Configurations of the most intimate relationships and their personal significance
Department of Sociology University of Helsinki, Finland University of Helsinki, Finland
Who are the significant others to whom we are most intimately related? How are selves
bound to these intimate others and how are intimate others bound to each other? How do other relationships, past life events and situations enable and constrain these bonds?
The paper analyses intimate relationships in relation to the configurations of significant others of 37 Finnish women and men and their personal narratives. The data is multidimensional and includes respondents´ own graphic illustrations, numeric evaluation of closeness, detailed information of all significant relationships and people in them, as well as, personal narratives. First, the paper examines relational patterns of the most intimate relationship following Elias´ notion of configurations. Second, it draws from narrative analysis and sociological understanding in analyzing intimate bonds as personally significant, but to a varying degree also as socially structured. Research contributes to debates on relationality of personal lives, but also provides further understanding on the varying logics of intimacy including those of nuclear and extended families, as well as, those of love and friendship. Preliminary results show that members of (nuclear) families tend to be more exclusive in intimacy although other close family members, such as non-resident parents and siblings may be included as intimate others. Selves living in less structured settings, such as with children but without a spouse, or alone tend to be more inclusive incorporating intimates outside the closest family members into the circle of intimates. The configurational logic organizes the patterns of intimacy to enable the maintenance or enrichment of the most significant relationships, such as the one to the spouse, children or both.