Cover image for Couples : scenes from the inside
Couples : scenes from the inside
Cline, Sally.
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Publication Information:
Woodstock, N.Y. : Overlook Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
x, 390 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Little Brown, 1998.
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HQ801.A3 C55 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
HQ801.A3 C55 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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What exactly are the benefits and costs of couplehood? In her radical new book, Sally Cline explores how our lives can be enhanced or destroyed by intimate partnerships. Reinterpreting and enlarging definitions of heterosexual, lesbian and gay male relationships, she explodes the myth that traditional partnerships are necessarily the ideal way of life. She also distinguishes between the idealized perceptions of coupled life and the rather more complicated -- and often more rewarding -- realities.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In an accessible study of the state of intimate partnerships in Britain, the U.S. and Canada, Cline seeks to redefine and enlarge the definition of couplehood beyond traditional heterosexual marriage. A professor of women's studies at Cambridge University and the author of last year's well-regarded biography Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John, Cline explores the contemporary meaning of and motivations for being in a couple. Having set out to study couples of various sexual orientations and races, and with diverse occupations and living arrangements, she also devotes a lengthy and fascinating chapter to the union of artists, such as that of Margaret Drabble and Michael Holyroyd. For two years, Cline conducted lengthy interviews with couples, probing them about their attitudes on love, sex, celibacy, romance, intimacy, marriage, rituals, children and their experience with anger, violence and resolving conflict. Their revealing stories are often engrossing, especially when told by both partners. While Cline's conclusions about the elements that contribute to a successful union are not surprising (communication, commitment, adaptability, compromise, ability to cherish the partner and to be interdependent), they are cogently organized and well illustrated by the respondents. The dedicated reader will learn much from Cline's work, despite its slightly British tone and studious air. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Cline (women's studies, Cambridge Univ.; Radclyffe Hall: A Woman Called John, LJ 2/1/98) started with a simple question: "Why be in a couple?" The proportion of never-marrieds is on the rise and divorce is rampant, so what is it about coupledom that continues to make it an almost universal societal norm? To winnow out an answer to this question, Cline interviewed 80 couples of various faiths, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and ethnicities, mostly from the United States, England, and Canada. What she found was that no one really challenged the assumption that couplehood was better than singlehood. Instead, she discovered that successful couples managed to deal with the "five Cs and the one I": Commitment, Communication, Coping with change, Cherishing, Compromise, and Interdependence. Cline examines these six topics in depth. While she never really answers her original question, she does pull together a lot of information in a readable, lucid format. For public libraries as well as academic women's studies or sociology collections.ÄPamela A. Matthews, Gettysburg Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The 5 Cs and the Big I SINGLEHOOD OR COUPLEDOM? Becoming a couple is seen as a serious matter. Not becoming a couple is seen as even more serious.     Or so it appears in our couple-oriented culture.     In the late 1990s, despite changing family patterns, and despite the fact that more women who are financially independent are selecting a highly satisfying life without a partner, coupledom is still the norm. The marketing model assures us all is well. Social and cultural life revolves around coupledom. In some countries there is tax relief for married couples. In the Western world restaurant tables are laid for two. Single supplements are slapped on hotel rooms. Property taxes in some countries assume at least two adults live in each house, and those who live alone have to apply for a discount. Evidence suggests that more married couples than single people eat breakfast, suffer fewer depressions, and sustain lengthier passages of stress-free health.     For many women and men coupledom is an enviable state. It beckons as an elusive goal.     Madge, a 54-year-old health researcher whose ten-year partnership broke up several years ago, now lives on her own: I have a fascinating job, primary care is where it all begins. I've paid off my mortgage. My daughters often stay here. I go on sailing and walking holidays with good friends. In many ways I am very content. She looks out at 100 feet of beautifully tended garden: Yes, I spend hours poking about out there. And I have chosen to live on my own, not share with anyone. I like the feeling that when you put down the shampoo it stays just where it is. But ... yes there is a but ... I still miss that `someone', that person you rush home to and tell all those boring details about the day at work. Then suddenly they are riot boring any more! It is the proximity of a live-in relationship, the fact that they are near enough to touch, you just have to reach out your hand, that's what made it valuable to me. Those live-in partnerships, preferably heterosexual, are still promoted as the most desirable family form. However, a new development in the 1990s is the number of live-out partnerships between women and men, two women or two men, who see themselves as a committed couple but choose to reside in separate houses, cities or even countries.     