My kitty, your litter: How the gays may save marriage

The Atlantic recently published a cover story on how same-sex couples are changing marriage for the better. The article itself is fascinating and is chock full of social science data, studies, and could pass for something out of a scientific journal. The article, in my mind at least, presents two tracks of information. The first is the ways in which gay and lesbian couples are different from our straight counterparts and the second is the ways that the homos getting hitched is actually changing the way straight couples get married and negotiate their own relationships. The article is bursting with information and you really should read it but because we’re all busy here are the five of our favorite things from the article.

1. Lesbians are seriously dedicated to equality. Seriously.

The article notes repeatedly how much more equal same-sex relationships are than their straight counterparts. Lesbians were also the least likely to follow the idea that the partner who makes the most money gets the most say in the decision-making process. We’re all about being equal.

My favorite line of the entire article is this ”Many unmarried heterosexual cohabitors were also careful about divvying things up, but lesbian couples seemed to take the practice to extremes: “It was almost like ‘my kitty, your litter.’ ” I don’t know about you but “my kitty, your litter” is my new motto.

2. Lesbian processing is a real thing, and there is science to back it up.

In addition to being hyper-egalitarian we lesbians love to process. Sure, lesbian processing is the butt of many jokes, and 90 percent of Ezra and Aria’s relationship, but it turns out there is science to back it up. “Lesbians also tended to discuss things endlessly, achieving a degree of closeness unmatched by the other types of couples.”

3. Same-sex couples are old school and often choose to have one parent stay home.

The article notes that “even as they are more egalitarian in their parenting styles, same-sex parents resemble their heterosexual counterparts in one somewhat old-fashioned way: a surprising number establish a division of labor whereby one spouse becomes the primary earner and the other stays home.” The article doesn’t account for why same-sex couples seem to choose this uber-traditional approach other than to suggest that sometimes it’s just easier or more efficient to have one parent in charge or making money and one in charge of making sure all the stuff of parenting and running a household gets done. In a same-sex couple, however, choosing who stays home isn’t as fraught with gender role baggage.

4. The homos negotiate everything without as much regard to gender roles.

5. Same-sex couples are changing how straight people get married.

Numbers four and five complement each other. The article talks about how same-sex couples can divide household chores and duties anyway they choose without societal baggage. For example, the person who cooks dinner doesn’t default to the wife in a household with two wives. Instead the couple decides who is the better cook or who likes to cook more or they take turns. The same goes for who mows the lawn, takes out the trash, and cleans the bathroom. When there is no default position couples have to hash out everything.

This leads to the fifth point. Premarital counselors, in the article they speak mostly with ministers or other religious folk who officiate weddings, have noted that the way they counsel couples has changed after dealing with same-sex couples. Now when the counselor asks couples to talk about who is going to stay home with any future kids, who is going to do the laundry, who is going to cook, etc. they can push straight couples to consider their choices more carefully because they have examples of same-sex couples. They have seen that men can be great primary caregivers, moms can be the ones to pay the mortgage. Sure, it sounds simple but the ripple effect is wonderful to see. Maybe this is how outdated and idiotic gender roles finally get broken down.

Finally, to everyone who is scared the gays are ruining marriage (inspite of everything this article says), I have this to offer. The article describes the idea that marriage is contagious and that there has been “a re-enchantment of marriage” among those who attend same-sex ceremonies: “Straight folks come to [same-sex] weddings, and I watch it on their face—there’s a feeling that this is really special. Suddenly marriage is sexy again.” That’s right, the homos bring all the straights to the altar.

So let’s chat about the article. I know I saw a lot of the things my wife and I have negotiated in regard to our household, our kids and our careers reflected in the article. Did you see any of your own relationship reflected in the social science? What points did they miss?

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