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Murray Corren of Vancouver recalls precisely when his spouse, Peter, entered his life nearly 37 years ago. The date was July 11, 1971.

The two men met at a bar in London and have been together ever since. They merged their last names, Cook and Warren, to Corren.

They adopted a teenage son together, the first such adoption by a same-sex couple in British Columbia. And after it became legal to do so, they married in 2004.

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"Our family is as ordinary as many others," Mr. Corren said. "Just as any couple, we argue about things, about very trivial things and sometimes about perhaps a bit more important things. But by and large, we get along really well and have done so all these years."

Now, researchers have scientific evidence to back up what the Correns have known all along - that same-sex couples are just as committed in their romantic relationships as heterosexual couples.

The findings of two separate studies, published in the January issue of the U.S. journal Developmental Psychology, challenge the stereotype that same-sex couples aren't as devoted to each other or have as healthy relationships as their heterosexual counterparts.

One of the studies found that same-sex couples were more satisfied with their relationships than married heterosexual couples were.

In that study, researchers from the University of Washington, San Diego State University and the University of Vermont followed 65 male and 138 female same-sex couples with civil unions, 23 male and 61 female same-sex couples not in civil unions and 55 heterosexual married couples over a three-year period.

The study was conducted in Vermont, the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex relationships with civil unions in 2000.

Using multiple questionnaires, researchers assessed the couples in terms of how affectionate they were, how much conflict they had, their levels of satisfaction and compatibility, as well as equality, intimacy and how they solved problems.

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In most relationship areas, same-sex couples were found to be similar to heterosexual couples, and legal status did not seem to have a major affect on same-sex relationships.

However, same-sex couples reported more positive feelings toward their partners and less conflict than married heterosexual couples, the researchers said.

"Maybe by not having all the legal and institutional reasons to stay together, it could mean that [same-sex couples]are staying together because they really want to," said Kimberly Balsam, a professor at the University of Washington and one of the study's researchers.

Breakups between heterosexual couples occurred slightly less frequently, but that may just mean that heterosexual couples are staying together because it's difficult to obtain a divorce, she said.

The study showed that 9 per cent of same-sex couples who weren't in civil unions broke up, compared with 4 per cent of same-sex couples in civil unions and 3 per cent of heterosexual married couples.

In the second study, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign compared 30 committed gay male and 30 committed lesbian couples with 50 engaged heterosexual couples and 40 older married couples, as well as with heterosexual couples who were dating.

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The subjects completed a questionnaire that asked how positively they interacted with each other on a daily basis. Then, in a laboratory, researchers prompted them to discuss sticky relationship issues such as money or in-laws while they measured the couples' heart rates and how much they were sweating, in order to gauge signs of distress.

The results showed that all subjects had positive views of their relationships, but those in committed relationships - either gay or straight - were better at resolving conflict than heterosexual dating couples.

"I hope that [this research]draws attention to the disparity between what at least a segment of the population believes about same-sex couples being atypical," said Glenn Roisman, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at the university.

Montreal-area resident Roger Thibault, who has been in a same-sex relationship for 35 years, said the conclusions aren't surprising.

He and his partner, Theo Wouters, were the first gay couple to marry in Quebec in 2002. His marriage, he said, is like any other.

"Life has passed by with us loving each other, becoming very committed together," Mr. Thibault said. "It's just like two normal human persons."

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Dan Thompson of Toronto also said that love and devotion have been the basis for his 15-year relationship with the same man.

But he said there are some facets that differ between same-sex and heterosexual long-term relationships.

Although society's attitudes are changing, gay couples don't face the same expectations to get married or have children as heterosexual couples, he said.

As well, disapproval from family can sometimes put tremendous pressure on same-sex relationships, he added.

Mr. Thompson said he knew of many monogamous gay couples, but he suggested that infidelities may occur more openly, though not necessarily more frequently, in same-sex relationships.

"I think that maybe 'cheating' might be the right word in the straight community, whereas [sexual]encounters outside the relationship may be part of some [gay]couples' agreements," he said. "I think that it's more honest than perhaps it is in straight relationships."

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Vancouver resident Elizabeth Barbeau, who has been in a same-sex relationship for nearly 12 years, said one of the reasons that common misconceptions about the stability of same-sex relationships exist is because early studies on gay and lesbian relationships tended focus on individuals who gathered in public places, such as bars, where few long-term monogamous couples congregated.

Those staying home and quietly living together were less likely to be noticed, she said.

"We're not any more regular or normal than straight people, nor are we any less regular than straight people," Ms. Barbeau said.

But whether you're gay or straight, Mr. Corren said there's no magic formula for a successful, lasting relationship.

His has been built on commitment, honesty and a willingness to communicate, he said.

"And you have to love them. You can have all those things, but if there isn't love as well, there really isn't a relationship," he said.

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