Lesbian couples are nearly twice as likely as gay men to end a civil partnership, according to the latest government figures.
The number of same-sex couples ending their civil unions leapt by 20 per cent last year, seven years after their introduction in 2005. Overall there were 794 dissolutions in 2012, almost 60 per cent of which were female couples, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
In the seven years since gay couples were able to have civil partnerships, 3.2 per cent of male unions ended in dissolution, compared to 6.1 per cent of female couples.
Sociologists believe the lower rates of ‘divorces’ among gay men may reflect a trend of women committing sooner and having higher expectations for a relationship. Women in civil partnerships tie the knot at an average age of 37.6, compared to men, for whom the average age is 40. Erzsebet Bukodim, sociologist at the University of Oxford, said: “In heterosexual marriage the divorce rate is higher if you enter marriage at a very young age. That might be one of the reasons we’re seeing this [high dissolution rate for women] in civil partnerships.”
Gunnar Andersson, professor of demography at Stockholm University, has found in successive studies that women in Norway, Sweden and Denmark are twice as likely to dissolve their civil partnerships than men. He said: “This reflects trends in a heterosexual marriage because women are more prone to say they want to marry – but they’re also more likely to initiate a divorce. Women usually have higher demands on relationship quality, that’s often been said in studies. Even if you control for age there is still a trend of more women ending partnerships than men.”
Previous figures show British women in heterosexual relationships are more likely to file for divorce than men. Women initiated the divorce in two thirds of cases in the UK in 2011.
Jane Czyzselska, editor of the lesbian magazine, DIVA, said: “Culturally women have been more conditioned to be focused on marriage than men. The stereotype of the lesbian couple who take a U-Haul on their second date, move in and get cats is there for a reason. Because of the cultural conditioning that we have, women do seem to be committing faster.”
Civil partnerships were up 3.6 per cent in 2012, with 7,037 taking place. The biggest increase was in Northern Ireland, where 13 per cent more took place, with 101 ceremonies.
By the end of last year there were 120,908 people in a same sex union, which is already “much higher” than the Government Equalities Office originally predicted. They thought there would be between 11,000 and 22,000 civil partners in Britain by 2010, but there were already more than 79,000 at the start of that year – and are now ten times as many.
A quarter of all civil partnerships still happen in London and Westminster was the local authority with the most civil partnerships in 2012. Brighton and Hove saw the most female same sex couples entering civil unions, with 101 partnerships registered.