First Advisor

Kathryn Farr

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Lesbian couples, Interpersonal relations



Physical Description

1 online resource (ii, 75 p.)


The purpose of this thesis was to examine the characteristics of long-term lesbian relationships (operationally defined as five or more years) and to compare these characteristics with prior findings on short-term or term non-specific lesbian relationships. Several studies that have been done made assumptions about the nature of lesbian relationships based on data gathered from women in brief relationships (Caldwell and Peplau 1984; Elise 1986; Gordon 1980; Krestan and Bepko 1980). This study was designed to examine whether or not lesbians in long-term relationships might have different interpersonal relational dynamics, just as married heterosexual couples have been shown to have relationships differing from heterosexual cohabitating couples. A questionnaire was developed by taking questions directly from prior studies on lesbian relationships in order to allow for direct comparisons. The specific areas investigated were power and equality, merger, feminist impact, structural supports and sexuality. The study used a non-random sample. The fifty-three couples who participated were gathered from announcements made at local and national lesbian events. The data were analyzed through tabular and correlational procedures. Many of the findings in this study were similar to those of earlier research. The respondents were just as likely as those in prior studies to be feminists, to value both autonomy and relatedness, to be sexually satisfied, and to have similar attitudes about women's issues. Feminism, and its focus on independence and non-monogamy, does not seem to have affected these women's abilities to maintain a long-term relationship. But the differences are also important to note. Prior studies had indicated that having equality with their partner was essential for lesbians within their relationships, and couples in this study were much more likely than those in prior studies to say that they had an equal balance of power. They were also more committed. They were more willing to move for their partner, buy a home or car with their partner, and much more likely to believe that they would still be together five years later. They were more likely to have made large joint financial commitments together and to have pooled finances. This information is important for lesbians who value long-term commitments, for therapists who may be assisting lesbian clientele with their relational dynamics, and for researchers examining lesbian relationships.


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