10 Ways Modern Gay Relationships Differ From Straight Ones
We all like to preach that love is love and that all relationships should be the same. But that’s not exactly the case, is it? Alright, alright, don’t get your panties in a bunch! We didn’t mean it like that! All relationships are equally worthy (or should be) in the eyes of the law, and love really is love. The Supreme Court says so, and we wholeheartedly agree!
But the fact remains that the dynamic of same-sex relationships is quite different than the one the majority of straight couples have.
Some of the differences are easy to explain. When no societal stereotypes are pressuring either of the partners, the way the couple goes about their daily life changes. Some traditionalists (and bigots) can’t seem to grasp this concept.
Stereotypes, gender-specific (and oppressive) roles, and other nonsense that straight couples have to deal with aren’t exactly the main issue in same-sex marriages or partnerships. Oh, Lord, who does the dishes when there are two men in the house? Well, surely they have a system! They don’t throw dirty plates out the window, do they now?
There’s little room for traditional gender roles in gay relationships. Just ask any pan, bi, queer, or fluid person out there which of their relationships had more equality among the partners — same-sex relationships or straight ones? Well, queer people have been fighting for equality all their lives. What’s more, the fight is still ongoing. So, it’s safe to say the answer probably isn’t the heterosexual relationships.
But how does that equality manifest? And are there any other differences in dynamics?
The Money Talk
A lot of heterosexual couples argue about money. Money issues can break even the most stable relationships. And, it comes as no surprise that same-sex couples have similar problems. After all, we live in trying economic times, and money weighs heavily on everyone. It seems that the financial crisis managed to bring us what many societies still struggle with — equality. It affected everyone, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, or any other status.
So, it’s safe to say that, apart from the filthy rich ones, gay couples have money issues just like people in straight relationships. We’re guessing that Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka don’t really argue about a distinct lack of money. Although, they surely argue about something money-related. But how do they, and other gay and lesbian couples, manage money? What’s the dynamic?This Smart Money Saving Tips for Gay Couples from Forbes can answer some of our questions.
The Lack of Societal Gender Stereotypes
Gay and lesbian relationships have a different dynamic than straight ones. They do not have to conform to the oppressing gender roles. But are they really free from all forms of societal pressure?
Despite the painstaking battle of many generations of women to be treated as equal to men, many people still think that one partner (the male one) should be the breadwinner. At the same time, the other partner (the female one) should stay at home and contribute in different ways. Men should bring home the bacon, and women should cook. They should also raise kids and not ask too many questions, right? Ridiculous, but a reality of many women.
In the modern world, some might say that this distribution of labor is foolish. Others might call it down-right stupid. And yet, a lot of straight Americans still think that the woman should be less devoted to work (and earning) because she has other, “more important” roles to fill.
Shaking Off the Ideas of Masculine and Feminine Roles
Gay couples don’t have these issues. When there are two men in a relationship, no one feels the pressure to do the dishes simply because “it’s their job.”
But straight people still try to mold gay couples into their cookie-cutter traditional gender roles. The fact that LGBTQ+ can’t or won’t fit into those molds doesn’t deter them. Thus, they think the “more masculine” of the pair (no matter if it’s a gay or lesbian pair), should be the breadwinner, while the “more feminine” one should adopt those tasks that are habitually (and wrongly) referred to as “the female ones.”
The great thing about gay relationships is that they know that this is bullshit. They feel no need to conform to the arbitrary gender-biased rules. In a gay relationship, there’s usually a person who’s the higher earner and the one that earns less. That is quite logical as there’s little chance that both people will make the same amount of money.
That will, perhaps, play a role in deciding who stays at home with the kids. Still, since this difference in income has no ties to their appearance or “level of masculinity” — it just might happen that the “more feminine” of the pair will be the breadwinner and the “more masculine” the stay-at-home parent, for example.
Of course, this will baffle their straight counterparts. That’s not the case with all of them, of course. But it is with the people who are willing to walk down Bigot Avenue. Those are the ones that ask questions like “Who’s the MAN in the relationship?” as if they can’t fathom the possibility that there, in fact, is no man and both parties like it!
The Competitive Streak
Now, the lack of clear gender roles for men and women doesn’t mean that gay relationships don’t suffer from similar predicament as straight ones. Just like straight men, gay men feel the pressure to earn more. That’s true even though they don’t have a “wifey” (yes, that’s sarcasm) at home to provide for.
Centuries of social programming lead to men feeling the obligation to be the breadwinners. That’s not that easy to shake. In gay relationships, this need translates into a bit of a competition between the men. Money and social status go hand in hand. Therefore, the fact that they don’t fit into traditional molds doesn’t stop gay men from competing for it.
