1 minute read


Intimacy And Gender

Every couple relationship exists in a broader context that affects their opportunities for intimacy and the quality of their intimate interactions. Gender is a contextual variable that is both present within the dyad (such as the gender of the partners and the nature of their relationship) while being simultaneously reflected in the broader culture within which the couple lives (i.e., sets of roles and socio-cultural norms).

Intimacy has come to be associated with females and femininity in modern U.S. culture. Women are believed to be "relationship experts," and are encouraged to place more emphasis upon becoming skillful at relating intimately than are men (Steil 1997). Perhaps, as a result, men disclose less and describe themselves as less concerned with meeting emotional intimacy needs than women (Prager 1995). That this is a sociohistorical phenomenon is supported by research showing that men are more open and affectionate with one another in some non-Western cultures than in Western ones (Berman, Murphy-Berman, and Pachauri 1988). Unfortunately, there is a paucity of research on couple intimacy in cultures other than the United States.

Overall sex differences are mitigated in heterosexual romantic relationships where women and men report similar patterns of self-disclosure (e.g., Antill and Cotton 1987). Despite these similarities in women's and men's self-reported disclosure levels with their romantic partners, women are more lonely in their romantic relationships than are men (Rubenstein and Shaver 1982), initiate more separations, and report more problems (Fletcher 1983). Anita L. Vangelisti and John A. Daly (1997) found that women and men have similar standards for their romantic relationships, but that women are more likely to report that their standards are not being met by their partners. Either women's socialization to be relationship experts causes them to be more aware of relationship problems, or women are more effective relationship partners than men are, resulting in men experiencing fewer relationship problems (Steil 1997).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsIntimacy - Conceptions Of Intimacy, Intimate Interactions, Openness And Self-disclosure , Partner Responsiveness , Communication Of Positive Regard