Gay couples, once seen as unspeakable, gay marriages, once seen as impossible, now seem unstoppable. They are on the political and social agenda in the USA, Great Britain and Canada where, at least in large urban cities, partnerships between gay men and women are becoming more socially acceptable.     Nevertheless, `straight' live-out lovers or gay partnerships (whether they live together or apart) are not yet perceived as an `ordinary couple'. Instead they are viewed as outré, cranky, or in some way `improper'.     As for single people, even when surviving successfully in a couple society, unjustly they are denigrated as failures.     Sometimes single people internalise that feeling. Rose, a white British writer, 36, is in her small apartment in downtown Los Angeles, waiting in high spirits for her new partner, a black American sales executive, to fly in from Chicago: I've been single all my adult life ... and couples looked to me like cosy people who'd got their own support system. I've always detested being single. I always felt excluded from what I thought couples were enjoying. They got support. They got sex on tap. That's what I thought. I have been unintentionally celibate for the last six years. I've never known whether that would be it . I've thought I might never sleep with anyone again in my whole life! Rose used to stand on the sidelines watching couples, and making notes for short stories: Couples looked more sleek to me, they were kind of cared for. Like the difference between an indoor cat and a farmyard cat that is just fed by having its food put out so it has to go ratting. That's the difference between single people and couples. Single people of the world have to struggle. Being alone has been a real struggle. I never thought I would be alone for as long as this.     Rose is now in a tempestuous couple which has its share of problems. `We live thousands of miles apart in different time zones so we only meet at weekends, and row all the time about money. Bobby earns a whole lot more than I do which can become a real power conflict.'     Money is not the only issue for Rose and Bobby: We face racism here in a frightening way. There are far fewer inter-racial couples here than back home. When we are in Dallas, Bobby won't let us hold hands.     Despite these conflicts, Rose makes excitable global telephone calls to keep her family informed of the partnership's progress: I love my family's recognition. My mother will ask: `How is Bobby?' I feel I have increased my value by having somebody ... that I am now of worth ... I am capable of attracting somebody and having somebody love me. I feel secure so I can go out to work, come back and no matter how hard my life is I've got that fact to bolster me up. At the end of the day that protects you against everyone. Whether or not coupledom in practice does offer protection, Rose's view suggests that there is a high status set on coupledom irrespective of what goes on inside a particular partnership. Her view also echoes and reflects the problems many women and men have in coming to terms with not being in a couple.     Part of that problem is that in Western society we have had scant guidance on how to live alone fruitfully, whilst simultaneously we are subjected to pressure to be enclosed in an intimate partnership, a pressure that is hard to resist.     That singlehood, celibacy and solitude can be a profoundly productive and positive state has already been well documented by Anthony Storr in his book on Solitude and in an earlier book of mine, Women, Celibacy and Passion .     But despite the fact that singlehood is on the increase -- in the USA between 1970 and 1995 the proportion of people who had never married rose from 16.2 per cent of the population to 22.9 per cent, and the projection for the year 2010 is nearly a quarter of the population -- its status is woefully low.     The abyss into which single people feel they have fallen is satirised by Nick Hornby in High Fidelity , a novel about the consistent demise of couples, where Rob, the seriously-below-average narrator, is dumped by his girlfriend. At 35 Rob is reduced to the ignominy of going to the pictures with his Mum and Dad `and their insane friends'. Whilst waiting for the insane friends to purchase the entire contents of the Pick-`n'-Mix counter, Rob, all self-esteem gone, receives the boneshaking chilling smile of recognition from the world's Most Pathetic Man (that is other than himself) a similarly coupleless soul in a dirty fawn anorak who in his late twenties is also being taken by his parents to see Howards End on a Sunday night.     Being in a state of unchosen singleness in London has severely crippled Rob. But being spotted as that kind of cripple by a fellow man who sees him as a kindred spirit is an unendurable humiliation. From his lamentable situation the pathetic Rob generalises about the life of the uncoupled: All of us, old and young, men and women: we need someone to save us from the sympathetic smiles in the Sunday night cinema queue, someone who can stop us from falling down into the pit where the permanently single live ... The philosophy behind such satire is less that being in a couple is seen as positive than that the reverse is seen as blightingly negative. Not being in a couple it appears can open people up to curiosity, pity, or ridicule.     