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  • Márcia Fervienza

Romantic relationships these days

The discussion about the generalization of the idea of the romantic love, as preached in movies, soap operas and TV shows, has been going on for a while. The rising number of divorces has been associated with the excess of idealization of the romantic relationships. The "and they lived happily ever after" has been blamed for imposing on relationships the burden of being eternal and free of conflict. Difficult to meet expectations these high when we have to deal with modern age demands, including investing in our careers, fighting for financial independence and stability, caring for our family and children, among other things, right?

It is true that for a while women's level of frustration with their marriages and romantic partners saw a rise, because their partners really fell short of Mr Right (remember Noah from The Notebook and Patrick Swayze from Ghost?). But these days, after the changes in the past decades, it looks like a new scenario is emerging, where our relationships are more of a choice than a social (or family) requirement. People, especially women, feel freer to start over as much as needed in search for their own happiness, and society is slowly becoming less judgmental about it.

Being free is this: having the right to be attached to whomever you want - Unknown Author

Some consequences of this movement deserve commenting: on one hand, our will to fight for relationships is drastically reduced because our tolerance to frustration and unhappiness is close to null. We feel that to insist on what is no longer working is a waste of time, but the time we give a relationship to show that it works is considerably shorter than in the past. Thus, many relationships end before they even begin, that is, while they are still in the initial adaptation phase. The initial love never gets to mature and transform, because when the initial flame starts losing some of its shine, one or both parties throw in the towel. And this can be a loss not only for the directly involved parties, but also for those who had something invested in that relationship (such as family and children). On the other hand, those relationships that last seem to be based on stronger pillars, on true love, passion and partnership, because the involved parties are truly choosing to be there. Thus, if on one hand I feel that the bonds are "looser" now, the ones that stick seem a lot truer than before.

The number of extramarital affairs also seem to have reduced, which makes sense: why cheat if, when unhappy, I am free to leave without further drama? It is also possible, though, that the number of extramarital affairs is lower because these days the relationships are established on different agreements: monogamy is no longer a requirement for many romantic relationships, for example, and the emotional/sexual involvement with third parties seem to be less of a taboo now than it was years ago. As a society, we seem to be heading towards the "each one is free to live their lives as they see fit and shouldn't care much about what others are doing" (as seen in movies and TV shows that, being broadcast after 10pm, show all sorts of love relationships, without labels or stereotypes). This trend, although still transgressive for many in our time, has in theory the potential to create less neurotic individuals (from a psychoanalytical perspective).

Another consequence of this new relationship model is that each person is supposed to work on themselves and take responsibility for their own "luggage". You have to be committed to offer to your significant other the best version of yourself. It is not accepted anymore to start a new relationship with residues from a former relationship, or from our childhood, hoping that the other person will understand us, mend our broken hearts, or help "fix" us. On the contrary, people evaluate the viability of a relationship these days based on "How well do I feel by your side?" and "How are the moments we spend together?", among other things. It is about quality time above anything else. As a result, the romantic opportunities for those who are not interested in their self-growth are drastically reduced. On the other hand, the population of people who knows what they want and how they want it, who assumes the responsibility for their own happiness, has significantly increased, which is certainly positive.

This is still a transition time: there is a lot going on and a lot will continue to change in the next few years. But one thing is certain: the world became a place of reduced opportunities for those who don't "water their own plants" or "take care of their own backyard", as we would say in Brazil. Do you know which group you belong to?

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