Intimacy and Emotion Work in Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Relationships.

Academic Article


  • Knowledge about how gender shapes intimacy is dominated by a heteronormative focus on relationships involving a man and a woman. In this study, the authors shifted the focus to consider gendered meanings and experiences of intimacy in same-sex and different-sex relationships. They merged the gender-as-relational perspective-that gender is co-constructed and enacted within relationships-with theoretical perspectives on emotion work and intimacy to frame an analysis of in-depth interviews with 15 lesbian, 15 gay, and 20 heterosexual couples. They found that emotion work directed toward minimizing and maintaining boundaries between partners is key to understanding intimacy in long-term relationships. Moreover, these dynamics, including the type and division of emotion work, vary for men and women depending on whether they are in a same-sex or different-sex relationship. These findings push thinking about diversity in long-term relationships beyond a focus on gender difference and toward gendered relational contexts.
  • Published In


  • emotion work, fairness and equality, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intimacy, qualitative research
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Umberson D; Thomeer MB; Lodge AC
  • Start Page

  • 542
  • End Page

  • 556
  • Volume

  • 77
  • Issue

  • 2