LGBTQ couples now have the same marriage and divorce rights in Australia, and romantic relationships of each kind are similarly susceptible to ending for common reasons such as infidelity or simply “falling out of love”. However, LGBTQ couples could be facing additional pressure from unique factors influencing LGBTQ relationships, says new research out of the US. So what are the factors that influence LGBTQ divorce?
According to Adam P. Romero, co-editor of the article “LGBTQ Divorce and Relationship Dissolution: Psychological and Legal Perspectives and Implications for Practice”, we should be alert to these unique pressures on LGBTQ relationships that could lead to relationship distress and breakdown.
Romero told Business Insider that the unique factors present in relationships of LGBTQ couples hinge around the experience of additional stressors unique to their sexual or gender identity.
LGBTQ couples are different to heterosexual couples in that they may experience what social scientists term “minority stress”. Minority stress is typically taken to mean chronically higher stress experienced by members of a stigmatised group, and is believed to be a relevant factor leading to separation.
Minority stress may cause individuals to feel emotional triggers through discrimination and prejudice experienced from society. This can influence the way that an individual sees themselves, and also the way a couple may relate to each other. The discrimination and prejudice experienced by LGBTQ individuals can present in a myriad of ways, but Romero describes eight factors that contribute to minority stress and consequently relationship distress and divorce in LGBTQ couples.
- Not having a supportive family
It’s not uncommon for LGBTQ couples to have unsupportive families, or to have experienced rejection from a family member or close friend due to their sexuality or gender identity. Since families provide a protective, cushioning layer of social and/or familial support, having an unsupportive family can put strain on relationships.
- LGBTQ job stress
Being fired over their gender or sexual identity is more common for LGBTQ people than heterosexuals, says Romero. This then increases the marginalisation experienced by an LGBTQ individual, who may experience both negative social and negative financial impacts of their gender or sexual identity. Financial stress tends to exacerbate relationship problems and, if also lacking family support, LGBTQ couples can find it hard to recover.
- Unequal company policies
If policies such as around paternity leave are not equal, then it can cause issues. While same-sex couples may be more egalitarian when it comes to household duties, says Romero, if there is unequal parental leave it can set up unequal household duty sharing which can cause relationship stress.
- Being lesbian
The US research is that lesbians are twice as likely than gay males to experience separation.
- Being bisexual
Romero notes that bisexuals are often subjected to specially high levels of stigma in the community, the media and in the workplace. US research shows they experience higher rates of poverty than both heterosexual and gay/lesbian couples. Higher poverty and being at risk of financial strain puts stress on a relationship.
- Internalised homophobia
Even if they aren’t facing overt discrimination in society over their sexuality, Romero says LGBTQ individuals can still harbour negative feelings and stereotypes about themselves. Social scientists call this internalised homophobia, and the feelings of self-doubt or loathing can cause relationship conflict.
- Misgendering your partner
Misgendering within the relationship can add strife to a relationship, particularly if the incorrect use of pronouns or names is perceived as being done deliberately in an argument.
- How people treat you and your partner
Sometimes people can mistake a LGBTQ partner as just a platonic friend. This can lead to feelings of invisibility and internalised invalidation in the partner, says Romero. As such, it’s another form of minority stress which can erode the relationship.
For more: Business Insider (subscription).
You may also like to read our recent blog on transgender family law issues.
If you are an LGBTQ person and would like family law advice, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.