Does that mean that men, no matter the sexual orientation, feel the need to be the breadwinners no matter what? Well, you’ll never hear a gay man proclaim, “I’m the man, I should earn more!” given that it genuinely makes no sense in a gay relationship. The other partner is also a man. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be together. But, since both partners are men, both can feel the same need to be the high-earner of the relationship. Sometimes that results in tension.
Money plays a huge role in the power for dominance that most couples fall victim to. Therefore, money is always a challenge. It’s a hurdle all couples must figure out how to jump over. So, gay couples have similar yet different money issues than straight ones.
Let’s Talk About Sex
Gay sex is different from the straight one, that much is clear. However, gay couples also have an entirely different approach to sex. Their relationship to their sexuality and, consequently, their expression of it, isn’t as straightforward as some might think.
Historically, society often thought of queer people, especially gay men, as more sexually promiscuous. This glorified stereotype stood in the way of LGBTQ+ rights for many years. In fact, it’s still something that many a bigot thinks. Of course, LGBTQ+ people aren’t more or less promiscuous than straight ones. But they are just portrayed as such. Their choices are displayed for the society to judge and dissect more than the choices their straight counterparts make.
In other words, a gay man is no more likely to cheat on their partner because they can’t keep it in their pants. If centuries of observing straight men and their behavior in marriages are any indication, it’s straight men that are natural-born cheaters.
However, gay couples are more likely to open up their relationship or engage in non-monogamous relationships. For example, you’ll hear many gay couples discussing inviting a third party into their bed. You might also hear them talk about having flings on the side. That can be a way of spicing up their sex lives or merely a way of living. Male gay couples don’t conform to the heteronormative views of what relationships are supposed to look like.
Separating Love and Sex
Gay men also have an easier time separating love and sex. Opening up a straight relationship isn’t that common. It usually brings a whole bucketload of issues with it. Both partners might feel as if they aren’t good enough, attractive enough, or interesting enough to their other half anymore. That is partially because straight couples are thought to be monogamous and believe in the “one sexual partner for life” company line.
Now, this isn’t a diss on monogamy. Many gay couples also conform to it. Many believe that devoting yourself to one person is the only way to build a relationship. However, they still have a more laid-back approach to sex. When it comes to gay relationships, we can’t compare them to straight ones, as the dynamic completely differs. There’s no social programming in terms of sex and fidelity. Most gay couples strive to discuss and negotiate their sexual relationships as far away from heteronormative expectations as they can.
New studies show that open relationships and couples that aren’t monogamous (but are still devoted to each other in every other way) are happier and last longer than traditional ones. Maybe gay men are onto something, huh?
The Other Side of the Coin
It’s important to note that, generally speaking, lesbian relationships conform neither to the heteronormative nor the gay male notions about sex. Lesbian sex is traditionally more tied to emotions. Of course, that’s not to say that lesbians and other LGBTQ+ couples don’t have a more open relationship to sex than straight couples.
Generally speaking, most LGBTQ+ couples discuss sex more openly and approach this topic with less prejudice than straight couples.
Household Chores and Other Gender-Specific Nonsense
As we mentioned before, gay couples don’t conform to societal traditional gender roles. They don’t feel the need to. If there are no women in the relationship, the dishes still get done. The kids still eat breakfast.
What’s more, when there’s no man in the relationship, the cars still get fixed. The money still gets earned. Amazing, right?
But, who does what then? Some people might argue that the gender divide of chores in heterosexual relationships makes things easier. Everybody knows what they have to do, and there’s no arguing, right?
Of course not. Traditionally, a lot of household chores fall on the shoulders of women in heterosexual relationships. On top of that, they should also contribute financially and be the kids’ primary caretakers. Therefore, it’s safe to say that household chores cause many arguments in straight relationships.
The Need to Communicate
Since no one in a gay relationship has to do the “female” chores, the partners have to reach an agreement. That is, they have to divide the labor themselves. Clear communication about duties is a must in every relationship. However, in gay ones, there are no expectations. Therefore, partners need to decide who does what and when.
That, of course, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Gay couples don’t have a moratorium on issues. They don’t live in an eternal state of bliss just because they don’t have gender roles to conform to. Dividing the household chores in an equal and fair manner is one of the issues every gay couple has to work through. An unfair distribution can lead to resentment and break the trust and devotion of the relationship.
Of course, what’s considered to be fair mainly depends on the views of a specific couple. There’s no cheat sheet for gay couples. Every couple has to make this decision for themselves. A 50/50 split might seem like the epitome of fair. Still, some couples don’t go that route. No matter what they decide, as long as they communicate with each other what they consider to be fair and make a compromise based on that, the household chore issue will be an issue no more.
So, when it comes to household chores, gay couples differ from straight ones. The expectations are different. Of course, that’s not always true. If one partner earns more or is the only earner, they might expect their loved one to pick up the slack around the house. However, the difference lies in the lack of gender-specific expectations.
