The Experience and Meaning of Same-Sex Marriage: A Life-Course Perspective

Date of Award

August 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Andrew S. London

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Using a life-course perspective, this dissertation draws upon semi-structured interviews with a convenience sample of 34 gays and lesbians, 28 of whom are married and six of whom have ended a same-sex marriage by divorce, to explore the experience and meaning of same-sex marriage for the first cohort of those to enter legal marriage. In particular, it highlights two distinct life course trajectories that individual gays and lesbians take en route to marriage – the short and direct trajectory and the long and winding trajectory – and shows that each leads to unique experiences during the transition to marriage. In addition, this dissertation explores how gays and lesbians think about and approach their marital relationships. Drawing upon concepts of companionate and individualized marriage, it shows how married gays and lesbians use elements of both to make sense of their marriages. Finally, this dissertation offers an in-depth analysis of six divorce accounts and strikes a distinction between relationship- and self-focused accounts, each of which reveals a unique orientation to marriage. Overall, this dissertation offers novel contributions to the sociological literature on families, especially the literature on the benefits of marriage, the ongoing individualization of marriage, and the nascent literature on same-sex marriage.


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