chapter  8
Voices from subterranean cultures of love
ByWendy Langford
Pages 16

Love relationships, like all relationships, rely for their existence on the maintenance of some kind of common ground, some kind of intersubjective space where those communications which go to make up what we mean by a relationship can occur. In an earlier essay (Langford 1995), I began to explore the phenomenon whereby a love relationship is partly, sometimes very substantially, negotiated through the adoption of alter personalities who play out their interactions within a mutually constructed imagined world, safe from the dangers and conflicts which beset ‘real’ relationships in the ‘real’ world. Using a variety of methodologies: literary examples taken from two famous plays (Ibsen 1981; Osborne 1960) and a short story (Woolf 1991), an analysis of St Valentine’s Day messages from the Guardian (14 February 1993), and empirical evidence from in-depth interviews with participants in two alter relationships, I focused specifically on issues of gender and power within heterosexual couples. I argued that within the bounds of an alter relationship, individuals can find a comfort, pleasure and security which is often precluded by the gendered emotional dynamics that commonly characterise love relationships in the post-romantic phase.