Gender and the Construction of Intimacy in Committed Couples with Children
School of Education
This study began with curiosity regarding how long-term couples with children manage their relationships in view of changing societal demands and ideals. Couples interviewed for this study described the intersection of time and intimacy as a core issue. Thus, this analysis focused on how couples construct intimacy in shared time. The diverse sample included 17 heterosexual working and professional class couples in the United States who had been committed for at least 10 years and whose oldest child was aged 6-16. Analysis identified four types of shared time experiences: gender divided, elusive, growing, and emotionally connected. Four factors influenced these types: (a) negotiated gendered differences, (b) intentionality, (c) mutual attending, and (d) dyadic friendship. The most emotionally connected couples reported that time together reinforced satisfaction and pleasure from their relationships. Results help explain different ways couples successfully negotiate changing expectations for heterosexual relationships and why some couples struggle. Findings suggest that therapists help couples intentionally develop habits of friendship and mutual attending.
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