Pure Relationship: A Sociological Concept And Its Relevance In Modern Society

Giddens’ Concept of Pure Relationship


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Discuss about the Pure Relationship for Arts and Social Sciences.

Giddens, a renowned sociologist introduces a concept of pure relationship in addition to other concepts of relationships that exist in society today. By giving examples, he postulates that persons can enjoy quality relationships that are not motivated by sexual intimacy. Although sexual intimacy is widely considered an important right in marriage and other forms of partnering, modern concepts have re-looked at its place in forming quality relationships. Giddens’ concept will be discussed in relation with such modern concepts as cohabitation, dating, marriage and other relationship processes. Many influences confront society today and are responsible for the rise of alternative forms of partnering (Kuperberg, 2014, 31). The fast-paced lifestyle of the ordinary person and the technological advances that expose society to innumerable possibilities also play a role in determining the kind of relationships people form with their intimate partners.

Giddens looked at the concept of pure relationship as one that exists solely for whatever rewards the relationship offers. In this case, he says that trust can only be mobilized based on a process of mutual disclosure (Schröder and Schmiedeberg 2015, 450). This concept in a way differs with other concepts of partnering that exist in modern world. In pure relationship, intimacy is largely avoided as the couple sets the ground rules for the union.

This approach to relationship forming brings to mind several questions regarding the time tested values of love and care for others that have existed in society for many generations. Persons engaged in the kind of relationship that Giddens proposes are driven by selfishness. They basically get into those relationships to meet their personal needs as opposed to mutual caring for their partner. This scenario is not entirely practical because individual the world over are attracted to others for relation forming in order to meet intimate needs. On the top of these intimate needs is the need for sexual pleasure (Yu and He 2014, 411). By and large, though, egalitarian relationships get transformed into intimate unions where persons cannot resist the pull of romantic feelings.

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How autonomy can be maintained in building pure relationships is a question that Giddens fails to tackle directly. The assumption he makes is that individuals long for these relationships. It should be noted that since persons enter into pure relationships for their own sakes, such relations do not result into strong healthy bonds. The fear that the relationship can break up any time hinders individuals from fully expressing themselves. They may, for example, suppress feelings of anger and disapproval of the conduct of their partners because such expressions may result in their partner leaving them (Yu and He 2014, 411). Such dilemmas are not faced by people in stable unions such as marriage where the enjoyment of the full benefits that the relationship entails is guaranteed. The permanency of marriage relationships also builds important qualities in the lives of the parties in times of conflict. Married couples have the freedom to express any of their feelings because they know the other party cares for them selflessly. They develop positive attitudes towards conflict resolution because they are guided by the overarching goal of building a stable relationship (Malta and Farquharson 2014, 400).

Modern Concepts of Relationships

It is vivid that the views of Giddens on pure relationships are based on an older school of thought that promotes the empowerment of women. It should be noted here that the dynamics of society have now changed after the major campaign to empower women hit the world by storm. Today that understanding has been interpreted to mean that women do not have to lose their femininity in order for them to be empowered. The feminist campaigns promoted egalitarian relationship which was based on the concept that women did not need men for survival. In this regard, women withheld intimacy from their male partners so as to attain pure relationships. This has been seen to be impractical today and society has realized that women do not have to refrain from their feminine role to attain empowerment (Hellman, Karjalainen and Majamäki 2017, 240). The need for intimacy in human experience should never be limited. Society depends on both men and women for progression through procreation. This should be allowed to take place in the context of society sanctioned unions so as to save the world from social chaos.

According to Jamieson, Giddens’ concept of pure relationship does not agree with the value of love as practiced in society (Berghammer, Fliegenschnee and  Schmidt 2015, 443). Love is supposed to express itself in favor of the other party. The presupposition of this theory is that individuals enter into relationships for provision of basic physical things which distract them from emotional involvement (Rhoades et al. 2015, 78). This fallacy is disapproved by the quest for relationships by people who intend to enjoy stability in life. Right from dating to such temporal cohabitation, the desire for intimacy and care is displayed in all human societies.  In the words of Jamieson, the pure relationship concept being fronted by Giddens does not deserve any special categorization rather than classifying it under conventional friendships (Ottosen and Liversage  2015, 350).

