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We live in a specific environment for which family and relationship are very important elements of life. The pressure to be relational, to "have someone" increases with age. We asked the sociologist, dr hab. Paula Pustułka, professor at SWPS University in Warsaw, head of the Młodzi research center at the Lab Center.
Patrycja Pupiec: Would you agree with the statement that it was easier for our grandparents and parents to build relationships because they were free from social media, from the rapid flow of information, and did not survive the global pandemic?
Paula Pustułka:Social changes are wide and are not related only to the recent crises. We have been observing these social reshuffles for several decades, but they actually make it more difficult for us to be in love and relationships than for our parents and grandparents. On the one hand, there is a reduction in social control, because we more often leave and live away from the family, we shape our biographies individually and we do not have to explain ourselves extensively to the family and local community about our life decisions. Thanks to this, we can experiment with relationships, love, and various types of romantic aspirations for longer.
On the other hand, this prosperity of choice creates what sociologists refer to as fluid reality and fluid love. Our romantic relationships are highly susceptible to rapid and dynamic changes. We can get out of the relationship overnight. Of course, it causes some crises, but breakups are generally easier. Therefore, it is more difficult to stabilize a relationship, and the susceptibility to "giving up" in a relationship by leaving it makes building lasting relationships more challenging …
For almost all of us, "happy" means "in a relationship", with children, home and family everyday life. Many of us were instilled from childhood that family is happiness. Even the basic division of needs, i.e. Maslow's pyramid, places the need of belonging and love high. What if someone just doesn't feel it - is this normal?
The society has always been created by peoplewho consciously chose the life path related to living alone, so I would not treat this phenomenon as universal. However, I agree that despite all social changes in the domain of either romantic or moral choices, most young people, especially in Poland, aspire to a standard life cycle. This means that - statistically speaking - we usually want to have a wife, husband, children, home, i.e. a certain idyllic image that we associate with a guarantee of happiness.
However, being single and single can give many people satisfaction and happiness. Similarly, in the case of childlessness - it is the choice of a given couple, especially since social research is not unambiguous here. On the one hand, people with children are more satisfied throughout their lives, on the other hand, the influence of offspring on the intimacy and relationships in the couple is often unfavorable. In other words, it cannot be ruled out that the relationship will be happier without the children. It is very good that more and more people choose different models of life at different stages of life. Thanks to this, less obvious choices, less schematic paths, become socially more valued and accepted.
When hearing grandma's or aunt's questions: "do you already have someone?", "When are the children?", Do we react negatively, our sadness improves, we feel bad, does it mean that we succumb to this pressure?
The family for Poles is important and these intergenerational relations are very important, especially when we are talking about blood ties. In my opinion, giving in to pressure or not is a very individual matter. Of course, there are people who can cope very well with such pressure from family and environment, for example turn certain questions or remarks into a joke. They manage to convince those around them to their position in various ways, that is, explain why you don't want to have children at all or at a given point in your life.
In some relationships - including the family - you can have an open dialogue about why you don't want a partner now or why you don't need one at all. At the same time, there are relationships in which the pressure seems more difficult to work through. For example, as a nation, we generally have great respect for grandmothers and grandparents. We were often raised by them, so they passed on these traditions to us, so these tensions can have a stronger impact on us.
The most difficult thing is for people whose choice or choices are completely unacceptable to the family, and in this case it may translate into further deterioration or even breaking the relationship, which even our faith in the family as the highest value may not save.
Do they really create more pressure to be in a relationship?women - grandmothers, mothers, aunts? Why might gender matter?
Basically, for women, family roles are in the foreground. This is also visible in other areas - for example, women leave the labor market earlier, traditionally they more often quit their jobs to look after their children and the home. In sociology, it is emphasized that our identity is created not so much by what roles - for example, of a wife, boss or friend - we perform, but rather by how we evaluate a given role and to what extent we consider it significant. Researchers have no doubts that women more often value family roles.
This means, firstly, that more than men, they value the marital-caring roles: mothers, wives or even grandmothers. Secondly, ladies position these roles higher in their hierarchy or role catalog, so being a mother is usually much more important than a professional role. Due to this gender division, there is a higher probability that it is the father, grandfather or uncle who will ask us about what we are doing at work, and that women in the family will point out more family roles, i.e. aspects related to motherhood, love, and relationship.
Social media are bombarding our friends' content - friend got married, friend became a father, cousin got engaged. Many lonely people simply feel worse when they see such content, because, for example, they dream of having such a life. How to explain / work through these negative emotions related to what we see in social media?
