,” Prais says. “In gay relationships, we can just be ourselves. When possible, forget about the outside world and who you are ‘meant’ to be.”
It’s Okay to Be Friendly With Exes
Being friends with an ex is generally considered a red flag to straight people, but research shows that female same-sex partners are able to stay in the same social circle—and even be friends, after they break up. Of course, this isn’t possible for every set of exes—some people never stop having romantic feelings for each other—but it doesn’t hurt to be more open minded about what having a relationship with an ex means.
Be Friends With Each Other
“In lesbian couples, the women are often best friends as well as lovers, this means that they know each other on a deeper level and can therefore support one another and truly feel how the other is feeling,” Prais says. “Rather than always having to ask ‘what are you thinking about?’ we often just know!”
That Marriage Matters
When you take the right to marriage for granted, it’s easy to brush it off as a formality. “For years, hetero couples would say they don’t need a piece of paper to confirm their commit, but now we can see how it really is important for a host of legal reasons, as well as the knowledge that we can love anyone we choose and have equal rights to marry,” says Susan Trombetti, a matchmaker. So if you’re feeling blasé about walking down the aisle or the fact that you’re already married, it might be time to reevaluate your thinking.
To Be More Attentive
Thoughtfulness goes really far. “Women are often more attentive with one another and focus on the little things as well as the big things,” Prais says. “Small gestures such as a note on her pillow or her favorite chocolate in her handbag can be a reminder of how much you truly think about each other.”
Not to Wait Wait to Solve Problems
“As a relationship coach, I have found that gay couples are a lot more willing to address issues sooner—instead of letting things fester,” Armstrong says. “In my experience, gay couples live and love from the view that life is short and loving in misery is no fun, whereas straight couples live and love from the lens that life happens and negative relationship experiences and strain are par for the course.” Know that it’s worth taking the time and making the effort to work things out.
To Fight for Your Relationship
On a similar note, stick with it when the going gets tough. “Gay couples fought for their rights to be in accepted marriages, so they have a heightened sense of the definition of a relationship and the value of a marriage,” says Vikki Ziegler, relationship expert and divorce attorney. “I find that gay couples don’t jump into divorce as easily as straight couples, which is a key value that any couple can take away from.”
That Anything Goes When It Comes to Parenting
“Studies and statistics show that gay parents may have more well-rounded children than straight parents,” Prais points out. A large part of this is likely that gay couples need to plan very specifically to have children, meaning they are extremely well-prepared when a child comes into their lives. “Secondly, there is no clear gender divide in their parenting, and therefore the child does not have to go to their dad for one thing and their mother for another. Both parents can give them everything!”
Take a cue from same-sex couples and forget what roles “Mom” and “Dad” are supposed to play respectively—do what works for you!
That Self-Awareness is Crucial
“The whole process of coming out in a hetero-biased world demands a lot of introspection and self-knowledge,” says Jane Reardon, a marriage and family therapist and founder of the RxBreakup app. “That knowledge includes learning about what you want and what you need and that it’s okay to say it out loud. Normalizing expressing your needs, wants and feelings is definitely a tip many hetero couples could take on board.”
You Should Never Let Self-Care Fall By The Wayside
Looking good is a pretty great way to keep the passion alive in your relationship. “It is often a priority to gay men that they feel good about their looks and are attractive to their partners,” Milrad says. “As a result, they tend to take better care of themselves physically than heterosexual couples and increase the likelihood that their attraction will enhance their sexual passion for one another.” So go ahead, get that new outfit, invest in regular hair cuts, facials or whatever else will help you feel like you’re at the top of your game!
That Your Relationship Doesn’t Have to Fit Into a Box to Be Great
Plain and simple: Gay couples know that their relationships don’t have to be like everyone else’s in order to be successful. “Traditional relationships aren’t the only way to arrive at happiness and love,” Trombetti says. If what you have going on right now in your relationship isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to change things up.
That Sex Shouldn’t Be Rushed
“It’s important for both individuals in a gay relationship to orgasm, not necessarily at the same time, but to make time and consider one another,” Prais says. The focus is not so much on getting it done quickly, but making sure both sides are satisfied. “Long-term loving relationships should be about each other and not just about yourself in the bedroom.”
