For nearly 40 years, the couple has been undergoing transformations and changing its nature: fragility, precariousness and instability related to the decline of marriage, the rise of divorce and free union, new forms of cohabitation, and attributed to individualistic tendencies, changes in gender relations and the conjugal cycle, or to the erosion of moral and symbolic references. Yet, the ideal of fidelity and permanence remains strongly present, as evidenced by surveys of young people about their personal and family projects (Pronovost and Royer, 2003). What about contemporary conjugality in postmodern societies?
The importance given to weddings at a time when the institution of marriage itself is falling into disrepute leads one to ponder the current significance and new role of this event in the life of the couple. A re-reading of the works of Arnold Van Gennep and of Pierre Bourdieu with regard to the notion of “rites”, taken together with a field study carried out in France, indicate that marriage as such is no longer a “passage” in the life of the individual, but that the wedding itself ranks as a transition activity that is important to the couple, its power seeming to derive from the very fact that it is no longer either mandatory or necessary. Far from weakening the wedding ceremony, the decline in the institution of marriage seems, paradoxically, to have been countered by the maintenance of the wedding itself; this is an instance where form has replaced substance and now offers it a helping hand. The total commitment of young married couples to the organization of their marriage may then be seen as an indicator of the strength of the matrimonial commitment they wish or hope to thus demonstrate. The ceremonial of marriage is a space where the couple act out what the spouses hope to become.
In France, while research centered on heterosexual couples is very much on the increase, female homosexuality and lesbianism are still too rarely studied. However, work on the forming and behaviour patterns of lesbian couples is particularly amenable to heuristic research. Such studies demonstrate the importance of envisaging homosexuality and conjugal relationships in terms of trajectory and process. With this in mind, the present article attempts to bring out the connections between a homosexual lifestyle and a spousal lifestyle, between a homosexual and a conjugal trajectory within a lesbian population.
A comparison of the financial practices of three generations of middle-class Swiss couples allows the author to stress the central roles played by economic independence in the creation of contemporary conjugal relationships. Financial autonomy, a status that has become ever more attractive to couples of the new generation, not only contributes to promote individual independence, it also opens the door to a new form of conjugal solidarity, less statutory and more emotional than in the past. Historically, the process of individualizing the financial relationship is above all a reflection of the ongoing economic emancipation of women. This means that the new conjugal relationship is partly predicated on the ability of women to access a traditionally male resource: money.
An approach that reunifies the notions of “public” and ”private” indicates that the participation of women in political and unionist activities is a determining factor in the allocation of domestic work, of personal, family and conjugal territory, and in the adjustment and redefinition of masculine and feminine within the couple. Such participation is reciprocally dependent on these various factors. Somewhere between the ideal-typical model of the fissional couple and of the ménage à trois, we shall explore, from the standpoint of gender-based social relationships, those factors that hinder such participation as concerns the first model, and promotes them in the second, by bringing out the contradictory and opposing dynamics.
In this study, the authors take a large representative and longitudinal sample of couples living in Switzerland, based on the points of view of women who took part in a survey, and use it to draw a portrait of the progression of conjugal problems occurring over the different phases of family life. The gradual worsening of relationships is reconstructed using two measurements at an interval of five years. The origin of the conjugal difficulties is observed through the prism of family transitions, more especially the birth of children, their starting school, and their departure from the family home. The authors’ analyses demonstrate the destabilizing potential of these transitions for the couple. The ups and downs of the relational equilibrium do, in certain cases, lead to a build-up of difficulties that take over the conjugal space and end by creating a situation from which there is no way out.
The transition to parenthood has sparked innumerable studies that primarily stress the attrition of the conjugal relationship following the birth of the child. Recent assessments and studies in the field have somewhat qualified this judgment, and have emphasized rather the diversity of perceptions by subgroup, based on new paradigms built on the notion of complexity. The present article is the result of a life-story research activity involving some thirty couples living together in de facto or marital relationships. The couples were selected so as to cover a diversity of environments, of professions and of cultural backgrounds. The analysis of their life-stories, intersected with an account of the time they have lived together prior to having or planning to have (or not to have) children makes it possible to explore the changes experienced by the couples during such transition, grounded in a life-story approach.
Spouses are far and away the caregivers primarily responsible for looking after elderly persons suffering from disabilities. And yet both professionals and most researchers seem to overlook their commitment or to take it for granted. In this article the author will be looking at spousal transition and commitment to the role of caregiver from the angle of issues of identity, and more particularly the identity assigned by society at large, based on the social and gender classification of the spouse, and the identity that elderly spouses appear to attach to themselves. Conjugal identity, as perceived by three generations of respondents and spouses, is based on a duty of solidarity involving both a consensual contract and trust.