The study, “Weight Disparities Between Female Same-Sex Romantic Partners and Weight Concerns: Examining Partner Comparison,” which will soon be published in “Psychology of Women Quarterly,” was led by Rutgers psychology professor Dr. Charlotte Markey and her husband, Dr. Patrick Markey, of Villanova.
“We thought it was an important academic venture to follow up on the literature that found links between romantic relationships and health but that never explored those questions among same-sex couples,” Charlotte Markey said. “It’s also a really important applied investigation with all the interest in the last decade in same-sex relationships and marriage equality to have some actual data to add to that dialogue.”
This study was based on surveys of 144 lesbian couples, who were together for an average of five years and who were asked a range of questions about their relational satisfaction and views on their own and their partners’ bodies.
Researchers compared the data to a similar survey of heterosexual women and found that lesbian women experience similar concerns about their weight.
“The gist of the findings seems to be that there are more similarities than differences between same-sex and heterosexual couples,” Markey said. “The women in these relationships, regardless of if their partner’s a man or a woman, are experiencing concerns about their weight. And those concerns are heightened if their partner is thinner than they are. There’s some speculation in popular culture and in psychological literature that if a woman is with another woman, they’re not concerned about weight, but our data don’t support that idea. Most women are inundated by messages in popular culture about weight and how they should look and, regardless of who their partner is, those messages seem to have an effect.”
Markey said those findings point to the need for continued research into LGBT relationships — as well as to the production of viable weight-management solutions for people of all orientations and identities.
“We need more research and education to help support healthy weight management. Women, and increasingly men, have concerns about these issues, and those concerns are warranted giving the rising rates of obesity, but there aren’t many good solutions out there; most diet plans aren’t empirically substantiated. Our data provides evidence that we need better public-health messaging for all. And that to suggest any segment of the population is immune to weight issues and concern is inaccurate.”
The Markeys are also working on a similar study focused on same-sex male couples.