Society: why does love resist?

“My relationship lasts a few weeks or a few months. It’s not only sexual, but I also do not want to say that it is sentimental … In fact, I get bored very quickly, I need to be surprised. » Eléonore is 21 years old, she no longer wants that “for consumption”, but find “incomprehensible to ask” at his age. “I would have the impression of missing out on too many options, of not having any comparison elements.” Insecurity, phobia of commitment, overestimated freedom … Eléonore is not an isolated case, on the contrary. His testimony resembles dozens of interviews conducted by Eva Illouz for her latest essay, The end of love.

The sociologist, who has been dissecting the evolution of our sexual behavior and love behavior for twenty years, this time analyzes the consequences of “hacking” our love life by freedom of choice, capitalism, and technology. Starting with the commodification of meetings: faced with a giant buffet of singles available with two clicks, the overflow blocks us. As 50 million people around the world installed Eléonore Tinder: “It is also the abundance of opportunities that hamper my ability to engage. It’s harder now to tell yourself that it really is the right person, there are so many other girls! »

Self-empowerment or love for two: the war of opposites

We therefore live in permanent uncertainty, chronic anxiety linked to our choices (are there no better ones elsewhere?) As well as to conditions that are becoming increasingly complicated to identify (what is a couple? Where does the commitment begin?). So since the love contract is no longer like that “stable and predictable” than before, Eva Illouz notes, we have therefore become freelancers of love, victims (and executioners) of a form of sentimental precariousness. Worse: it’s even our ability to engage that will soon be old history. The sociologist is causing an epidemic of “non-love”, is “termination of a relationship, inability or refusal to enter into one, the transition from one relationship to another”. For in our capitalist society there is no satisfaction except in unrestrained consumption, autonomy and self-realization. The business of personal development, empowerment and “inspiring” Instagram accounts does not go wrong. You should “live your best life”, discover “your hidden potential” or “take care of yourself”. And the others in all this?

Liv Strömquist says nothing else in her latest cartoon, The reddest Rose blooms. Always so funny, the Swedish author questions Leonardo DiCaprio’s turbulent love life (why does he collect blonde models who are twenty years younger than him? Why does he change them as fast as his mobile phone?), In several references to Beyoncé or Kierkegaard . “Love is somehow incompatible with our modern capitalist society, analyzes Liv Strömquist in Figaro. There is a confrontation between the ideal of romantic love and our culture of narcissistic liberation. Is falling in love becoming more unusual these days? » After eight years in a relationship, Nico, 31, also notices it practices have changed. “There is a huge demand for speed dating, people do not want to spend time chatting. This time of exchange interests me, but these spaces do not favor it. » Time is all about efficiency: we consult a profile as if we were reviewing a resume, no time to lose if it does not match. “Men it’s like Netflix: we spend more time watching the catalog than choosing a movie! » He also notices the appearance of one “Highly accelerated mode of consumption in both directions: chain partners or find the right person right away.” After two long and very painful stories, Aline turned 40 “frigid of trust, fluttered for ten years. I did not want to exhaust myself to make it work in two or three months. I should feel right away whether it would match or not. Especially sexually. I can forgive other things and tell myself that over time we agree, but sexually I do not leave room for error. » Eva Illouz describes in her essay how sexuality has become source of security. If our grandparents developed feelings before bedtime, “Contemporary relationships begin with sex and then have to deal with the painful process of creating emotion.”

The couple, support for identity

The couple, as an institution, however, is still highly valued, and continues to be presented as a prerequisite for happiness, stability and success. So try to be single (and childless) as a 40-year-old: the whole world will wonder what’s wrong with you. But the monogamous couple seems less and less desirable in a society that promotes autonomy, multiplication of experiences, and other models of engagement (open relationship, polyamory, etc.). Because it requires compromises: “The ability to separate the other, to suspend calculation, to tolerate boredom, to end self-development, to accept (often) mediocre sexuality”, writes Eva Illouz in an article entitled “Couples belong to the past? », Published on the website of the Israeli newspaper Haretz. Being in a couple (and above all remaining a one) would therefore be a form of resistance to the injunctions of individualism and personal optimization that we crumble under. Robert Neuburger, psychoanalyst and couples therapist, author of the book The couple, the most desirable and dangerous adventure (Payot, 2015), do not believe in the end of romantic engagement. “The real reason we are in a relationship is to feel that we exist”, he remembers. Commitment phobics and other couples who have flipped out can be reassured (slightly): “The most important decision is the one that makes us move from the relationship to the couple. The latter represents a major investment: practical, emotional, financial … So I would not call this fear of commitment selfishness or individualism, but caution.”

The pitfall, according to him, would be to want to make rational choices at all costs. ‘Rationality and the couple do not mix. When people decide to try the experiment, it is because there has often been a magic that has worked, coincidences that they interpret as signs. This is what I call the irrational founder. – a postman “which are not included in sociological analyzes”. Problem : “By rationalizing, we go into something functional: if this person is reliable, he will be a good father or a good mother … The risk is that the relationship does not work. » But today is there “a greater expectation than before”, notes the specialist. ” The couple is an extremely important identity support for everyone, in addition to the romantic relationship! » The pair, mirror of ourselves, are no longer protected from performance injunctions. You should always appear happier, sexually active and in love. At risk of never being satisfied. “The couple is dressed up and therefore fragile. But we have never had so many requests for therapy for two! Young people who did not come before would like to give themselves a chance.” A proof that many of us still want to save love.

The end of love by Eva Illouz (Seuil, 400 pages). The reddest Rose blooms by Liv Strömquist (Rackham, 168 pages).


Also read:

How did we go from homo sapiens to homo-in-couples?

On the road to love: 18-30-year-olds invent the couple’s new codes

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