Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 100–111 | Cite as

Cohabitation and Romantic Relationship Quality Among Portuguese Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Individuals

  • David L. RodriguesEmail author
  • Diniz Lopes
  • Marília Prada


Lesbian and gay (LG) individuals are perceived as having poorer relationship functioning than heterosexual individuals, but this negative appraisal is not translated into actual relationship experiences. Indeed, relationship quality outcomes do not vary according to sexual orientation. Cohabitation status may play an important role, because it symbolizes relationship commitment and intimacy particularly for LG individuals. A cross-sectional study (N = 425, 52.9% women; Mage = 28.38, SD = 6.89) with romantically involved LG (38.4%) and heterosexual (61.6%) individuals examined the association between cohabitation and relationship quality outcomes. To isolate the role of cohabitation, cohabiting individuals were compared according to relationship legal status. Results showed that cohabiting (vs. non-cohabiting) LG individuals were more committed, invested, and satisfied, but those who legalized (vs. did not legalize) their union were only more committed. Among heterosexual individuals, no differences were observed. Furthermore, LG (vs. heterosexual) individuals were overall more committed, satisfied, and invested when cohabiting with their partner (especially in legalized unions), whereas heterosexual (vs. LG) individuals were more committed in non-cohabiting relationships. No other differences were found. This suggests that cohabitation may be used by LG individuals as a strategy to strengthen relationship quality and that legal recognition further increases relationship commitment.


Cohabitation Commitment Lesbian and gay individuals Portuguese context Investment model 



The authors would like to thank Carlos Carriço for his help in data collection, and also ILGA Portugal and Rede Ex-Aequo for helping to disseminate the study by sharing the link to the survey in their webpages.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Organizational PsychologyInstituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), CIS-IULLisbonPortugal

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