Modern Couples, The Biggest Threat Isn't Infidelity
Contemporary relationships are challenged not just by naughty temptations, but by competing personal interests and professional goals. How modern couples reflect whole new values.
BUENOS AIRES — Daniela was out with friends last night. When she came home, her husband Marcos was asleep. And then she was asleep when Marcos woke up to go to work. He kissed her good morning, pulled the covers over her and grabbed his sports bag. He would be the one coming home late that day, after playing soccer and eating out with friends.
Over the last 48 hours, the couple has only spent a half-hour together. But they have chatted on the messaging application Whatsapp during this time, discussed home affairs and even told one another they missed the other. Yet neither is willing to forego their individual personal lives (soccer, girls’ night, etc.) or give up their work (both are professionally happy). Even still, perhaps theirs is a normal modern marriage.
After all, a poll conducted by consultants D'Alessio IROL shows that more than half of couples spend less than five hours a day together. That’s because couple life competes with so many other activities: being on the computer, watching television, reading — or just the need to be alone. But only 15% of poll respondents see that as a problem. Generally, they respect and enjoy the principle of separate activities during the day, while spending as much time together as possible during weekends. The mobile phone is a great ally, as 80% of couples use technology to keep in touch when obligations impede that.
“Love has to find its place, in an era when time is of the essence,” says psychoanalyst Any Krieger. “There is also the necessity of being happy. ... Today, the relationship competes with the desire for personal experiences, pleasure and the idea of self-improvement.”
Psychoanalyst Eduardo Drucaroff says couples grow into how to divide their time between individual pursuits and the life of the couple. “Choices are always relative,” he says. “These are decisions couples make in time, so each one has his or her margin of freedom that boosts individualism.”
People may have shared more time in the past because, for example, the woman wasn't working then — and was, in some cases, waiting for the man to return from work.
Krieger says there was a time when amorous ties depended on the amount of time people spent together. “But this is not the case anymore, and there is a new paradigm tied to the idea of each partner seeking his or her own well-being,” she says. “And it's related also to the woman's entry into the work world. Which means that working time, training hours, travel — all got in the way of couple time.”
The right balance
Yet few would say distance does a couple good. While this type of relationship contributes to keeping desire alive and encouraging them to want to be together, it can be a problem when one support. Spending too much time apart could even lead to other relationships.
Such cases are common. Cecilia and Gabriel, for example, live in Burzaco, outside Buenos Aires. “I leave the house at 6 a.m., and kiss him goodbye when I go,” Cecilia says. “But he is asleep because he arrived from work at 11:30 p.m. As you can imagine, I'm not going to wake him up. And it's like this every day. We get along well, we have plans together, we're happy, we want to have a child. But we don't see each other often. Which is why we make the most of weekends and holidays.”
Drucaroff says this kind of relationship could be “a mechanism to avoid dependence.” If people don’t feel sufficient trust and security in a relationship, they can use this lifestyle to escape or to hide inside excessive independence, “and protect themselves from the fears related to affective dependence.”
Economist and human resources specialist Alejandro Melamed says the key is in finding a balance. Often it's about “knowing when to put on the breaks to avoid feeling crowded in in any of our activities,” he says. “In recent years, there has been an important evolution in finding the balance in various aspects of our lives — family, health, work, social life, hobbies, careers, physical activity, personal needs. etc. Balancing personal and work lives has evolved toward a Fully Integrated Life. The great change is inside each of us, not outside. That's how we can become better professionals and people.”
Suddenly telecommuting and recovering certain family ties clash with “kisses” sent on the phone, as an Argentine song goes. There is no ideal recipe. As one psychologist says, the “formula for happiness has not yet been invented. We're in the trial phase.”