Relationships, Partnerships and Marriages
In our study of young same-sex partners in formalised relationships, we partly set out to explore the ways in which the partners conceived and practised their relationships as ‘like’ and/or ‘unlike’ marriage. In light of the findings of previous studies of same-sex relationships, and some of own research on previous generational experiences, we were taken aback by the extent to which our interviewees saw their relationships as marriage or as akin to it. By the same token we were also surprised by how so few interviewees were keen to emphasise the distinction between civil partnership and marriage. Our surprise was no doubt linked to our own ‘older’ generational experience and positioning. This chapter begins by providing an overview of the ways in which partners described their formalised relationships as marriage, as akin to it or as different to it. It then describes in depth three couples’ relationships to illustrate how same-sex marriage stories emerge from embedded lives and relationships on the ground. Following this, we consider how claims and practices of ordinary relationships are linked to a sense of ‘assumed acceptance’ of same-sex relationships in the situated contexts in which people live, but also the ways in which socio-cultural positioning (in terms of ethnicity and race, economic resources and class, disability and religion) could constrain a sense of ordinariness, acceptance and new relational possibilities. Gender, in and of itself, did not structure a sense of ordinariness or acceptance in any straightforward way, and this points to how static institutional and structural frames cannot account for the diverse, situated and dynamic nature of marriages in practice.