The idea of this meeting was born from a conversation between friends. One of them had suggested that men, in love, were a little in trouble. Maybe even disenchanted. Because they were dealing, today, with women whose expectations became incomprehensible to them. Women more autonomous than in previous generations and who, therefore, no longer needed them. Want to love, yes. But no need for the couple to exist.
To verify this hypothesis, it was best to ask them the question. Did they still believe in the couple? What had become difficult in the meeting, in the long run? Should he reinvent life together? We invited five men between the ages of 24 and 52 to discuss it. They did not pray. Yes, it interested them to talk about it between them. The opportunity did not come up so often. They said they were curious about their respective questions. And interested in the presence, by their side, of the psychoanalyst Jean-Michel Hirt who could help them to see more clearly.
On a Friday night, we settled in the alcove of a small restaurant. You had to be quiet to be able to indulge. Wine and food quickly loosen languages. They introduced themselves. It’s Pascal who started: “I’m 46, I’m a journalist. I lived in New Zealand for ten years with my wife. We separated last year. Officially, I’m single, but it’s more complicated than that … “Pierre, 24, chained:” I’m in a business school. I come out of a relationship that lasted two years. It was going very well. Then my girlfriend went abroad as part of her studies. She cheated on me, I broke up. Two men, and already two separations. Indeed, conjugal happiness was not at the rendezvous.
Then Stéphane, 45, designer, spoke. He has been pacsé for eight years with the mother of his children, met ten years ago on Meetic. “I have a certain pride in not being married,” he says, “because in my family we get married, that’s how it is. For me, it was important to go on a different contract, because our generation is not the same. With the mother of my children, we allow ourselves some freedom. Not being in an exclusive monogamy was the condition to which I could consent to the couple. My previous stories had stumbled on my desire to go elsewhere. But my wish is that my children see their parents grow old together. “
On his right, Mathieu, 32, a photographer, recounts that he lived for six years with a very jealous and possessive person. Ten days after they left each other by mutual agreement last spring, after finding that they were no longer happy, he met a woman with whom he says he found all that was missing in his previous relationship.
“The couple, I do not expect anything,” he said. In fact, I do not ask myself too many questions. We are well, we discuss, we live the present moment. She reassures me, ahead of my worries. I’m exploring a relationship that I do not want to lock into a definition of the couple. “
Finally, it is the turn of Philippe, 52, consultant, to expose his love situation: “I live for sixteen years with a woman that I married last year. Previously, I had three children from two different women. Why did I marry the third? To cement our love. To pronounce wishes in public, to follow the tradition, for us, that made sense. “
Around the table, an astonished silence. “And you’re still in love after fifteen years? “Is it like the first day or the fruit of a job? Philippe replies: “I heard you talk about contracts, stories that start and end when it upsets other desires. But I did not really hear you talk about commitment or feelings. With us, everything starts from there. Our love has deepened over the years. What may have helped us was to know each other in the forties, with some experience. And most importantly, I learned to speak. It took me some time. But communication is the key to everything. As soon as you feel the distance, you pull yourself together. Expressing oneself and being attentive to what the other person feels allows us to strengthen the bonds.
Philippe’s comments plunge the other guests into a reflection on what, in their own couples, may have failed. Because no, there was no major crisis, no substantive disagreement. “Simply, with time has settled a form of disinterest, says Pascal. We did not look at each other, we were part of the decor. “
“At that moment,” adds Mathieu, who said he was not expecting anything from the couple, “we think we should change something to recreate a spark. But we do not want to, because we’re not in love anymore. I remember very well when I felt that. It was in a train, I see the compartment, the light and it in front. It was over, I did not believe it anymore. “
While listening to the story of Philippe and the importance he says he gives to his love, they wonder if they have lacked perseverance, tools to revive the machine or simply hope: that emotion and desire can last, that the state of love can lead to a less exciting relationship perhaps, but more precious.
Stéphane is certain that no. “I warn you,” he said with a laugh, “I am the” deromantizer “par excellence. Like Schopenhauer, I consider that love is only a ruse of nature to favor reproduction. After that, he leaves. What I like is the beginnings. I like to know several women intimately. But I think we all have a “constant time,” a time when we get tired of each other. All the challenge of the couple is to keep the freshness of the beginnings. And for that, we should not live together, do not share the same bed every night. “
The disagreement settles. “What tells you that your wife is not going to tire of your differences? “But I accept her, even though I think she has fewer adventures since the birth of the children. And, believe me, the guys who accept that are not so many! Less adventures since the birth of children … Suddenly, in the eyes of some, the beautiful agreement seems to show its limits.