As for a positive desire for a lifetime's solitude, it is regarded as the consequence of an emotional trauma, an inability to make relationships or a sign of immaturity.     Remember Madge and her wistful phrase: `I still miss that "someone".' Cultural messages assure us that we `need someone' to feel complete. Few messages indicate that `the someone' could be oneself, a healthy, optimistic, sane, strong and sensitive self. I have seen many sane, strong, single people suddenly weaken, become vulnerable to the ideology that they are emotionally incomplete and set off in a crazed and determined mate-search.     Young girls, perhaps more than boys, learn early -- as much from literature as from life -- that pairing-off, being part of an intimate twosome, could be seen as a means of escape. Take the case of Joanna, Lisa St Aubin de Teran's downtrodden heroine of her novel by the same name, who grew up in London during the Thirties, the years of the Depression that `pinched the bones and sapped the marrow'.     Red-headed Joanna, huge and gangly, a servile human giraffe, a physical abomination to her violent and bitter mother, flees the cruelty of home for the haven of young people. She giggles with the girls, meets a number of boys, feels less of a giraffe, and later recalls: We stayed up until late into every night, and after the dancing finished a group of us girls would lie in a heap on one of the canopied beds and discuss love and sex ... Each night, as we lay in bed, we paired each other off with one or other of the brothers or friends. Pairing off for Joanna released her from an unbearable life, it became a way forward.     Pairing off in society is seen as the emotional routine and rhythm of life. That there is a well-documented psychological need for attachment often expressed as sexual desire in all of us means that when this is maintained by intense media persuasion, it is difficult to desire a life that is not to be spent in a couple.     Certainly the myth of coupledom offers an attractive prospect. It represents love, intimacy, emotional security and often financial stability. An ideal of coupledom is eulogised as an erotic arena where sex is wild, or a safe haven where interests are shared, allowances are made, and support is constant. At its best it allows for growth, development and space. The desire for intimacy (being close, sharing, feeling loved, understood, accepted, known and appreciated) is a major reason for wishing to be in a couple relationship. Recent research suggests that where couples have a healthy intimacy they create an environment where each individual can be herself or himself, where the couple can become a jointly fulfilled unit, and where both individuals as well as the partnership can grow, change and develop.     Who would not want this?     Too often, however, the reality of coupledom belies the myth, or the partners themselves are unsure how to achieve a healthy intimacy. Thus what transpires within the couple may be claustrophobia, possessiveness or tension. At least one partner may feel she or he is stunted, or that instead of the predicted joy and comfort they are beset by an unexpected loneliness.     The current insistence on fulfilment through coupledom may lead to the swift cycle of the mate-search, where people believe they have `fallen in love' often before they have become acquainted; sometimes they may move in together after a very short time, only to discover their partner is quite different from their fond imaginings. They may adapt, change and come gracefully to terms with the reality of what a challenging partnership can be about; or they may become disillusioned, a prey to unresolved conflicts, feel trapped, look for an escape route, break up, grieve, then start the partner-search cycle again.     Part of the problem lies in the fact that we have not known from the inside what contemporary couples in the 1990s genuinely want or how far their needs match up to what they have been led to expect by the current cultural definitions of coupledom.     What we do know from previous studies is that whether we see the institution of `the couple' as positive or negative we almost never see it as problematic. We may regard certain partnerships with amazement, envy or horror, but rarely do we call into question the institution of coupledom. It is viewed as the norm against which other situations are measured.     What I have tried to do in this study is to separate the institution of coupledom from the experience of individual couples, to question the current context for coupledom, to throw a fresh light on couples' goals and motives, and to redefine and enlarge our existing definitions of heterosexual, lesbian and male gay couple relationships.     I wanted to find out whether intimacy in its most healthy aspect (which included emotional security and the growth and development of both partners) actually took place inside our contemporary Western model of coupledom; and if it did, on what it depended.     The model however has a new style, for there have been major changes in family structure including less frequent and later marriages, an increase in divorce, and a significant rise in the popularity of cohabitation. Have these changes affected what couples want or how they behave in practice? Do couples even wish to live up to the cultural myths created for them or do women and men today, in heterosexual and homosexual partnerships, desire and design something quite different?     