Relationship dynamics around depression in gay and lesbian couples.

Academic Article


  • Research on intimate relationship dynamics around depression has primarily focused on heterosexual couples. This body of work shows that wives are more likely than husbands to offer support to a depressed spouse. Moreover, when wives are depressed, they are more likely than husbands to try and shield their spouse from the stress of their own depression. Yet, previous research has not examined depression and relationship dynamics in gay and lesbian couples. We analyze in-depth interviews with 26 gay and lesbian couples (N = 52 individuals) in which one or both partners reported depression. We find evidence that dominant gender scripts are both upheld and challenged within gay and lesbian couples, providing important insight into how gender operates in relation to depression within same-sex contexts. Our results indicate that most gay and lesbian partners offer support to a depressed partner, yet lesbian couples tend to follow a unique pattern in that they provide support both as the non-depressed and depressed partner. Support around depression is sometimes viewed as improving the relationship, but if the support is intensive or rejected, it is often viewed as contributing to relationship strain. Support is also sometimes withdrawn by the non-depressed partner because of caregiver exhaustion or the perception that the support is unhelpful. This study points to the importance of considering depression within gay and lesbian relational contexts, revealing new ways support sustains and strains intimate partnerships. We emphasize the usefulness of deploying couple-level approaches to better understand depression in sexual minority populations.
  • Published In


  • Depression, Gay and lesbian relationships, Gender, Intimate relationships, Qualitative methods, Relationship dynamics, Support, United States, Depression, Depressive Disorder, Female, Homosexuality, Female, Homosexuality, Male, Humans, Interpersonal Relations, Interviews as Topic, Male, Qualitative Research, Sex Factors, Spouses, Young Adult
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 26406448
  • Author List

  • Thomeer MB; Reczek C; Umberson D
  • Start Page

  • 38
  • End Page

  • 46
  • Volume

  • 147