First of all, you need to take the correction for the hypocrisy of social media. People show the perfect family, the perfect engagement, the perfect kids. When was the last time you saw reports on Instagram or Facebook about quarrels in a relationship, parenting hardships, financial problems? We do not see this darker side, because social media promotes a paradox that Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim and Urlich Beck wrote about. Well, from childhood we are fed with these emotionally marked, idealized images.
Romance with rose petals and Paris in the background, finding "the one" - these are the dominant messages in mass culture, in series and movies. However, later in real relationships, we confront this pretty picture with the everyday life of dirty socks and who is to take out the trash. We are not prepared for the fact that being in a relationship requires work, so the main barrier to a good relationship may be to become aware of this dichotomy, this fake picture.
You can also wonder what is the reason why such ideal pictures irritate someone, cause emotional pain. This could be a prerequisite for getting something inchange your life. It is worth focusing on reflectivity, i.e. thinking and defining what you want and expect in your life in the sphere of relationships. There are various methods of trying to find someone, but of course there is never a guarantee of success, i.e. that we will actually find someone, that it will be a relationship that will actually survive.
In my opinion, the worst thing we can do is not to try it at all. It's not easy to get love - especially in terms of what dating today looks like - but it is up to the person to decide what potential costs, especially emotional ones, they want to bear and risk.
Christmas is coming. In a moment we will sit down at the family table again. In many homes, many questions will be asked about relationships, enlarging the family. How to react in such moments? What to say to grandmothers and nosy aunties?
I think that young people today are no longer so constrained by this social need to respect someone who is our relative just because we have family ties with them. I would focus primarily on weighing the value or quality of a given relationship on one scale and our mental he alth on the other. If difficult questions are really asked by our relatives, such as parents, our siblings or grandparents, with whom we really feel a close bond, it is worth talking to them, sharing your thoughts and problems.
There is a good chance that not only those close to us will understand us, but also will try to support us and potentially give us a lot of good advice. In the case of distant relatives whom we see once a year, not even at the festive table, but on the run, we really do not owe them an explanation. We can be polite, thank you for their concern and not share information, we can ask them difficult questions about their relationship or other sensitive issues. First of all, in those less close relationships, which are not the most important for us, I would bet on myself, my well-being and well-being.
How to set a boundary for the family, how to answer such questions when our contact is not the best and we are not openly talking about what hurts us?
In family relationships, we are often treated in advance as minors or immature regardless of age. It is necessary to constantly remind and emphasize that the time for upbringing is over, because we are adults and we will live with the consequences of our decisions. In the analyzes of the relationships between young adults and their parents, carried out at the Młodzi research center at the LAB Center, we have not managed to find a universal recipe. We meet withadults who know how to set limits just by the actions of dialogue around the problem that I have mentioned, but there are also those who use strategies of avoiding, not touching on difficult topics.
Some people actually manage to maintain relationships at a certain level of correctness, while others have very serious conflicts with their loved ones. In some cases, a firm position may cause parents to wake up, some revelation will take place, and colloquially speaking, they will let go and become more open to understanding the situation. Unfortunately, there are also people who use the same strategies and achieve extremely different effects, because the family reacts very negatively, this conflict is prolonged, tensions intensify.
Relationship mechanisms function differently in different families and on different levels. For example, open communication is the norm in some families, while in others it is completely marginal. There are also individual differences - we have different characters, experiences, we can perceive certain aspects differently.
When should the "red light" come on, that we are not coping well with the pressure and consider consulting a specialist?
Again, I would say it's really a very individual matter. After all, there are people who deal with this pressure better and others who deal with it much worse. Basically, taking care of your own mental he alth should be paramount. This is very important.
If we feel pressure of a multidimensional nature, i.e. something is happening in our relationship, professional life or in other areas, it is worth considering such a consultation and finding out if we really have something to work on. But it is also not a solution for everyone, because people deal with crises in different lives, for example by taking up new activities, developing passions or interests, which are ways for them to de-stress.
A very important element is the support of our friends. If we have a group of friends with whom we can share our difficult experiences and family pressure, this way of coping with problems is worth appreciating. This use of our social networks, especially in the circles of friends who are of a similar age, and these generational changes have not passed them by, is often eluded by us.
Meanwhile, peers experience similar situations, in similar moments and circumstances they hear the same questions, so sometimes this strategy of talking to friends and asking them how they are doing, what they are doing - can be a source of advice for us, that potentially canhelp. However, if we do not have a network of friends, our doubts may pile up over the pressure we feel. In this case, there is no point in waiting, similarly when we experience a crisis in another area of life - then you should consider visiting a specialist.
Read other articles from theseries therefore:
- in relation. Love absorbs completely, so how does it affect our he alth?
- in relation. Return after breakup. What should I think about if we are considering going back to an ex-partner?