Expressions of commitment and independence: Exploring men’s emotional responsibility in heterosexual couple relationships

  • Tove Thagaard Instititute for Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo
  • Kari Stefansen Norwegian Social Research
Keywords: heterosexual couple relationships, men, commitment, independence, emotional responsibility, love

Abstract

This paper examines men’s contributions to the division of emotional labour in heterosexual couple relationships by exploring the dimensions of commitment and independence, and how couples deal with challenges. The study is based on individual interviews with each of the partners in ten urban middle-class couples in Norway. The results indicate diversity in middle-class men’s approaches to emotional responsibility, which is expressed through three models. The model of shared responsibility implies that the man’s contributions in the relationship represent expressions of responsive commitment. The man finds a balance between giving priority to his personal interests and considering shared interests; a pattern we refer to as collaborative independence, and he shares the responsibility for coping with challenges with his partner. The model of gendered responsibility implies that the man’s contributions in the relationship are characterized by non-responsive commitment. The man gives priority to his personal interests in a way we refer to as conflicting independence, and refrains from sharing the responsibility for coping with challenges with his partner. Finally, a third model, termed partial responsibility, is also evident in the data. This model is a combination of collaborative independence and non-responsive commitment, and may represent a phase of transition towards collaboration on an equal basis. A discussion of interpretations of the diversity in men’s approaches to commitment and independence concludes the paper.
Published
2014-02-06
How to Cite
Thagaard, T., & Stefansen, K. (2014). Expressions of commitment and independence: Exploring men’s emotional responsibility in heterosexual couple relationships. Nordic Journal of Social Research, 5. https://doi.org/10.7577/njsr.2073
Section
Articles