9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Partnerships Building II, Auditório B1.04

Living in couple in Portuguese families

This paper is about living in couple in Portuguese families, and seeks to analyse the importance of conjugal relationships to individuals, how they perceive conjugality in its best and worst moments and its influence in their identity construction.
Since modernity, profound transformations occurred in contemporary society, like individualization, reflexivity and importance of love and meaningful relationships for the individual. Those cultural transformations contributed to social transformations, like reduced number of marriages, increased number of cohabitation, higher rate of divorces and lower number of children per marriage.
These cultural and social transformations changed conjugalities. To have a relationship is no longer being married during a lifetime, perceived as a status and a sacrifice of individuals' personal identity for the sake of family well-being. Nowadays, having a conjugal relationship is being linked by love and passion to a person, with whom the individual wants to share his life, while preserving his self identity. It's in this relation between living the love and preserving the individual personal identity that lays conjugality, its problems and ambiguities.
The results presented are based on in-depth interviews (83 heterosexual couples, interviewed separately, with at least one child, in total of 166 individuals) done in Lisbon (72), Oporto (54) and Leiria (40), to individuals living in couple, at different moments of their life cycle and with different social backgrounds. We will try to answer some central questions: How individuals see their conjugal relationship? What changes the conjugality brought to the individual? How conflicts are managed within relationship? And what are the changes they wish to occur in their relationship in the future?
Answering these questions we have identified a double trend or two different ways of perceiving and feeling the conjugal relationship. First, the feeling of living in love and feeling the love, in which each individual share ideas and concerns, and life in itself, leading to a fulfilment of the self. The second, the perception of the relationship as a struggle or a conflict, an overburden of work and responsibilities, this leads to an identity reconstruction in the sense of a more nervous and depressed individual.