Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert L. Betz

Second Advisor

Dr. Edward Tremblay

Third Advisor

Dr. Linda Reeser


Recently theorists have examined women's development as relational. The ability to use empathy, the value of mutuality, and a flexible boundary structure are components, which lead to psychological growth and emphasize the importance of relating within the relationship. Lesbian relationships are likely to be highly relational, as they consist of two women relating in an intimate way. Research regarding satisfaction in lesbian relationships has been sparse; satisfaction has been correlated with mutuality, intimacy, and dyadic attachment. Other variables such as an equal power balance, commitment, and cohesion have also been positively related to satisfaction. The purpose of the present study was to examine mutuality, cohesion, and merging as correlates of relationship satisfaction.

A sample of 115 lesbians received packets containing the Mutual Psychological Development Questionnaire, Family Adaptability and Cohesion Evaluation Scale II, Marital Satisfaction Scale, Life Styles Questionnaire, and Personal Information Questionnaire. Usable data were received from 63 women for a return rate of 55% . The data were analyzed using correlational techniques, and a stepwise multiple regression analysis was conducted to evaluate which dependent variable was the best predictor of relationship satisfaction.

Mutuality and relationship satisfaction were significantly correlated, and mutuality was found to be a highly significant predictor of relationship satisfaction. Cohesion was also significantly correlated with relationship satisfaction; merging showed a significant correlation with relationship satisfaction. Time spent together in the relationship had an inverse correlation with relationship satisfaction.

The results indicated that mutuality is a valued aspect in women's relationships, which supports Stone Center theorists' emphasis on growth through mutual interaction. The correlation between cohesion and satisfaction indicates the value which lesbians place on sharing friends and interests, mutual support, and emotional bonding. Merging was not viewed negatively by this sample. It was concluded that the negative statements which abound in the literature regarding merging in lesbian relationships do not consider the differences which exist in women's development. The need to allow norms in lesbian relationships to develop without a heterosexual or traditional developmental interpretation is essential to avoid pejorative labeling which can lower self-esteem and devalue the lesbian relationship.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Counseling Commons