Starting a Family and Caring for the Children
The beauty of gay couples having kids, regardless of cultural differences, is that all those kids are wanted. There are no accidental pregnancies, unwanted babies, couples resenting each other because one partner didn’t want kids but the other pushed their hand, etc.
When a gay couple decides that they want to expand their family, they have several options — adoption, fostering, or surrogacy. Either way, a gay couple can’t just “slip” into parenthood. They have to make a conscious decision and invest a lot of money and effort to make it happen. In that sense, gay couples might need more support than straight ones.
They need legal support, for one. The process of adoption is a rigorous, uphill battle that some couples never win. What’s more, they might also need social support. The society continually bombards them with the (wrong) notion that mothers have to be primary caretakers for children, while the fathers fall in the background. That is usually irreconcilable with the paternal instinct that many gay men have, as the society keeps sending them signals that they won’t be good caretakers.
Who Takes Care of the Kids?
When it comes to kids, we once again go back to the topic of reassigned duties and chores. In gay and LGBTQ+ relationships, the tasks that come with having kids aren’t inherently assigned to one person. But in straight relationships, the mother takes a break or ultimately leaves her job so she could take care of the newborn (and, later, kids), while the father either takes some time off or he doesn’t.
In gay relationships, the chores that have to do with kids, and that includes everything from the early care for newborns to changing poopy diapers, are usually divided fairly. There are no stereotypes to guide either of the partners (be they male or female).
The stereotype that the in-laws don’t like the person who married their family member is as old as time. But it seems that in gay relationships, it’s more of a cold, hard truth than a stereotype. LGBTQ+ people deal with a lot of rejection all their lives. Most of their social relationships suffer because of that. The relationships with the in-laws are no different.
We all feel the pressure to be liked by the in-laws. When we first meet them, we do our best to make a good impression and show them how much we care for their family member. However, that’s not always perceived as we might like. That’s especially true for LGBTQ+ relationships, as our in-laws might have some preconceived notions or biased views on the relationship (and us), which might lead to them not liking us before they even have all the facts.
LGBTQ+ people often deal with outright hostility or a passive-aggressive, condescending attitude from their in-laws. What’s more, many notice a stark difference in how they are treated compared to how their in-laws might treat other people in their extended family that are in heterosexual relationships.
That has to do with how much the in-laws accept their gay family members in the first place. If their relationship isn’t good, then there’s little hope for the in-laws to accept their kids’ partners.
However, some might surprise us. Maybe seeing a gay family member in a stable, loving relationship is the push they need to see them and their sexuality as valid. Either way, that still isn’t an issue that straight people deal with (at least not on this scale).
Work Ethics and the Problems It Causes
Since gay couples only recently got the right to adopt children, historically, many were childless their whole lives. That means that their priorities were a bit different than those of straight couples. As a result, many gay men (even today) are of the notion that work has to come first and be the number one priority.
Societal limitations have quite a bit to do with this. In the capitalist working environment, someone who has no kids (and thus “no real ties” to their household) doesn’t get granted the same leniency that is a given for people with kids.
Due to these limitations, gay people often set higher standards for themselves at work. They feel as though they need to put in long hours and treat their work as a number one priority because their “excuses” might not be as valid as those of straight couples (especially those who are parents).
That, of course, is a form of internalized homophobia. Holding themselves to a different standard and failing to set limits in the workplace is something that gay men especially are prone to doing.
The Importance of Boundaries
Setting boundaries at work is difficult, no matter the sexual orientation. That’s especially true for those people who are just starting and have the need to prove themselves as worthy of a promotion or other validations at work. However, gay men, especially those who are noticeably gay, might have an even harder time. Others might subtly dismiss them at their workplace due to their sexual orientation.
We’re not talking about straight out homophobia here (although it can happen), but the subtle differences in the way gay men are treated as opposed to their straight counterparts. To surpass that, gay men might feel the need to work more, harder, and without complaint. That usually negatively affects their social and emotional relationships.
Gays Just Wanna Have Fun?
Gay couples have more fun together. You might resent this statement, but, statistically, it’s true. First of all, LGBTQ+ couples don’t have “divided social circles” as some straight couples do. Straight couples tend to have “boys night” or “girls night.”
These are cute, but they might prevent them from spending time together and, ultimately, having fun together. Gay couples don’t have that issue, as their social circles usually include people of similar views and, even though it’s a stereotype, gender and sexual orientation.
Therefore, more often than not, gay couples go out and party together, rather than separating and missing out on the bonding of a fun night out.
Furthermore, while there’s a societal pressure on straight couples to “settle down” after their wild twenties and develop a more serious persona of a working adult, parent, and all-around responsible and dull person, gay people aren’t facing the same expectations. That’s why LGBTQ+ relationships are more fun and youthful.
