This article suggests that the new feeling rules of intimacy within heterosexual couple relationships are widely recognised and reflect the contention that an androgynisation of the value of emotion is taking place (), whereby men are expected to disclose emotion and provide emotional support to female partners. Simultaneously, the new feeling rules are recognised to be difficult to follow for men due to the highly gendered nature of emotion work in heterosexual relationships suggesting talk of emotion has changed while the practice has not. Drawing on interview data collected in the UK (13 male and 15 female), this article suggests that the new feeling rules can be broken down into three distinct areas associated with the highly desirable status of being a ‘good partner’: (a) being ‘emotionally skilled’, (b) disclosing emotion and (c) performing relational emotion work. This analysis enables a critical appreciation of how the inequalities of emotion work can be reproduced as part of the pursuit of having a ‘good relationship’ (mainly unquestioningly) and sets out a new way of looking at the relationship between emotion work, gender and equality.
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