Receipt: October 19, 2020
Acceptance: May 13, 2021
In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended social distancing as a measure to reduce the rate at which the virus SARS-COV-2 spreads. One of the consequences of this measure was the shutting down of education centers and the significant increase in remote work (CEPAL, 2020c). Home confinement may be creating, in areas of intimacy, situations of tension, negotiation and conflict, which, in association to the uncertainty produced by the pandemic, must be identified and analyzed to produce pertinent and timely knowledge against an unprecedented problem that surpasses the field of health and confronts the daily lives of our populations.
Considering this situation, a virtual survey was conducted on the first week in May 2020 using Google Forms in the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara (AMG) and the Metropolitan Zone of Colima (ZMC) in order to find how the dimensions of married life, gender and mutual care roles have been disrupted in the intimacy of heterosexual couples during the lockdown caused by the covid-19 pandemic. This investigation allows us to conclude that the intimacy of the heterosexual couples surveyed shows that married couples living together for over 10 years had conflicts but did not consider divorce or separation as a way out, whereas single men and women did consider it more; single people who did not live together –particularly in the zmc –were the most affected by the confinement and made more traditional arrangements than the same group in the amg, and having common interests and goals and the lack of love were key elements that affected the intimacy of the couples. On the other hand, our findings show that gender roles continue to be, in both cities, one of the spheres of public and private life most widely resorted to in emerging and pressing situations, such as the one derived from the pandemic, situations that are impossible to elude and that have a direct impact on the equal conditions between men and women. Finally, regarding the mutual care of the couple, the reproduction of material/economic care by the men stands out along with the feminization of health and emotional care by the women. However, young couples display interesting trends towards a greater involvement of both women and men in health and emotional care tasks in times of confinement.
In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended social distancing as a measure to reduce the rate at which the SARS-COV-2 virus spreads. One of the consequences of this measure was the shutting down of education centers and the significant increase in remote work (ECLAC, 2020c). Home confinement may be creating, in areas of intimacy, situations of tension, negotiation and conflict, which, in association to the uncertainty produced by the pandemic, must be identified and analyzed to produce pertinent and timely knowledge against an unprecedented problem that surpasses the field of health and confronts the daily lives of our populations.
Considering this situation, a virtual survey was conducted on the first week in May 2020 using Google Forms in the Metropolitan Area of Guadalajara (AMG) and the Metropolitan Zone of Colima (ZMC) in order to find how the dimensions of married life, gender and mutual care roles have been disrupted in the intimacy of heterosexual couples during the lockdown caused by the covid-19 pandemic. This investigation allows us to conclude that the intimacy of the heterosexual couples surveyed shows that married couples living together for over 10 years had conflicts but did not consider divorce or separation as a way out, whereas single men and women did consider it more; single people who did not live together -particularly in the zmc -were the most affected by the confinement and made more traditional arrangements than the same group in the amg, and having common interests and goals and the lack of love were key elements that affected the intimacy of the couples. On the other hand, our findings show that gender roles continue to be, in both cities, one of the spheres of public and private life most widely resorted to in emerging and pressing situations, such as the one derived from the pandemic, situations that are impossible to elude and that have a direct impact on the equal conditions between men and women. Finally, regarding the mutual care of the couple, the reproduction of material/economic care by the men stands out along with the feminization of health and emotional care by the women. However, young couples display interesting trends towards a greater involvement of both women and men in health and emotional care tasks in times of confinement.
Keywords: covid-19 pandemic, intimacy, conjugality, gender role, mutual care, heterosexual couples.
In response to the covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (who) recommended social distancing as a measure to slow the spread of the sars-cov-2 virus. One of the consequences of this measure was the closure of educational centers and a significant increase in telecommuting. By March 30, 2020, according to data from the unesco (quoted in cepalIn Latin America and the Caribbean, 37 countries and territories had closed their educational centers. This measure has led to the fact that it is in the families where the student population is cared for. This situation has led to an increase in the time dedicated to domestic and care work, especially by women (cepal, 2020a). In addition, in many households, both women and men are working remotely from their homes and this is generating situations of tension, negotiation and conflict that, associated with the uncertainty resulting from the pandemic, need to be identified and analyzed.
That is why we set out to conduct a survey that would give an account of the changes that the pandemic has generated in couple relationships. The study is part of the macro research project "Intimacy and couple relationships in the central-western region of contemporary Mexico: sociocultural challenges", with the participation of Zeyda Isabel Rodríguez Morales and Tania Rodríguez Salazar, from the University of Guadalajara; Ana Josefina Cuevas Hernández and Ana Gabriel Castillo Sánchez, from the University of Colima, and Rocío Enríquez Rosas, from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESM).iteso). The research is financed by the sep-conacyt of the 2016 call for Basic Science, within the modality of research groups, with project number 245227/CB284023.
