‘I Would Like to Be Better at It’: A Critical Engagement with Illouz’s Account of Men and Intimacy in Romantic Relationships

  • Fiona McQueenEmail author
  • Sharani Osborn
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life book series (PSFL)


With a focus on established heterosexual romantic relationships, this chapter engages with Illouz’s claim that the predominance of the therapeutic ethos has caused a convergence in the capacity for intimacy between middle-class men and women and a divergence between working- and middle-class men. We present original research where class differences in positive orientations to communication in romantic relationships were not found, while gender differences in the capacity for emotional openness persisted. We argue that Illouz’s adaptations of a Bourdieusian framework, reversing the direction of socialisation and theorising emotional competence as of actual rather than arbitrary value, lead her to overstate gender convergence and exclude alternative forms of intimacy. We question the homogenising and pessimistic portrayal of working-class men’s relationships thus produced by Illouz’s analysis.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Edinburgh Napier UniversityEdinburghUK
  2. 2.University of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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