The theme of this major and detailed study on couples is a radical reinterpretation of what it means to be a couple in the USA, Canada and Great Britain in the late 1990s. As the subtitle of this book Scene from the Inside suggests, I have spent two years conducting interviews and analysing from the inside differences in couple perceptions held by female and male partners and by gay, straight and bisexual partners.     I focused on three areas.     Firstly I asked what we mean by `a couple'. Is there a difference between the institution of `the couple' and the social and emotional experience of an intimate partnership? I discovered that the institution of coupledom can (though not necessarily) take over, limit, even control the lives or behaviour of the two people concerned.     The couple as an institution is subject to severe over-protection. Loyalty to the partnership, for instance, often forbids discussion with family or friends of important issues when matters go wrong between the partners. Sometimes one or even both partners become isolated.     When the institution brings about those kind of restrictions it is often due to the way contemporary coupledom has been defined. Because I believed that coupledom is due for a redefinition, based more accurately on the partners' own needs and wishes, my second aim was to try to understand what these needs were.     I investigated the definition of `the couple' by asking people inside an intimate partnership how they defined themselves as a pair and whether that definition matched up to how people outside the pair defined them.     I discovered many couples were heavily influenced by what outsiders thought of them or how outsiders expected them to behave. What they wanted from their relationship was often in conflict with contemporary cultural expectations or labelling. Many couples told me of their struggles `to do things differently' or `make up their own rules'.     Lesbian and gay male partners' wishes and fears were often quite different from heterosexual partners' hopes and demands, and where this occurred the importance of inventing new guidelines cannot be over-estimated.     Women's needs and expectations often differed from men's, which if not communicated adequately produced arguments and tensions. Sometimes the interviews with each partner separately clarified for them the underlining meaning of the arguments, and by the time of a second interview these had often been aired and on occasion some headway had been made.     One couple said: `We are getting more out of these interviews than we got out of going to therapy. Talking to you has helped us talk to each other.'     Another couple said: These interviews are a bit like Couples Therapy without all that stigma! We would never go to that sort of thing, because you're embarrassed to tell people, but saying it's for a book is cool!     My third aim was to discuss with each couple the major practical, psychological and emotional issues they faced and the conflicts they needed to resolve. As well as reporting the views of couples in three countries I have also used certain pieces of literature to illustrate the most important themes the couples raised. The precise subjects tackled and themes explored are given in the final chapter, Background to the Research . My underlying interest was in asking women and men how their coupledom was constructed, whether it was as beneficial as it is publicised to be, whom it benefited and how.     I am fascinated by the ways in which the lives of the two sexes can be enhanced or damaged by intimate partnerships. It became clear how gender, colour, sexual orientation -- and more significantly institutionalised sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia -- can affect the partners' behaviour and emotions and raise issues for the mental health of the couples concerned.     These were all issues which interviewees were eager to talk about, and they formed the backdrop to many of the taped stories running through the rest of the book. THE RELATIONSHIP REVOLUTION In the last forty years we have witnessed a Relationship Revolution which meant my questions were designed to fit radically altered partnerships.     In Europe and the USA marriage rates per thousand of population have reached an all-time low: in the USA the marriage rate has gone down from 10.6 in 1970 to 9.1 in 1994. A parallel situation has taken place in Great Britain where marriage is occurring later and less often.     In both the USA and Europe there has been an increase in divorce. In the USA the number of divorces had risen from 708,000 in 1970 to 1,191,000 in 1994. The marriages do not last long either. During the twenty years between 1970 to 1990, those marriages in the USA which ended in divorce lasted less than seven years.     A growing number of these divorce proceedings are being initiated by women, despite the fact that it is women who are almost inevitably worse off as a consequence of a legal breakup. In Britain recent figures showed 71 per cent of divorces were initiated by women, three-quarters of them granted on the basis of `male misconduct'. Although figures are only part of a story, and when it comes to divorce partners often collude on a method to hurry one through, nevertheless those high numbers are not insignificant.     Though divorce rates remain expectably low in the Catholic countries of Italy, Spain and Greece, throughout the rest of Europe they have increased, with the UK having Europe's highest divorce rate. Forty per cent of marriages in Great Britain now end in divorce.     