There Are Times When Your Partner Comes Before Your Family
The age-old tension with the in-laws definitely still can exist with gay couples, but often for different reasons that with straight couples. “A lot of times, hetero couples take years to sort out family allegiances. Typically, one of the hetero partners’ family is less than thrilled that they have lost priority status and are not giving up, marriage or no marriage,” says Reardon.
This can cause issues when the partner hasn’t made it totally clear that they’re a separate unit from their parents now that they’re an adult. “On the other hand, gay couples have already gone through the ordeal of coming out to their families, automatically making them markedly different from their own hetero families. Whether their coming out was immediately accepted or met with judgment and rejection, there remains a basic, fundamental divide and partner loyalty wins the day.”
To Let Loose
Be open to new experiences as a couple, and you’ll find that life is a whole lot more exciting. “Let me be clear—what I am referring to is being yourself, both as a partner and as a duo,” Amstrong says. “I am also referring to taking social chances and meeting new people. Having a good time and keeping the relationship fresh are so much easier when we are comfortable letting loose, trying new hobbies and date night ideas, and being a little vulnerable and carefree along the way.”
To Keep Your Cool
Fighting is normal, but it really needs to be done in a fair and civil way. “Same-sex couples argue less and in a more respectful and quiet manner,” Prais notes. “This is obviously healthy and has been shown statistically to be highly beneficial for a long-term relationship.”
You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Experiment
“For the most part, gay men are more open to sexual experimentation than heterosexual couples,” Milrad says. “Bringing levity and playfulness to the bedroom is a skill worth learning.”
You Should Prioritize Loyalty
Sometimes straight couples struggle with loyalty, feeling more attached to friends and family than to their partner. “Gay couples have a strong sense of loyalty to one another,” Ziegler says. “They ride or die with their partner and show a level of respect that we can learn from and emulate.”
You Can Stay Fit Together
Of course, not all gay couples are fit, but according to Reardon, staying in shape physically is a priority for many gay men. “Obviously there are health reasons to stay in good shape, but for couples, the result of being ripped is better blood flow, more neurotransmitter production, higher hormone levels and—let’s face it—a hotter sex life. “
That Authenticity Counts
There’s no need to play your cards close to the vest, but so many straight couples do. “As same sex couples have generally needed to ‘come out’ and deal with anything surrounding this, it has made them more authentic, and stops them from hiding true feelings,” Prais says.
You Should Focus on Your Strengths
“Find your compromises and strength areas,” Armstrong suggests to straight pairs. “From my experience, gay couples are a lot more consistent about living with an understanding of who brings what to the table and how that extends to focus areas. Who is the social planner? Who worries about money? Who remembers the birthdays?” Figure out what each of you is good at and work to your strong suits.
You Should Keep Things On the Positive Side
Research has shown that gay men and lesbian women tend to be more upbeat and optimistic when presented with relationship challenges. This allows for collaborative problem solving in the place of pointing fingers. So next time an issue arises with your S.O., try keeping things upbeat and hopeful rather than resorting to defensiveness or criticism.
You Should Know Each Other Outside of Hobbies and Interests
Straight couples often think they’re a good match because they’re interested in the same things, but this isn’t always the case. “Looking for a same-sex partner for a relationship can be more difficult, as you just don’t know who is and who is not gay when you are out and about,” Prais says. “This means that gay men and women spend time looking for ‘the one’ and will have more in common as they find out about them more in advance. It’s best not to rush into a relationship based on superficial attributes and rather get to know each other as people.”
Learn That You Can’t Control Your Partner
According to research out of the University of California Berkeley, gay couples are also less likely to resort to controlling or hostile tactics to get what they want from their partner. Unfortunately, this behavior occurs much more often in heterosexual relationships. Instead of trying to take charge of your S.O.’s life, do your best to let them find their own path.
You Need to Be More Active in the Bedroom
“For the most part, gay couples have sex more often than heterosexual couples, and frequent, satisfying sex is an important aspect of a satisfying relationship,” Milrad explains. “Research shows that couples’ happiness in their relationship is correlated to having an active sex life.”
You Should Be Social Together
Sometimes straight couples get into the habit of sitting in front of the TV and eating dinner every night. Instead of letting yourself get stuck in a rut, go out and do some exciting things together. “Many gay couples spend time quality together outside the home eating out, holidaying, going to cultural events, etc.,” says Prais. “This allows you to talk about different things, keep the interest alive, and have fun!” Need help brainstorming ways to break away from your routine? Check The 50 Best Bond Activities for Married Couples.
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