Is harmony possible in couples? | Love in the age of discomfort

Is harmony possible in couples?  |  Love in the age of discomfort

Harmony: Union and combination of simultaneous and different sounds, but chords.

A couple bond (I will refer to the heterosexual couple although it also applies to homosexual couples) could be categorized as “sufficiently healthy” when it facilitates the expression of affection and favors the development of the capabilities that an individual has. Defining this in the negative, I would then say that it should not hinder said development, that it should not add such an accumulation of conflicts that it would turn that relationship into the center of the concerns that that person has in his or her life. That it largely satisfied the sexual needs, of attachment, of enjoyment, of company, of love… That being with the other person was pleasant, comfortable, joyful. That they could share, if not all the ideas about the things around them, at least a “way of being in the world” that was compatible for both of them. That they could develop together certain positions about how they lead their own lives, and when the agreement was not such, that they could respect each other without wanting to overwhelm the other’s criteria that arise in disagreement. This is important to take into account because it is often believed that for good functioning to exist, both have to have the same ideas, tastes, and characters. Quite the contrary, individuals are always very different from each other, and in order to be in a relationship, they have to make those differences something creative and not cancel them.

An adult sexual partner who could have most of these characteristics is valid at different times in the life cycle and in the different circumstances in which the bond develops: marriage, cohabiting couples, with children, without children, without or with sporadic cohabitation. , etc.

Of course, when one describes these “ideal” characteristics, it would seem that one thinks of the couple as an oasis of harmony and understanding, and then in comparison, the majority of the couples that we make up and those around us are all “sick” or deficient. No way. Every couple, by virtue of being one, goes through a series of contradictions, paradoxes, misunderstandings resulting from the complexity that that same structure tries to overcome. Taking into account what is “expected” of a bond like this can make us think about where we stand, what we are living day by day, how we are doing it, what is happening to us with that other person who is at our side.

No one can doubt that “the couple” is a complex human phenomenon. In the sense as stated by E. Morin: …”etymologically, the word complex derives from the Latin word ‘complexus’, which means ‘what is woven together.'” Complexity is the weaving of events, actions, interactions, retroactions, determinations, chance that constitute our universe. There is complexity “where order and disorder coexist in the same space, where there is not only determinism but also chance; where uncertainty emerges.”

And if we apply these explanations to the human couple we will see how those factors manifest themselves, such as chance, from the initial encounter, as the entire plot that they “weave together” through constant interactions; like the order and disorder in living together, like the permanent uncertainty that is expressed in the cyclical questions about the durability of the bond…

But despite this complexity, almost all humans seek to “pair.”

Couples that work do not mean that they do not have problems, arguments, misunderstandings, etc., but despite all this, they are united by a feeling of belonging, union, rapport, which makes them believe that they are made for each other. , because they build, they put together those aspects indicated above in such a way that it does not cause discomfort, quite the opposite, that allows them to feel the couple as the foundation on which they build their lives, the substrate, the context that allows them to unfold his existence. And in that sense each couple is an “individuality”, or an original phenomenon, where only they can account for that well-being, that comfort.

It is from that state that it is usually stated that one loves the other person in the couple. Although the word love and the verb to love are used in many ways, often justifying links that lack the slightest empathy and that are an intertwining of psychopathological aspects of both. Love, as I try to understand it, is not an abstract entelechy, a concept to which adding an adjective can justify anything. Love in a couple (not the flash of falling in love) is not a starting phenomenon, but a construction carried out by two people deployed over time, where permanence, sustainability, speaks of the effort – and the will – that both they do to understand each other, accompany each other, take care of each other, pamper each other, accept each other, help each other, rejoice, value each other… Of course, being well with one’s partner can never be constituted as the only and most important objective in life, but rather as that convenient substrate to achieve certain purposes in life. It is a feeling that “together” we can do more.

Currently, many of us relationship therapists conceive the couple as the product of an encounter, understood as an event that creates a plus and changes in each of the subjects that make it up. Through the intertwining, knotting and unknotting of each person’s desire, enjoyment and love, a subjective rearrangement and a particular fantasy scene is produced. In this union of both, a “between two” is specified that makes up the linking field where a large number of phenomena will occur that make up the particularity of each link and that has added qualities with respect to the subjects that compose it because in the relationship of the subject with the other there is a plus, a supplement that refers to a space of combinatorics that will be original in each loop.

