Lesbians' faster burnout tops civil union splits

ROB KIDD
Last updated 05:00 12/05/2013

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More than twice the number of lesbian civil unions have ended compared to gay male partnerships, statistics show.

Of the 2455 total civil unions between New Zealand residents since 2005, only 124 have been dissolved, or 5 per cent, according to Statistics NZ. Of those, 71 were female same-sex relationships, 35 male, and 18 were heterosexual relationships.

Academics warned the dataset was relatively small and it was hard to draw definitive conclusions.

However, AUT research officer Katie Palmer du Preez said there were more stress factors for women to deal with, affecting the longevity of civil unions together.

"I would suggest the shameful slowing of progress in New Zealand in regards to equal pay, appropriate wages for carers in particular and the valuing of other professions that tend to be female dominated as a major factor given that we know financial pressure puts strain on relationships," she said.

"It's more than just stress, it's systematic disadvantage."

A 29-year-old Hamilton woman, who did not want to be named, had her civil union break down after only a few months when her partner left her for an exotic dancer.

She believed the reason more lesbian relationships failed was not to do with outside factors but rather the inherent nature of women.

"I think women get to a much deeper relationship emotionally much more quickly," she said.

"From my experience you'll know a girl's life story by the third date. A man might not tell you that after three years.

"It's a level of emotional intimacy you reach more quickly in a female-female relationship and I think that pushes forward the timeline for those more serious commitments."

Often that meant women missed out on building a foundation of friendship on which to base the relationship, she said.

Acting executive director of Outline - a helpline for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people - Stephen Newton said when put into context the rates of dissolution of civil unions for homosexuals were "minuscule" compared to heterosexual marriage break-ups.

More than one third of couples who married in 1987 had divorced before their 25-year wedding anniversary.

"Gay males have a reputation of being promiscuous and that relationships never last. I think this is a nice antidote to that," he said.

The fact that only 4.4 per cent of all male civil unions had dissolved was even more impressive given the social pressures that existed, Newton said.

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- Sunday Star Times

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