Even Married Couples Need to Blow off Some Steam
Here’s the thing — gay men aren’t that domestic. Of course, that’s not true for all of them. But all gay men like to have fun. They seek out amusing pastimes, usually with their partners, and engage in going out, partying, recreational drugs, and all that fun stuff more freely than straight men. Why? Because there’s no pressure not to. What’s more, unlike most straight couples, they can do it with their partners.
Gay men also enjoy the privilege of acting age-inappropriately because those that aren’t parents, don’t feel the pressure to be seen as “responsible adults.”
They also have more money than other couples, given that they are still men and earn more than women, no matter their sexual orientation. Therefore, on average, the household of two gay men has more money than the one of a straight couple. That extra money can be the fun budget as gay men are often prone to indulging.
Getting married often changes the way straight couples have fun. They turn to less wild fun pastimes such as double dates, game nights with other couples, etc. Of course, gay men do this as well. However, the fact that they got married doesn’t change their perspective on what “fun time” is. So you’ll see them out drinking and dancing with their husbands more often than you see straight men with their wives.
Due to that, gay relationships are more fun and stress-free. Every couple needs to blow off some steam, and gay couples seem to really take that to heart.
Indulging and Other “Vices”
As mentioned, gay men love to indulge. They also like to take risks. Of course, this is often a character trait. Therefore, it’s quite unlogical to claim that all gay men have it. However, given that they are forced to be careful in their early years and then, hopefully, out themselves as gay and bare their most vulnerable parts for other people’s judgment, gay men become risk-takers.
That translates to a lot of indulging. What’s more, it seems as though gay men have a higher tolerance for indulging both when it comes to themselves and those around them. Firm believers in the “live your life and your truth” motto, gay men are less likely to shy away from doing something simply because the society frowns upon it. After all, up until recently, the society frowned upon them. It denied their validity as people! So why bother with what society deems as acceptable?
That’s why some things aren’t as big a deal for gay men as they are for straight people. Experimenting with sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, etc. comes as second nature to gay men while it’s often an unattainable (but wanted) dream for the straights.
The Importance of the Appearance
It’s a well-known fact that gay men put a lot of thought into their appearance. But this is also an unfair stereotype that has severe consequences. Just like women, gay men are expected to look, act, and speak in a certain way. Their looks are extremely important to them and deemed as vital both by society at large and their gay peers.
Thus, gay men feel the pressure to look their best at all times. What’s more, they also feel the obligation or desire to compete with not only other people in terms of looks but also their partners.
Here’s the thing. Many women say that the harshest criticism regarding their looks comes from other women. Men criticize them and view and treat them as sexual objects. However, they also don’t notice the minute details that other women do. So, the remarks that cut the deepest come from the same sex. Something similar happens to gay men. The difference is that gay men can be even more vicious in their scrutiny of other people’s bodies and overall appearance.
Now imagine how hard it is to date people of your own sex, knowing that they are judging you and your appearance just as much as you judge them. That leads to a vicious circle of men trying their hardest to look their best, seeking out the approval of others, tying their self-image and self-worth to that approval, and (unfortunately often) developing body-image issues.
There’s a direct comparison between the partners in terms of appearance that simply isn’t there in straight relationships. Of course, women get compared to each other all the time, but there’s no pressure on them to look as good or better than their male partners. The same can’t be said for gay men.
When it Comes to Politics…
Generally speaking, LGBTQ+ people are more politically aware and engaged. They have witnessed decades of legal and social battles, and are inherently familiar with how much politicians can affect (or dictate) their lives. That, in turn, makes them more interested and invested in politics.
What’s more, because their lives have been one big fight for recognition, gay men are also quite vocal about their political views. LGBTQ+ people, in general, are in constant fear that their newly “gifted” rights might be forcibly taken from them. That is why most of them keep a watchful eye on political changes in not only their country but the whole world.
Straight couples don’t have to deal with their entire existence and validity being denied on a daily basis by some bigot who spews hatred and fuels stereotypes and hostility. Therefore, they don’t find the potential political turmoil as concerning as non-straight people do.
Of course, being a member of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be politically active. But gay men and women (and everyone else) tend to be more into political fundraisers, supporting their chosen politicians, and overall being politically active.
Now, contrary to popular belief, not all LGBTQ+ people are “granola liberals,” as some call them. There’s a whole array of political views and inclinations among gay people. That’s why this political activism may cause a specific set of problems in a relationship. If the couple doesn’t have the same political views, and they are both equally passionate and vocal about them, they might clash.
A Few Parting Words
There are many ways gay relationships (and, consequently, gay relationship advice) differ from straight ones. Some might say that they are completely different. Others will claim that all relationships are the same. While we can’t support either of these extreme statements, the fact remains that gay men and all other LGBTQ+ couples approach relationships, sex, work, family, and all other important life issues in a different way than straight people. The differences are stark in some areas and subtle in others, but they are indisputably there.