Considerations of equality in heterosexual single mothers' intimacy narratives

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This paper explores experiences and expectations of equality within the intimacy narratives of UK single mothers. A perceived lack of equality was often cited by participants as a contributing factor in relationship breakdown, contradicting notions of increasing democracy (Giddens, 1992). For those who had grown up aspiring to egalitarian relationships, experiences of inequality engendered disappointment. Yet narratives simultaneously contained longings for the perceived certainty of traditional gendered roles associated with more stable, committed, enduring relationships - an ideal model of intimacy against which intimate lives were measured. Narratives were therefore marked by ambivalence as participants navigated their way through different understandings of intimacy, while managing challenging situations. While equality in intimate relationships was viewed as a possibility by some, participants often felt it was out of reach due to a lack of suitable potential partners. For others achieving stability in relationships was the main priority. This article therefore argues that commentators who two decades ago heralded a brave new world of equality in intimate lives (Giddens, 1992) were overly optimistic; the narratives discussed here reveal a more contextualised, complex and uneven picture of contemporary intimacies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-143
Number of pages11
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2015


  • Single motherhood
  • Equality
  • Intimacy
  • Narrative
  • Gender


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