The initial evaluation of a relationship education program for male same-sex couples
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Same- and other-sex relationships involve similar patterns of development and are subject to similar predictors of relationship distress and dissolution; however, same-sex couples are subject to more varied and intense versions of these predictors (e.g., lack of support for the relationship). Negative relationship outcomes are associated with poorer mental and physical health highlighting the importance of couple-focused interventions to prevent relationship distress. Unfortunately, most programs were explicitly designed for other-sex couples. This project involved the initial evaluation of the acceptability and utility of a relationship education program specifically designed for same-sex couples. The intervention utilizes evidence-based techniques (e.g., communication training) as well as material thought to be especially relevant for same-sex couples (e.g., coping with discrimination). Twelve married or engaged male same-sex couples were randomized to either an immediate intervention ( N = 7) or waitlist (N = 5) condition. Those completing the intervention participated in a three month, post intervention, follow-up (N = 11). Although participants rated all intervention components as highly useful for enhancing their marriages, several recommendations for program refinement were suggested during an exit interview (e.g., increasing focus on sexual connection). Effect size estimates comparing change across the waitlist, reveal that involvement in the waitlist was associated with improvements in communication and problem solving, relationship outcomes (i.e., satisfaction, confidence, and quality), perceived support for the relationship, social support, perceived stress, and physical well-being. This may be a consequence of study assessment methodologies (e.g., engagement in a problem solving discussion) and/or the couple's decision to participate in a relationship education program. To examine the specific impact of the intervention, a series of effect sizes were calculated, each comparing data at post-waitlist and post-intervention (for the immediate treatment group only) time points. These results suggest that involvement in the intervention was associated with improvements in communication, relationship outcomes (i.e., satisfaction, confidence, and quality), perceived support for the relationship, social support, perceived stress, and mental well-being. Intervention effects were generally maintained three months later, suggesting that this program may result in lasting improvements in individual and relational outcomes. Future research will evaluate the intervention among a larger sample of couples.
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