We are (usually) trained in our sense of gender roles within heterosexual families. There, still, the feminine becomes associated with the female, the masculine with the male. There are norms concerning how men and women may acceptably behave. Those norms remain and have, to a greater or lesser extent, been learned and internalized by gay men. Within gay relationships, it is worth asking how differential gender roles may become manifest. To put that another way, does one partner become Dad, the other Mom?

Research suggests that, as might be expected, the roles we play are less pronounced than among heterosexual couples. Yet they do exist.

One partner may become associated with more “masculine” tasks and traits. He may earn more. His work schedule may be more traditionally “male.” He may not be able to cook, or have distinctly non-queer-eye taste in clothes. He may have a more dominant personality to which the other is prepared to submit. He, therefore, may take on more broadly the masculine, male role.

The differences, initially, may be slight, but can become pronounced as polarities develop within a relationship. It can be as if the partners are unconsciously aping their initially heterosexual view of marriage and marital roles. The two partners may find themselves slipping toward extremes, where outside of the relationship they would be more balanced.

The problem? Research suggests that partners in gay relationships are less satisfied where such gender-role-playing sets in. This applies to both partners, though the dissatisfaction is more pronounced in the subservient, female-role-playing partner.

We are brought up on ideas of equality — that we should have equal roles in relationships. But, many of us are also raised as “males,” with all the social and gender-norming structures that comes with. Those ideals of equality get cheated in a sexist world. And it can all play out in gay relationships as it sometimes does in heterosexual relationships. Frustration results.

We might suggest solutions, yet these would largely stem from reflection on the relationship you might happen to be in, and on the ability to identify, discuss and resolve any issues you might have with your partner.

If you feel that you are being pigeon-holed as something you don’t want to be, then it’s time to make your case and have your say, not aggressively, but in an attempt to achieve greater happiness and proper self-esteem and develop the relationship.

— Originally published at www.loversguide.com. © Lifetime Productions International, Ltd. 2008-2009.
Reprinted with permission.