2.2 Intimacy

As described in the introduction to this chapter, dyadic partnerships are embedded in a social system that imposes norms upon them and a couple only has limited scope to reject adoption of these norms. But partners, as individuals and as a couple, also develop specific “rules” within the partnership (intrinsic rules) aimed at strengthening the partnership. As well as producing a clear distinction between the couple (us) and society/others (them), these intrinsic ‘rules’ are also used as a “valorisation of uniqueness” of the couple. They are based on individual expectations of a relationship, such as the place of each member, individuation and separation, autonomy and dependency and modalities of distance and closeness.

Intimacy is linked with closeness, individuation and separation, autonomy and dependency. It means emotional closeness, requiring empathy for the other. According to Wikipedia, the free internet encyclopaedia, intimacy is “both the ability and the choice to be close, loving and vulnerable.” Intimacy means sharing oneself with one another. The inability to differentiate oneself from the other is a form of symbiosis. Same-sex partnerships and especially lesbian couples seem to be at higher risk of symbiosis than heterosexual couples due to the obvious fact of sharing the same sex. Since ‘gender’ is based on sex, one member of the couple may presume that her partner shares the same socialisation, experiences menses in similar ways and is also exposed to a sexist and hetero-normative society. Further, gender-specific expectations of partners may also play an important role, since women share societal norms of femaleness and consequently expect a certain ‘female’ character and behaviour.
Plurality and differences between women based on, e.g. ethnicity, social class, dis/ability, religion, etc. are blocked out or even disowned. According to feminist theory, mainly of last century, sex and gender are the crux of society’s hierarchal organisation. For a long time women were seen as ‘collective subjects’ sharing oppression based on sex and gender. This, on the other hand led to self-perception of a collective ‘we’. By the 90s of last century, this self-perception was questioned by some feminists because it usually meant “white, middle-class women without disabilities”. Especially the black women’s movement of United States demanded new perspectives taking into account the plurality of women’s living conditions. This also had an impact on European feminist movements.
A self-perception of women as collective subjects and a visible biological sameness may support crossing the boundary between intimacy and symbiosis in lesbian relationships. If the couple is not able to learn to accept and appreciate differences (at least up to a certain degree), symbiosis may be a well of disappointment, anger and finally violence. Additionally, disappointment about unfulfilled gender-based  expectations of the partner, like caring, altruistic behaviour may contribute to a violent dynamic.

page 1 of 1
to top

Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

Imprint | Sitemap