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Study explores body image issues among lesbian couples

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A common notion about lesbian relationships is that a woman can be less concerned with her weight or body image because she is with another woman.

Yet a new study from professors at Rutgers University and Villanova University found that women in same-sex couples tend to have the same body image concerns as women in heterosexual partnerships.

Relationship satisfaction and body image

Dr. Charlotte Markey, who led the research with her husband Dr. Patrick Markey, said that other studies have explored the relationship between same-sex couples and health, but that body satisfaction is an area lacking hard data.

"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," Mackey said.

For the study, 144 lesbian couples were interviewed. The couples had been together for an average of five years, and they were asked various questions about relationship satisfaction, body image and their partners' bodies.

The Markeys then compared the results to data from heterosexual couples, finding that lesbian women experience the same concerns about weight and appearance.

"The gist of the findings seems to be that there are more similarities than differences between same-sex and heterosexual couples,” Markey said.

Messages don't discriminate

Both lesbian and hetero women also experience more anxiety about body image if their partners are thinner than they are, the study found. Markey elaborated:

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.

The need for more research on LGBT relationships is clear, she concluded, as well as education and resources to help promote weight management.

The Markeys' research will be published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, and they are currently working on a similar study that includes same-sex male couples.

Source: Philadelphia Gay News