4 Things Gay Marriages Can Teach Straight People
Heterosexuals are understandably jaded by marriage. The likelihood of a divorce is now equal to the flip of a coin. More people than ever stay single, and those that do end up getting married wait as long as they can. In this environment it makes complete sense that the renewed focus on marriage in the context of same-sex unions can make marriage sexy again for straight people.
This week the Atlantic published the aptly-titled "Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss" by the New America Foundation's Liza Mundy, who extensively details all the ways same-sex couples (and their weddings) can re-instill faith in the institution of marriage.
Here are some tips for heterosexual couples from same-sex unions:
1. Don't Rely On Gender Stereotypes
According to Mundy, same-sex spouses cannot divide domestic and social chores on preconceived gender stereotypes. This forces them to evaluate the couple's strengths and weaknesses in all the areas of domesticity without having unqualified expectations of each other.
In this regard, same-sex spouses have established a way to promote egalitarianism within a relationship. Mundy says that "a genderless marriage is a marriage in which the wife is not automatically expected to be responsible for school forms and child care and dinner preparation and birthday parties and midnight feedings and holiday shopping. I think it's fair to say that many heterosexual women would cry 'Bring it on!'"
2. Women Are Picky, and That's OK
Mundy cites research that says women are not only more likely to initiate divorces, they are also more likely to divorce even when married to women.
This suggests that women should not feel guilty for feeling dissatisfied in marriages or relationships. Many women tend to blame themselves for the failure of a marriage and unnecessarily diminish their own self-esteem. Instead they should embrace their choosiness as standards to be met and upheld, but simultaneously be vocal about how their partners can meet those standards.
Instead of looking at a struggling relationship or marriage as a failure of the individuals involved, we should think about the problems (and consequently their solutions) as goals that merely need realigning.
3. Marriage is a Prestige Marker, Not a Necessity
Same-sex couples' fight to marry has lifted the value of being married out of a necessity into a marker of privilege. This change is significant because it re-prioritizes the role of marriage in an individual's life. As Mundy puts it, "Getting married is no longer something you do when you are young and foolish and starting out." The priority of a young adult graduating college today is finding a job and career, not getting married.
Looking at marriage as the "capstone to a successful life" instead of the precursor to one allows people to prolong getting married until they feel financially, emotionally, and socially ready for it.
If heterosexual couples view marriage in this light they will avoid the patronizing expectation of "settling down" as a prerequisite of a successful life.
4. Negotiate EVERYTHING
Mundy says that even today, couples negotiate in heteronormative terms. This can result in frustrations based on gender lines and a lack of very explicit communication on expectations. On the other hand, same-sex couples have to redefine how they approach domestic roles and they do so by negotiating and processing the details in almost "excruciating" detail.
Mundy especially cites lesbians as having more intimate relationships stemming from the closeness established by discussing everything. By being open to analyzing their experiences, heterosexual couples could either find more satisfaction by allowing their needs to be vocalized even in relationships that are struggling.
On the other hand, by calmly and fairly evaluating the relationship on a regular basis, couples could also more naturally realize their paths need to diverge. This could prevent ugly divorces and allow respect and civility to remain in the relationship.