Pacts, agreements, codes (conscious and unconscious) are created between both of them that allow membership in the “couple group” and the possibility of processing the otherness and otherness of the other. And it is within the space that forms this minisystem where the boundaries between normality and pathology are observed with greater accuracy; This is where the most archaic psychic functionings occur. Absorbing, “devouring”, “being devoured”, “dying of love”, of rage or jealousy, with the other and for the other, are things of daily life.

A couple provides identity to individuals and repeated recognition, therefore providing security. Support function, like a mother with her baby. Love moves between the poles of fascination and inevitable disenchantment. The difficult thing is sustaining the desire. The threat of the split between the sensual and the tender current is permanent. The sensual current is the one that is more on the side of desire, of the erotic, of sexuality; while that of tenderness refers to what is tender, affectionate, affectionate, kind.

When a couple has been formed, the product of a reciprocal, shared love, a topical “disorder” occurs in the psyche of each of the members, a kind of “detachment,” of internal ego disjunction, of decentration, of placing in common of psychic spaces that until that moment were perceived as irreducibly individual. Hence, forming “a couple” requires a very important work of psychic elaboration that is difficult for some individuals to achieve.

But we are not only influenced, “threatened”, conditioned, from our interiority, but also by the concrete conditions that surround us: those demands that come from the social field, as producers of discomfort in the bond. I consider that taking into account phenomena that make up the code, the referentiality, the context in which the couples’ daily life unfolds is not just another addition to their conflict: it is, in many cases, the very problem for which they consult, where the rapid and novel cultural transformations cannot be properly metabolized, causing effects in the manner of what we understand as “social trauma.” Sometimes the impact produced by a social crisis (or very abrupt changes) sustained over time, leaves subjects incapable of adequate symbolic reactions (action and ideological schemes), overwhelmed in their possibilities of psychic elaboration to assimilate them.

The society of “consumerism” (based on the culture of products for immediate use, quick solutions and instant satisfaction) would then be favoring the emergence of “intense, brief and shocking” love episodes, which are crossed a priori by consciousness. of fragility and brevity. A hypothesis about the commodification of love was proposed by researcher Eva Illouz (1997), who, analyzing media products and interviews with North Americans, found that love not only has not resisted the attacks of late capitalism but that they have formed a well-established dyad. According to the author, the intersection between romance and the market has been generated through two processes: the romanticization of merchandise and the commodification of romance. The first process refers to the way in which commodities have been endowed with a romantic aura in the cultural industry of the twentieth century and in advertising images. The second process refers to the ways in which romantic practices are being increasingly defined by the consumption of pleasure goods and technologies offered by a nascent market, so that the core of contemporary romantic love is established from various romantic rituals anchored in the consumption of goods and services.

This era, which we could call “transition”, poses a discomfort different from others: existential emptiness, social exclusion, uncertainty, massive loss of certainties, hopelessness. Sadness, depression, apathy, search for identity and self-worship would be the most frequent forms that psychological suffering takes today. Hence, living harmoniously as a couple today is a challenge, not impossible, but one that requires sustained commitment and effort.

A possible way to be well as a couple is to renounce the absolute and accept that something is always missing in life. Both have to tolerate and sustain a certain amount of discomfort, tension or stress in certain contexts, but, if this situation becomes chronic, people lose vitality and become malnourished. And one of the functions of the couple is to be nourishing and experience the accompaniment of the other.

Man and woman inhabit spaces of different language and enjoyments, which is why there is a wall between them. And love is precisely the attempt, the experience of crossing that wall (many times not achieved, even if it is recited).

Heterosexual love is that very complex knot that binds a man to a woman. He points to a current graffiti: “we want to love each other, but we don’t know how.” And the challenge for us as couples therapists, perhaps is that we can collaborate so that they can find that “how”… and if possible… “in harmony”.

Oscar De Cristóforis is a psychoanalystcouples ta. Author of “Loves and couples in the 21st century”, Editorial Letra Viva (Buenos Aires, 2009).

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