Mathieu and Pierre may be the youngest, they do not believe that it is necessary to reinvent the couple. Exclusivity, cohabitation, children, they aspire to all this. The parents of Mathieu, the photographer, continue to walk hand in hand, to cover themselves with small attentions. He finds it enviable. Those of Pierre, the student, have separated, but the couple, he says, becomes again for his generation a strong value: “The world has become so unstable with the crisis, unemployment, the ecological threat … The couple can -being the only place where we can find stability. “
His comrades question him: why is he alone if he wants to be two? “What’s difficult with girls my age is the ambiguity of their expectations. They want to be modern women, and that’s legitimate, but they still want us to be old-fashioned men, strong, considerate. They claim to want equality, but in reality, it’s up to us to do all the work of approach. And they are waiting for us at the turn! “
The drag on the Internet has complicated things: embarrassment of choice, zapping. “But most of all, because there are predators on the networks, they always see us as perverts in power. Their mistrust is hard to overcome, “he says. The forty-year old acquiesce. “Young girls are between two cultures, the Prince Charming and the Meeting 2.0,” says Pascal. Same thing among our peers: they make the big difference between fairy tales and porn. “
In fact, they agree, women scare them a little. “What I fear,” says Mathieu, “is the biological ticking. I am afraid of being instrumental in their desire to make a baby now, regardless of the quality of the relationship. “Me, it’s their thirst for absolute that worries me, adds Pascal. I can not answer their request to be there all the time, to do everything together. It’s hard to be a couple if you do not share a minimum of things. But for the moment, I am a little convalescent. I need to find myself before I start a new story. “
The waiter comes to warn us that the restaurant will close soon. Stéphane, the pacsé, and Philippe, the husband, embark on a final exchange: “Does your wife allow you to go for a drink with a girlfriend? Asks the first. “I don’t have friends,” replies the second. She, too, by the way. We are very autarchic. That may be what works for him. The other four seem not to find this bubble compatible with their way of life.
In turn, Philippe questions Stéphane: “But you, what are you going to transmit the couple to your children? “What I want is for them to find their balance with a unique being without delusion. I do not know if my couple is exemplary, but we still take the road anyway. “
Between their two models, one particularly fusional, the other opened on other partners, Mathieu comments: “The couple remains for me a great enigma. There is what one expects of it, and then there is the other, that one can not lock oneself into one’s own vision. The only solution is to build while walking … “
During dinner, the psychoanalyst let our guests speak.Then he gave us his comment.
As in 1968
“This meeting reminded me of the time of 1968. We were a few to contribute to a review founded by Deleuze and Guattari, whose theme this time was” Words of Men “. We met to talk about what feminism did to us. Women were reinventing themselves, we wanted to dare to do the same. But we were not in the same dynamic: they were doing a real job of exploration; we, in sadness, made a statement of failure. I perceived, tonight, a similar disarray among these men. I do not know how much they measure the changes that have been made by women. They talked more about their own struggles with a model of the couple that is struggling, and yet they do not really think about questioning themselves. “
The best of the worst
“You know this formula about democracy: it’s the worst system, but the best we’ve found? It’s a bit like that they seem to consider the couple. As a necessary evil that has counterparts: the comfort of not being alone, the possibility of having children. But not as an opportunity to get rich by confronting each other’s differences. What I heard was rather that the couple should not “take the lead”. He must not disturb him, lock him up. What was discussed for one – Stéphane, pacsé, who spent with his partner a non-exclusive agreement – was to stay himself faced with a double constraint: on the one hand, the couple as social model; the other, a virile drive presented as a fact of nature that would push him to multiply sexual encounters. From his companion and their couple dynamics, there was very little question. It is outside that he lives the confrontation with the difference. “
The fear of risk
“In my practice, I often find that the couples pacsés remain in this half-measure: one wants to be together, but one keeps one foot out; live with a woman, but without taking the risk of only being with her. We protect ourselves in advance against an end that we believe to be inevitable, and we do not really meet the person with whom we live. Faced with this, there was the inverse model (Philippe): that of a married couple who folds in on himself, who is blocking against the outside and what could be threatening for the relationship. In both cases, the couple has become a place of reassurance more than it is an adventure. For the other three, it was a question of recovering from past failures. To find how, again, to make room for a woman. I have not heard any of them speak of the feminine as a continent to explore. It has been a question of women being tasted, of those whom one undergoes, but never of those who, by their otherness, will allow men to stop turning around their phallus like wooden horses. “
The lack of otherness
“I do not think men can be at work to change the couple. Women’s creativity scares them too much. They feel that, with the help of science, they no longer need them to give birth and that the autonomy of their desire is an irreversible conquest. So they are suspicious of them, abandon them or multiply the bonds to convince themselves of their virility. But they hardly manage to think of the love of the feminine, their narcissism quickly becomes defensive: the couple is an unavoidable necessity, and it must be arranged to the best of what they believe to be their phallic interests. You can not be in the oven and the mill: for the moment, they are still too busy to make (bad) turn the planet. Reinventing the couple requires a little free time and a lot of availability to someone other than oneself. Together, in the difference. Not one with the same as him. “