The macro project proposes to generate knowledge in the field of studies on intimacy in urban heterosexual couples, in three age groups, from five dimensions: a) sexuality, b) conjugality, c) gender roles, d) the use of new technologies and e) mutual care. We seek to understand how couples in western Mexico face these challenges, particularly in the states of Jalisco and Colima. The Guadalajara Metropolitan Area (amg) and the Colima Metropolitan Area (zmc) were chosen because both are part of a sociocultural territory (Giménez, 1999). This gives shape and meaning to the identity of individuals and groups that share economic, geopolitical and sociocultural elements on which they project their conceptions of material and spatial culture, which, as we shall see, present great homogeneity. These identity elements are socialized and internalized and allow "acquiring the feeling and status of socio-territorial belonging" (Giménez, 1999: 37). They also reflect that the population studied shares local values and customs, family, social and friendly ties and a great integration and solidarity of the reference community. This explains the great consistency in the data generated by the survey, in which the differences are explained more by sex, age or the length of time the respondents have lived together than by their cultural differences.
The online survey conducted by the team that makes up this macro research addresses five dimensions; for this work we analyzed conjugality, gender roles and mutual care, and they are worked on in the amg and in the zmc to learn about the ways in which male and female couples experience transformations in their intimacy in the present context of uncertainty and health contingency.
In a recent publication, Rodriguez and Rodriguez (2020), based on the online survey, addressed the results concerning the amg on the axes of sexuality and the use of affective technologies. Their results indicate that the effects on both dimensions are more intense among young people, couples who have experienced long-distance confinement, and those with fewer years of relationship. Their findings on the effects of the pandemic in the younger population and those with fewer years of cohabitation coincide with ours.
In this article we set out to answer the following question: how has the covid-19 pandemic disrupted the intimacy of three generations of heterosexual couples residing in the metropolitan areas of Guadalajara and Colima in the dimensions of conjugality, gender roles and mutual care?
The objective of this article is to describe and analyze the main findings of the survey conducted online in the first week of May 2020 in the metropolitan areas of Guadalajara and Colima in order to know how these dimensions of intimacy of couples in the study region have been disrupted. The application of the survey on the aforementioned date favored a timely inquiry to account for the experience of confinement.
The main findings on the effects of the pandemic on marital life show that the married population and those in relationships of more than ten years were the least likely to express intentions to separate from their partner because of the conflicts faced during the relationship, than the younger population and those with less than 10 years of cohabitation, in particular of the zmclived in a higher proportion than that of the amg in separate households at the beginning of confinement and had more traditional arrangements, and that both men and women considered that lack of communication, lack of common interests and goals, and falling out of love were the main causes of a possible divorce or breakup.
With respect to the gender roles dimension, it was found that domestic work continues to be performed mostly by women in both zones, although there is a tendency towards an increasingly more equitable distribution between women and men in the amgas opposed to the zmcAs has been mentioned, traditional patriarchal values persist in this area, which have an impact on the profuse imbalance between women and men in this field.
With respect to mutual care in the couple in times of pandemic, the findings show female predominance in the deployment of care practices towards the couple, both in the health and in the emotional and spiritual dimensions. The provision of material/economic resources is also considered to be mainly the responsibility of men. In young couples, interesting trends are detected towards a greater involvement of both women and men in the tasks of emotional care, mainly.
The document includes a theoretical section that addresses each of the three axes, as well as a methodological section, and then we present the analysis of the survey results, as well as the central conclusions that warn about the multiple ways in which the covid-19 pandemic is questioning categories such as intimacy, conjugality, gender roles and mutual care in times of uncertainty, where there are few answers and many challenges for the generation of social knowledge that contributes to understanding the sociocultural processes involved in this unprecedented and exceptional situation.
The present research is framed within a sociocultural perspective that seeks the exploration and construction of knowledge about intimacy in heterosexual couples in urban areas, whose daily life has been disrupted by the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. We start from understanding intimacy as a subjective and interpersonal "terrain of reflection, negotiation and conflict" (Rodríguez et al., 2019: 41), which is composed and understood from its multidimensionality, diversity and dynamism. Intimacy emerged from late modernity (Giddens, 1993, 2000; Guevara, 2005; Núñez and Zazueta, 2012) and this generated profound transformations in individualization and personal self-determination, as well as in the separation of public and private spheres in social, cultural, economic and political life.
