Gay and Lesbian Couples: Voices from Lasting Relationships

By Bernard A. O'Brien; Eileen F. Mackey et al. | Go to book overview
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2 Roles

Friends would say, who's the husband, who's the wife? It was, like, neither of us.

The concept of social role was a useful tool in exploring how relationships evolved from the early years to the present time. We thought of roles as the patterns of behaviors between partners that connected them interpersonally in a relationship. The dynamics that fueled the adoption of various roles were complex. Past experiences with models were an important element of how one learned to behave in a relationship. Reciprocal patterns of behaviors within the context of the relationships themselves also contributed to the behavioral configuration of roles.

The quality of past experiences with primary figures in the lives of gays and lesbians had an influential effect in shaping their roles with partners. The selective qualities of role models with which individuals identified and which they then internalized had a powerful effect on interpersonal behaviors in these relationships. The qualities that partners carried with them into these relationships came primarily from experiences with parents. Other figures who were mentioned less frequently included other heterosexual couples, gay and lesbian couples, historical figures, and literary characters.

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