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Common Predictors of Divorce Among Same-Sex and Heterosexual Couples

Published June 9, 2021
Same-sex couples and heterosexual couples should avoid behaviors such as criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling in order to increase their chances of enjoying a lasting and fulfilling partnership. If your relationship is in trouble, speak to a trusted attorney to explore your options.

Most people are curious about finding the key to a successful partnership. For decades, researchers have studied factors that may make marriages last, as well as those factors that may lead to an eventual divorce or separation. While the majority of these studies have focused exclusively on heterosexual marriages, more studies incorporating same-sex marriages are beginning to emerge. As data from same-sex unions is still relatively new in the U.S., more research is needed to fully understand the nuances of common divorce predictors in same-sex marriages. Let’s take a look at a few factors that may influence the success or failure of both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

Heterosexual Divorce Predictors

Psychologists are eager to share their thoughts on how couples can predict their likelihood of success. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have devoted the bulk of their careers to studying relationships and divorce, even distilling the four main divorce predictors into what they like to call the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”—criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Although their research focused primarily on heterosexual couples, it’s likely that these behaviors within a same-sex partnership could also contribute to an eventual divorce. 

Key Findings for Same-Sex Couples and Heterosexual Couples

According to one study that aimed to compare predictors of divorce and marital success among same-sex and heterosexual couples, the strength of all partnerships correlated with the length of the relationship and the ages of the partners. The study found that male-male couples were the least likely to divorce or separate, while female-female couples were twice as likely as male-male couples to terminate their relationship. Heterosexual couples were more likely than male-male couples and less likely than female-female couples to dissolve their union. 

Predictors of Marital Success 

While the study mentioned above explored common divorce predictors, it also analyzed predictors of marital success. For all couples together, each year of relationship length reduced the likelihood of a breakup by 9 percent; each additional year of age of the partners lowered the odds of a breakup by 2 percent, and each unit of increase in relationship quality reduced the likelihood of separation by 61 percent. For female-female couples, which the study found to be the most at-risk for separation, each year of increase in the partners’ education reduced the likelihood of a breakup by 16 percent. Also, each unit of increase in relationship quality reduced the likelihood of separation by 82 percent. It stands to reason that heterosexual and same-sex couples who can avoid criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling may all increase their chances of enjoying a lasting and fulfilling partnership.


Whether you are in a same-sex or heterosexual partnership, your relationship is bound to have its ups and downs. If your marriage is suffering, Lee Tyler Family Law, P.C. is here to help. Call our friendly Portland office today at (503) 233-8868 to speak to a compassionate, collaborative divorce attorney.

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