Even though times are changing, a recent study says people still highly value love.
In a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, researchers found that “traditional” relationship values are still evident in today’s dating scene. Sociology Professors Ann Meier, Kathleen Hull and Ph.D. applicant Timothy Ortyl published the study in Aug. 2009.
The survey analyzed relationship values based on both sexual identity and gender. Utilizing data from the National Longitude Study of Adolescent Health, the professors used survey results from 18-28 year olds.
Overall, the study found that gays, lesbians and bisexuals held similar relationship values as straight men, while heterosexual women valued more conventional relationships. Though differences existed between participants, the study showed that all couples, regardless of gender or sexuality, desire romantic love in their relationship.
A large amount of participants agreed that love, faithfulness and lifelong commitment were all necessary for an effective relationship.
“There are very few differences between straight and sexual minority young adults, [which are] gays, lesbians and bisexuals,” said Ann Meier, University of Minnesota sociology professor. “Where differences do exist, they indicate that straight women are the most enthusiastic supporters of these values compared to all others including straight men and all sexual minorities.”
The study aimed to pinpoint cultural changes and their effects.
“Like many people, we are interested in what appears to be in the changing nature of relationships: more people get divorced, more people cohabit with a partner before or instead of getting married and same-sex couples are fighting for marriage, and winning in a few states,” Meier said. “With all of this change, we thought young people might not think things like love, faithfulness or commitment were all that important anymore.”
Respondents were asked to identify their race, gender and sexual identity as straight, bisexual or homosexual. Participants evaluated relationship standards based on how important certain elements are for a successful marriage or a serious committed relationship. Survey-takers rated five variables on a scale of one to 10: the same race, money, love, faithfulness and commitment.
“I think when it comes down to it we all want the same thing,” said UC Davis sophomore Jessie Ely, an undeclared humanities major who identifies herself as straight. “I think that everyone is looking for the same thing in a partner that isn’t determined by their sexuality, but rather their innate desires.”
In the study, researchers found small, yet important differences in young people’s relationship desires according to their gender and sexual identity. About 9 percent of all participants said large sums of money were not important to them and 50 percent said it was very important. Sexual minorities – gay, lesbian and bisexual – however, were substantially less likely to value financial aspects in their partner.
“The only difference I can think of is in regards to gender expectations, like who asks who out or who should pay for dinner, aren’t usually important in the gay dating world since obviously both individuals are of the same gender,” said sophomore biological sciences major Alyssa Ladner, who identifies herself as lesbian.
The study also found that among straight individuals, women rated faithfulness and lifelong commitment higher than men did. Sexual minorities valued these two traits slightly less than heterosexual women, but relatively the same as heterosexual men. While 86 percent of all respondents claimed that love was an extremely important factor, heterosexual woman valued it the most. Lesbian women were found to rate love slightly lower than gay men and lifelong commitment as less important than straight men.
“The lack of differences in the responses of gays and lesbians may be due to the fact that both groups share the legal obstacle to marriage – marriage tends to reinforce different gender norms, but if marriage is off the table, these gender differences may not exist,” Meier said in a University of Minnesota news release.
Further analysis will evaluate how gender and sexual identity applies to people’s views on their relationships. Future research may examine the effects that race and class have on a relationship. Researchers also recommended a large group of individuals of various ages, cultures and geographical locations to determine how legality issues affect couple’s relationships.
“Whether you prefer your own sex or the opposite as a partner, we’re all for the most part just looking for someone who makes us feel special,” Ladner said. “I think it has less to do with one’s sexual orientation and more to do with personality. Everyone is unique and we therefore may value different things in a partner based on that.”
SAMANTHA BOSIO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.