These divorce and separation rates offer significant clues to the view that financial stability is no longer grounds for staying together. The trigger in this situation is women's more prominent entry into the global labour market.     Today in the USA there are more than three times as many women in the labour force as there were thirty-five years ago. Recent figures show that the female participation rate has gone up from 37.7 per cent in 1960 to 58.9 per cent in 1994, and it has affected both single and married women.     Yet new figures and old feelings are often in curious contradiction. Despite the falling marriage rate, most of the couples I interviewed, including those who deliberately chose to live together rather to marry, held the status of a married couple to be both `more acceptable' and `somehow more committed' than the status of an unmarried couple. That the number of weddings at least in Britain is still very high, currently 300,000 a year, no longer surprises me.     One couple who had lived comfortably together for nineteen years decided at the start of this research to celebrate their twentieth year by taking a train to the Outer Hebrides, telling no one and having a quiet four-person wedding: bride and groom and two witnesses from the public library. `We decided not to tell even our families because we were worried that people might regard us differently,' explained the bride. Their concern is borne out by evidence in this study which conclusively suggests that outsiders' perceptions of a couple's status can affect and change the insiders' viewpoint.     Another couple, in a lesbian relationship, had each been previously unhappily married to men who gave them a hard time when the marriages broke up. The two women had five daughters between them, all of whom had been badly affected by the strains and tensions. All five girls vividly recalled the misery of their childhood spent inside a destructive marital environment. All five were delighted at their respective mothers' new-found happiness. I could find no evidence of homophobia when talking to any of the daughters. Yet last year four of the young women got married all within a three-month period. One daughter said: `We know what marriage can be like but we want to try for something better.' Another one commented: `Our Mums are in a committed relationship, living together and everything, but we want to be really committed, marriage gives you that.'     That there is a contemporary gloss on the traditional notion that marriage offers `real commitment' may be one reason for the increasing popularity of remarriage. In Great Britain one third of all marriages are now remarriages -- the attempts to `try for something better' -- which has led to a sharp increase in the number of stepfamilies and stepchildren. In Britain an estimated 8 per cent of all families are now stepfamilies or `reconstituted' families, and a similar 8 per cent of children are estimated to be living in such families.     How couples deal with the children of their partner is an issue confronted by many I interviewed. Divorced or separated heterosexual couples in new partnerships increasingly face the challenge of an `existing family', where the `other parent' regularly sees the children. `Every time the boys go away with their "real Dad",' one man told me, `they come back to us after their away-day with the "real" father or mother, grumpy, or tense or at best unsettled.'     The boys' mother said: `I and my ex-husband and my new lover all try and show patience and understanding, we try and keep the two "families" absolutely separate, but because the boys didn't want a stepdad he finds it particularly hard.'     For lesbian couples that challenge is extended and made more difficult because, far from attempting separation, the lesbian ethos is to include ex-lovers and ex-lovers' children into a new extended family. This means that many new female partners may have the responsibility of their own children, their partner's children, and the regular part-time care of the children of their new partner's former partner whom they may not know or may not even like.     Hester, a 42-year-old white senior advertising executive, and her black woman partner Earlene who works in the same company, are struggling with some of these childrearing difficulties. For ten years Hester had lived as a celibate single mother with her 10-year-old daughter Lizzie, who now felt resentful at having to share her mother: It has not been an easy ride for Lizzie because she has never seen me in a relationship before. She is very close to her father and I have worked hard at maintaining that. This is my first lesbian relationship, so she is having to come to terms with me not only having a relationship but a gay relationship. It is not surprising that sometimes she feels excluded. Earlene doesn't live with us but she is here most of the time. I try to keep one day free, when she doesn't come, just for Lizzie. Earlene has no doubts about the strength of Lizzie's jealous feelings towards her. `She resents me and is very angry if I am there when she feels I am not supposed to be.'     The situation is further complicated by Earlene's problems in trying to continue co-parenting Dwight, the two-year-old son of her previous partner Betty with whom she lived for eleven years: I adore him. I am committed to helping bring him up if my expartner is agreed to that. So far she has but I do see him less now, only every other weekend, since I've been with Hester. Hester herself is prepared to welcome the two-year-old but admitted: Dwight's mother is a bit nervous about me, about letting Dwight stay here with us. She is protective about her son and about my involvement with him.     