A new book analyzes how couples who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer deal with divorce in ways that compare and contrast with heterosexual couples.
Metro Minute caught up with Clark University professor Abbie Goldberg, who co-edited the book, “LGBTQ Divorce & Relationship Dissolution: Psychological and Legal Perspectives and Implications for Practice.’’ The co-editor is Adam Romero of the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law.
The book draws upon findings based on an ongoing case study Goldberg initiated in 2005, which follows LGBTQ families with adoptive children.
What are the major differences for the reasons that LGBTQ couples divorce vs. heterosexual couples?
To paint a broad picture, there are common factors that make all couples likely to break up. For example: financial issues, parenting disagreements, growing apart. There are structural factors having to do with money and class and race.
However, there are other factors that might operate differently. Same-sex couples divide up paid and unpaid labor more equally. [For LGBTQ couples,] there’s not an easy script to divide labor among gender lines. They tend to assign labor roles and housework based on interest.
Same-sex couples may face lack of support of family, religious institutions, or discrimination for employment opportunities [that heterosexual couples didn’t].
What is one of the most interesting data points from your research in this book?
Seven years into adoptive parenthood, the rates of marriage dissolution were 19 percent for female couples, 4 percent for male couples, and 12 percent for heterosexual couples.
What are most prominent reasons why LGBTQ couples seem to divorce? (Excluding external factors such as race, economic status etc.)
Women make less money. When you have [a lesbian couple], they make less money by far. They have the lowest income so they face more financial stress. In my specific sample, they are more likely to adopt children with special needs or older children, so they are faced with a lot more stress.
What are ways you hope this book creates social and political change, if any?
I think lawyers, mediators, therapists, anyone who works with LGBTQ couples who are divorcing need to do a deep dive in the research for the unique and the similarities of dissolution in relationships. I also think this could be a great lesson to heterosexual couples and divorce.