"The best is always yet to come": Relationship stages and processes among young LGBT couples

J Fam Psychol. 2015 Jun;29(3):309-20. doi: 10.1037/fam0000094.


Limited research has examined relationship development among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples in emerging adulthood. A better understanding of LGBT couples can inform the development of relationship education programs that reflect their unique needs. The following questions guided this study: (a) What are the stages and processes during young LGBT couples' relationship development? and (b) How do these compare with existing literature on heterosexual adults? A secondary goal was to explore similarities and differences between couples assigned male (MAAB) and female at birth (FAAB). Thirty-six couples completed interviews on their relationship history. Qualitative analyses showed that relationship stages and processes were similar to past research on heterosexuals, but participants' subjective experiences reflected their LGBT identities and emerging adulthood, which exerted additional stress on the relationship. These factors also affected milestones indicative of commitment among heterosexual adults (e.g., introducing partner to family). Mixed methods analyses indicated that MAAB couples described negotiating relationship agreements and safe sex in more depth than FAAB couples. Relationship development models warrant modifications to consider the impact of sexual and gender identity and emerging adulthood when applied to young LGBT couples. These factors should be addressed in interventions to promote relationship health among young LGBT couples.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bisexuality / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*
  • Young Adult