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The liquid love society


Published in

Diario Montañés and Diario de Navarra

Gerardo Castillo

Professor School of Education and Psychology

In Spain, year after year, there is a considerable increase in marital breakups. For every ten marriages there are seven breakups (data of high school of Family Policy, 2015). The causes of this phenomenon are many, but at this point I will refer to only one of them. It is a sociological category typical of the postmodern mentality that the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman calls "liquid society". In the liquid society there is a great deal of uncertainty due to the dizzying speed of change. With the metaphor of liquidity Bauman refers to the inconsistency of human relationships in different spheres, especially in the affective sphere.

In his book 'Liquid Love: On the Fragility of Human Bonds', Bauman describes society in the globalized world and the changes it imposes on the human condition. In his analysis of love he underlines the fragility of affective relationships, which gives rise to fear of establishing lasting relationships, beyond mere connections. This entails not believing in love forever.

The consumerist syndrome of today's society contributes to the fragility of affective bonds. Liquid love fosters the objectification of people, who are conceived and valued as things, which generates an existential void in them.

Consumption as a measure of all our actions does not favor loyalty and dedication to the other; on the contrary, it is designed to move from one desire to the other.

Bauman points out the paradox that, in an era with an abundance of means of communication, this communication does not give as result union, but fragmentation. Life, work, leisure are fragmented, all seen as individual goods without the horizon of a human totality. He speaks of a "rampant individualism" where everyone plays his own game. Love relationships are based more on physical attraction than on a deep connection at the level of staff. They are relationships marked by individualism, in which the contact is ephemeral, and superficial. It is a love that is born to be consumed, but not to be sublimated. Moreover, the emergence of social networks and new technologies has contributed to consolidate this trend. The virtual and the real are confused.

The inhabitants of today's liquid world are afraid of commitment, of the selfless act of adherence to a person indefinitely. That is why married love could not last. One of the essential characteristics of this fear is the inability to maintain a long-term relationship deadline. This does not mean that the person does not love his or her partner, but the feelings he or she experiences at the prospect of commitment are superficial.

Some very common traits of those who fear a long-term relationship: they are very independent; they hate being dependent on someone; they worry about losing freedom; they find it difficult to share their worlds.

In his book Bauman describes the reality of "liquid love", but hardly judges it. The latter he will do later (2006) in his commentary on Benedict XVI's encyclical Deus Caritas Est. These were his words: "I believe that the Pope has hit the mark with his call for total love in a society that by definition avoids lasting and exclusive bonds".

For Bauman, people in liquid modernity may be more autonomous, but they are also lonelier. Today's loneliness is not only an individual problem, it is a generalized loneliness. Bauman conveys the hope of reversing this status, generating new solid, solidary and communitarian bonds. For my part, I assert that these bonds are already present in marriage as a natural reality, in the fact of getting married. Today it is urgent to explain to many people that those who marry include in their love process a feature that did not exist in courtship: commitment. The gratuitous love that is given as a gift is transformed into love of justice, into a debt of love. The commitment entails an act of submission of all that the spouses are in the present and of what they will be in the future as man and woman.

Those who commit themselves freely obligate themselves to love the other without an expiration date. To those who think that marrying forever is unrealistic, I remind them that all lovers, in all ages, have asked each other the same question: will you love me forever? This denotes that true love implies stability and permanence.

With the attitude of marrying forever, the difficulties of married life are relativized and overcome. In addition, one has the peace of mind of not being "at test" every day.