Scholars have questioned the motivation for forming pure relationships as proposed by Giddens. There could be a possibility that this scenario could stem from experiences in early childhood. Children who may have grown up under parents that failed to socialize them into forming intimate relationships could have challenges establishing such bonds. Their lack of capacity to form and maintain intimate relationships may lead them to the so called pure relationships. In actual sense, these relationships could be an alibi for persons who find difficulty in commitment in a relationship. Persons that exhibit this characteristic need to be assisted through therapy; this is because the string of temporal unions in the name of pure relationships may not help them deal with their internal desires.

Maintaining Autonomy in Pure Relationships

Modern concepts of conflict resolution and mutual exclusivity in relationships seem to motivate proponents of pure relationships. However, personal human relationships should never be formed based on the structure of physical institutions. Democracy as a concept is widely accepted for conflict resolution and equitability. Intimate relations should be driven by the desire to care for the other individual as one fulfils their needs for intimacy (Schröder and Schmiedeberg 2015, 233). Personal relationships represent personal lives of individuals and must not be compared to what exists in public domain. It is difficult to set rules in personal relationships because they are driven by emotion and passion. Attempting to do so based on Giddens’ propositions only lead to unfulfilled personal needs.

In cohabitation, the partners acknowledge the fact that a human being has many aspects including intimacy. Sex in a relationship is considered a foundational concept that increases the value in a relationship (Giddens 2016, 256). In cohabitation though, the terms of reference allow the individual to engage in a relationship without the obligations that come along with a typical relationship of marriage. This gives persons the benefit of involvement if a relationship that offers some of the basic functions in a marriage but comes short of the full commitments that come with it.

Looking at the nature of relationships today, it is clear that persons are moving away from the traditional family setup where dating would lead to courtship and ultimately marriage. Changing trends have caused couples to develop visiting relationships because each party is able to take care of their individual needs independently. There is also a trend of having children before marriage and serial partnering.

The internet has been both a blessing and a curse as far as forming relationships is concerned. Dating sites make it convenient for the modern person to seek for relationships on the internet. However it must be noted that these relationships mostly lack the personal touch there by making them less fulfilling (Yu and He 2014, 411). It is important to note that few of these relationships lead to lasting marriages. The partners in such relationships may not take them very seriously because they are relatively easy to form and in this perspective, the frequency of breakups is also high (Giddens 2016, 256).

In America today, dynamics that come with formation of long term relationships persist. Life has become busier and couples do not pay as much attention to each other. As a result, the rate of divorce is on the increase. Many people who have undergone divorce find it easy to engage in casual sex and cohabitation (Wray 2015, 452). The delayed marriage age is also to blame. Persons delay forming marriage relationships because they feel that they have to attain a particular level of career status before they can commit into this institution. A long the way, however, because their bodies crave for intimacy, they end up either in casual sex arrangements of cohabitation ( Baker 2014, 233). The fact that most people spend the majority of their time with colleagues at work instead of their spouses points to problem in sustaining marriage relations. Intimate relations must be nurtured continuously and where this is lacking, they are likely to disintegrate. It is for this reason that Giddens may be motivated to promote pure relationships (Hermansson, 2017, 400).

Views on Pure Relationships

Society should not use the dynamics of the present society to dispel the need for intimate relationships. Where there is a deficiency in forming these relationships, efforts should be made to seek assistance. It must also be acknowledged that as much as the need for intimacy is universal, there are present-day dynamics that must be factored where partnering is concerned. Generally, women in society were housewives and would stay at home taking care of domestic chores. Today things have changed and the job market is peopled with empowered women across the fields. Both men and women have opportunities to work and this poses a challenge in traditional partnering (Hobbs, Owen and Gerber 2017, 55).  Technology has affected the quality of relationships especially where persons are exposed to alternative lifestyle possibilities available on cyberspace. To be able to survive in stable intimate relationships in the world today, couples need to be alive to the great challenges that they face. It is also noteworthy that the empowered woman desires to have a high level of control over the relationship which is a shift from the traditional family arrangement. This may be seen as a challenge to the position of a man in marriage and lead to the pure relationship scenario as proposed by Giddens


Pure relationships are difficult to maintain in the world today as the society is continuously driven by sexual suggestibility. Modern concept of partnering poses a challenge to traditional values of mutual trust and longevity of relationships. If well practiced though, this concept can help people who wish to wait before forming marriage relationships because they get the benefits of mutuality away from the encumbrances that come with marriage. Society cannot get away from the need for selfless relationships for humanity. It is therefore important that the concerned institutions in society revisit the structure and nature of relationships that are conducive in contemporary society.

Reference list

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