Another feature of the Relationship Revolution is that young people are more likely to postpone marriage in favour of living together. Many couples defer childbearing and population researchers point to declining fertility. The availability of reliable contraception allows women both to marry earlier and to postpone the birth of their first child. This has led to more couples marrying with the intention of not having children, and also to more couples cohabiting before subsequently having children. Interestingly, almost one third of births in the UK now occur outside marriage.     Another issue raised in this research was the difficulty young lesbian women had in deciding what path to take in order to bear children. `I used to be totally in favour of anonymous insemination,' said Katy, a young lesbian, `but now I don't feel that I have the right to decide for my unborn child that they will never know where they sprang from or who their father is. So it has become much harder.' Katy's partner, Anne, found this change of plan threatening. `I feel the decision to involve a man, no matter who it is, has threatening implications. At the moment we have not found a way to resolve it.'     For gay male couples who wanted to raise children, issues of surrogacy and `moral welfare' of offspring confused and complicated what they had hoped would be a simple decision.     Another challenge faced by live-out couples is how to survive as a single parent with the partner not on hand. Scandinavia has led the way in this much heralded rise in lone parents caused by increases in divorce, cohabitation breakdown and non-marital births, with a substantial following in all other European countries.     In Great Britain 20 per cent of all families with dependent children are today headed by a lone parent. In the USA in the early 1980s men who acted as single parents only numbered 616,000, but by the early 1990s they had increased their numbers to 1,153,000. Where households with dependent children under 18 in the USA are headed by a woman, the numbers are substantially larger and the increase greater.     On both sides of the water, where the lone head is a mother she is considerably more likely to be in paid employment, which has decisive implications for any live-out couple relationship she may be in.     Repeatedly I heard the old mother/career woman issue in new guises. It was an issue heatedly discussed by couples where the father lived in a separate residence and the mother, in full- or part-time employment, raised their children. But it also proved a problem for several women who lived in the same house as their partners, when they both worked full-time, but where it was the women who were still largely responsible for the child care.     Social attitudes towards living together have changed drastically across the globe. As marriage rates decline, cohabitation rates rise steadily. Where `living in sin' was once a stigmatised minority state, now many counsellors and partnership agencies advise younger respondents to live together before marriage as a sensible prelude to marital commitment.     Where `engagements' were once the tradition for couples who courted, they have been replaced by cohabitation, now an institutionalised part of the mating process. In the USA alone there has been an enormous rise amongst heterosexual cohabiting couples. In the first year of the Seventies decade they numbered a mere 523,000. The figures for 1995 showed a leap to 3,858,000. This escalation has been matched in both Canada and Great Britain.     Cohabitation, no longer perceived as deviant, is widely accepted as either a prelude or an alternative to marriage; or in the cases of most of the couples I interviewed, as virtually indistinguishable from marriage in practical terms if not in status.     These changes in family formation and dissolution are considerable, closely interlinked, and may be due to a number of causes. In the West we have made major scientific gains over reproduction, recent years have seen a strong move towards individualism, and increased opportunities and equality are available to women.     Although these trends seem to reflect a rejection or at least a postponement of marriage, there is no evidence at all that men and women are abandoning intimate one-to-one relationships.     Far from it.     Coupledom is not under collapse, but it is under constraint. The pressure is to meet the needs of re-formed families and restructured partnerships. As women's new freedoms and decisions reshape relationships, as mixed race partnerships grow in number (in the USA we see that the number of married inter-racial couples alone has increased from 310,000 in 1970 to 1,392,000 in 1995), as gay relationships become more socially acceptable, coupledom is in a state of flux and change. Old models cannot be relied on. Couples themselves are asking challenging questions.     I interviewed 160 women and men who represented straight and gay couples of different ages, social classes, races, ethnic groups and religious persuasions; some who lived together, some who lived apart, some with children, some childless. My interest lay in what they saw as the value of coupledom in general and in what values each particular unit held, and whether patterns could be drawn between and amongst couples. FIVE Cs AND AN I The most significant finding of this study is that from the point of view of the couples themselves certain consistent key elements are needed to ensure the making rather than the unmaking of a couple.     