Perfect Partners

FAMILY Gay Families

See ya June and Ward Cleaver. A new menage has moved into the slot as model family for our times. Say hello to gay male couples with adopted children. Creating their own rules as they go along, these "gay parenting couples" have stumbled upon new ways to make relationship equity work.

Marriage and family therapist Dan McPherson, Ph.D., compared relationship satisfaction and the divvying up of parent and family tasks in 56 couples--28 gay male partnerships and 28 heterosexual.

"When it comes to both child care and family tasks--like mowing the lawn or doing the budget--gay parents divide things up significantly more evenly than straight couples," reports McPherson, himself half of a gay parenting couple. Not surprising, gay couples declare more satisfaction with the division of labor than heterosexual couples.

After the arrival of a child, women in "straight" marriages want their husbands to shoulder more child care responsibility. "Gay couples negotiate tasks on the basis of interest, ability, or fairness, whereas heterosexuals have to choose to surrender to or counteract preexisting social roles," says McPherson. On the whole, both sets of couples were satisfied with their relationship, yet gays were happier in the areas of shared interests and affectional expression. Does this mean the gay parenting couple is an inherently more satisfying relationship? No, says McPherson, a private practitioner in San Francisco. He's not suggesting that all couples share evenly in family duties. How tasks are split isn't important; it's having the freedom to carve your own role in line with your interests.

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