How many do YOU have?
In July of 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world and the first country outside of Europe to legalize Gay Marriage. The Civil Marriage Act of 2005 provided a gender-neutral definition of marriage.
Starting in 2003, same-sex marriage had already been recognized in eight out of ten Canadian provinces, and in one of the three Canadian territories. Before passage of The Act, some 3,000 same-sex couples had already married in the aforementioned areas of Canada.
So, armed with a new purpose after decades of interviewing heterosexual married couples, we set off to Canada to see how this redefinition of marriage is working for our big neighbor to the north.
Over the years, we were often asked, "Do you think your research findings about successful traditional marriage apply to same-sex relationships as well?"
While we have not engaged in research with same-sex couples prior to this trip, we found the question intriguing.
A few days ago, we had a conversation with an individual who has written extensively about gay and lesbian relationships over the years: a gay man who has been in a gay relationship for more than 30 years. His first partner died of AIDS. His current relationship has lasted for nearly two decades.
As we discussed our research findings with him, we noticed how often he nodded his head in agreement with many of our findings applied to his own long-term gay relationship.
In an attempt to determine if our research findings also apply to gay couples, we spent the last week interviewing gay couples in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.
Our interviews included two male and two female gay married couples. We utilized the same in depth interview process that we used with thousands of heterosexual married couples around the world for the past 34 years.
While this was our 12th trip to Canada to interview successfully married couples, it was our first to interview same-sex married couples. In preparation, we reviewed a report written by the Department of Justice of the Government of Canada entitled "Portraits of Families and Living Arrangements in Canada".
We were particularly interested in the section of that report labeled "Family Demographics."
Here are pertinent "family" facts in Canada. In 2001, a little over 70% of Canadian "families" were headed by married couples. In 2006, that figure still hovered near 69%. In 2011 the number was 67%.
While there has been a slight downward trend in families headed by married couples over the past decade, it is clear that married couples remain the dominant family structure in Canada.
The good news is that nearly 85% of Canadian families are headed by couples: married (opposite and same sex) and common law. This is something Canadians should celebrate, since only 10-15% of Canadian children are living in single parent families.
Armed with the latest family data, our goal was to determine if gay married couples in Canada share any of the same pervasive characteristics that define successful heterosexual marriage.
The results of our research suggest that same-sex married couples share 5 of the same pervasive characteristics as heterosexual married couples. Here are those 5 characteristics:
Two become one without losing the individual identities of each other. In a successful marriage, it is not you and me, it is WE!
Couples talk about anything and everything. In successful marriage there are no sacred cows — no secrets.
Couples understand that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Successful love and marriage is about mutual love and respect.
4. Tactile Communication:
Touching each other multiple times per day is the norm. In successful marriage, touching says, "I love you so much I simply must touch you."
Love is enhanced by variety and spice. Successful marriage is exciting, never boring, and full of unpredictable things.
After spending several days in St. John's and environs, we are struck with the beauty of Canada and the friendliness and warmth of its people. We are also struck with the strength and quality of Canadian families and marriages overall — traditional, same-sex, and common law!
Needless to say, we are going back again to interview more wonderful couples — traditional, same-sex, and common law in Canada. Oh, Canada!
By Dr. Charles and Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz
America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts
For hundreds of practical tips to strengthen your love, read the best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts: The Seven Surprising Secrets of Successful Marriage (Jossey-Bass/Wiley) available wherever books are sold.