These features, mentioned by every partner in the couples in this study, can be broken down into six elements, five which I have characterised by C: Commitment, Communication, Coping with Change, Cherishing , and Compromise ; and one indicated by I: Interdependence : the balance between dependence and independence.      Commitment was seen by the couples as an emotional (and sometimes legal) pledge of love and faith in the relationship. It always carried undertones of dedication, safekeeping and trust, and sometimes hinged on fidelity or building up a lifelong relationship.     Communication was understood by couples to mean a connection through language, which included an exchange of conversation, body language or sexual intimacy.     Many women and men agreed with Dale Spender and Deborah Tannen that the two sexes speak `two different languages' and thus find communication hard. This proved to be a persistent stumbling block.     Coping with Change included any radical alteration in a couple's particular situation, either in the present or one they recalled from the past. Changes included new jobs, new forms of study, raised or lowered income, the birth of children, taking on other people's children, illness, disability, bereavement, depression, change in sexual habits, affairs, retirement, moves to another location or country, any of which changes could have negative or positive consequences for the couple.     Cherishing was defined as the feeling and the expression of care for a partner. This included lovemaking, offering them emotional protection, laughing with them, remembering romance, looking after their welfare, accepting responsibility, offering support time and energy, being considerate, taking the partner into account, demonstrating appreciation and gratitude, looking out for them, and being on their side. It also covered understanding their partner's needs, recognising that the other person's point of view might be valid, focusing attention on them and their concerns as well as on one's own. It was often rooted in compassion.     Compromise , the element that couples in this study found the most difficult to sustain in their partnerships, was defined as a midway path between two different ideas or values or codes of behaviour. Compromise was the settlement of disputes and discussions by negotiation, adaptation, understanding and a constant willingness to see the other person's point of view.     Interdependence is an equilibrium or state of harmony between identity as an individual and connection as a couple. Achieving a balance between these two states was seen as a complex juggling act by most couples. Younger couples in particular had very high expectations about maintaining a personal sense of self and not getting lost inside their couple.     An opposing view was taken by several middle-aged and older couples who suggested that interdependence, unlike the other five elements, was a `luxury item'. One woman voiced their view: `It would be wonderful to be able to afford a sense of self, but in a couple, a harmonious couple, you have to be prepared to sacrifice it when necessary, I mean for the good of the unit.'     Most couples, however, believed that the best interests of the unit were served when individual identity and the couple's joint well-being were in balance.     In this book I consider each of the six elements in turn and discuss the couples' responses to these issues.     In the final section of the book I look at a seventh element, the notion of Creativity and its relationship to coupledom. I am interested in how two creative people live together in a society which sets up two apparently clashing ideas. There is a dominant belief that suggests literature or art is produced by individuals in solitude, yet this is set against the standard social structure which sets marriage, partnerships and families as the norm. There is also the notion that every creative artist, whether male or female, needs a `wife'. If this idea has any credence, what happens if there are two creative people inside a couple?     Among my interviewees were several professional novelists, biographers, screen-writers, artists, politicians, film-makers and musicians who agreed to discuss both the specific issues related to creativity and also the general issues relevant to most partnerships such as children, money, love, sex, freedom, which find expression or restriction under the categories of commitment, communication, change, cherishing, compromise and interdependence. Unlike the other participants in the study, all of whom remain anonymous, with their names coded and fictionalised, the Creative Couples, as public figures, use their own names.     They include the novelist Margaret Drabble and her husband biographer Michael Holroyd; the British politician and writer Denis Healey and his writer wife Edna Healey; the film producer Davina Belling, who co-produced the exceptional Gregory's Girl , and her American writer/computer publicist husband Larry Belling; writer Christopher Spence, the founder and director of London Lighthouse (the `place of safety' for people facing the challenge of HIV/AIDS) and his American wife, writer and consultant Nancy Kline; and the successful husband-and-wife writing partnership Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. It is the stories of their unusual coupledoms with which I close the book.     I open the book as I opened each interview with the question: Why be in a couple? Copyright © 1998 Sally Cline. All rights reserved.