City Research Online

The discursive production of romantic realities

Ledingham, S. (2018). The discursive production of romantic realities. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, Universtiy of London)


This research furthers our understanding of romantic love and coupledom: it flags taken-for-granted assumptions in the psychological literature; and provides insights into the sense-making of romantic experience for those in established relationships.

This dual focus study integrates two separate inquiries with working-class participants in committed relationships: interviews with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to capture their lived experience of romance; and focus groups with Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA) to identify discursive resources. Embracing IPA within social constructionism, this enlivens the FDA and sheds light on the process whereby individuals in established relationships position themselves within available discourses and thus experience their relationships as romantic (or otherwise).

The research suggests that what is experienced as romantic — whether heartfelt conversations, expensive gifts or sexual intimacy — is a product of discursive location. The thesis demonstrates that moving discourses can significantly impact how people experience and make sense of romance. For example, small daily acts of thoughtfulness are experienced as romantic by those who are located in the ‘intimacy’ discourse, while gifts, special occasions and grand chivalric gestures are felt to be romantic to those located in the ‘romantic love’ discourse.

Furthermore, the thesis presents the enlivening of the FDA with IPA as a theoretical offering called Discursive Emotional Dynamics. It theorises a relationship between discourses, subject positions and the emotional meaning making constructed by that experience which then implicates future positioning. The thesis therefore offers insights into why and how we mobilise some positions and not others, how we position — and are positioned.

The results reinforce that romantic love is important to the psychology of relationships. By attending to discourses and positioning in an enlivened discursive terrain, this gives us a handle on a range of relationship dilemmas — from casting light on scholarly debates to reigniting a dimming romantic spark.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text (Volume I) - Accepted Version
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Text (Volume II) - Accepted Version
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