From this perspective, conjugality is understood as the formal and informal arrangements that couples establish to live together, either under the same roof or separately, for the purpose of maintaining a temporary or permanent relationship. These arrangements involve explicit or implicit moral, organizational and residential aspects that are transversal to the marital status of both partners. This conceptualization is based on three elements: the willingness to form a couple or start a relationship, living together as a couple with or without a common roof, and the type of bond through which a relationship is established. The concept is sufficiently broad and flexible to encompass the formation of couples regardless of the reason for which they joined, their duration, whether or not they have a common roof and the type of bond that unites them. This does not imply that the distinction and analysis of these elements are irrelevant; on the contrary, the argument aims to show that conjugality, like intimacy, is inherent to life as a couple regardless of the formality and duration of the bond, since it involves negotiation, communication, trust, exchange of care and attention to different types of needs, all of which are central elements of intimacy (Giddens, 1998, 2000; Guevara, 2005 and Zelizer, 2009). According to this logic, especially from psychology (Mosmann and Wagner, 2008, and Oltramari, 2009), couples whose relationship has good communication practices and is based on trust and mutual care and attention would have a more solid and lasting foundation. As we will see below, the respondents during the first months of confinement experienced conflicts and tensions that reflect the importance of these elements in their marital dynamics and exposed their weaknesses and strengths as a couple.
In addition to conjugality, in intimacy the dimension of gender roles is profusely evidenced, since after the distinction between public and private -come with modernity- a new social order emerged, whose "sexual division of labor not only represented the specialization of women in domestic tasks and men in productive activities, but a recomposition of spaces, resources and forms of exercising power in all social life" (Guevara, 2005: 870). In this sense, it is in the intimate sphere where the effects of the social order, the asymmetrical detention of power, conflicts, affections, emotions, agreements and daily negotiations that allow the functioning of couples, families and societies, whose nuances result in differences and inequalities for women and men that, according to Tenorio (2010) and Rojas (2016), are increasingly considered by people to evaluate their satisfaction with the couple relationship, are experienced with greater intensity.
The distinctions and inequalities dictated by gender roles between women and men have intensified in the context of the pandemic and have generated an increase in unpaid domestic and care work for women and girls in Mexico and in the Latin American region - in addition to considering that this work is also mostly performed by women in a paid manner -, as has been noted by national institutions (Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, inmujeres2020) and international organizations such as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (cepal2020a; 2020b; 2020c) and the United Nations Population Fund (unfpa, 2020).
With respect to the care axis, it is considered that actions in this sense are related to the production of goods and services central to the resolution of daily life, involving instrumental, emotional and cognitive support, among others. The framing of care from a human rights perspective is also a central issue (cepal, 2020b). Among the care activities performed mainly by women, the care they provide to their partners and children stands out (Lewis, 1992). Franco (2015) points out three analytical perspectives on the definition of care: in terms of work, emotions and social policies.
Care is a social responsibility that involves families, companies, communities, civil society organizations and state institutions for the generation of public policies that seek to respond to the care needs of people with different levels of dependency (Franco, 2015). For Zelizer (2009: 186), care relationships have to do with personal support that can be provided intensively and that seek to favor the well-being of the other. However, it is important to consider that "the mix of caregiving relationships and economic activities in the household takes place in a context of permanent negotiations, sometimes in a climate of cooperation, sometimes in the midst of outbursts of conflict". This situation can be particularly difficult when there are moments of tension and possible crises within households, as may be the case at present in the face of the covid-19 pandemic.
Fraga (2018) proposes the logic of scales to know whether the satisfaction of care needs is related to a bounded or expanded perspective of care and that direct care, indirect care and mental management work may be present, the latter related to elements of an affective and symbolic nature. According to Zelizer (2009), the forms of care vary according to the degree of intimacy, since they can range from impersonal to close ties.
On the ethical framing of care, Tronto (1987: 17) warns that human beings need to experience being cared for by others and caring for others, in order to develop a moral sense of caring. "It could be argued that an ethics of care is nothing more than a set of sensibilities that all mature moral persons should develop, along with the sensibility linked to justice." The moral sense of care is intimately related to the experience of reciprocal care.
The survey was applied digitally via a Google form from May 2-10, 2020, to identify changes in couple relationships during the first weeks of confinement caused by covid-19. It is part of the project on intimacy and couple relationships in three generations of adults from the amg and the zmc1 and covers five axes: marital trajectories, gender roles, mutual care, sexuality and use of digital technologies in heterosexual couples. Here we analyze the general trends of the first three in both areas.
The survey2 was not part of the original study and was conducted to observe changes in marital and family dynamics during confinement.3 The hyperlink circulated among colleagues, social networks and families of the research team, who in turn shared it among their own contacts. This explains the high schooling of the sample: 44% had completed or incomplete postgraduate studies and 36% had a bachelor's degree.
We obtained 1,553 questionnaires4 and 1406 that met the criteria of age of majority, Mexican nationality and having or having had a partner were validated. Of this total, 950 (n=950) were analyzed, 760 corresponded to the amg and 190 to the zmc.
Both samples were treated independently in order to identify the incidence of the sociodemographic variables of age, sex, schooling, number of children, length of cohabitation and city of study in the analysis of the findings. Likewise, the criteria for establishing clear trends in the findings were ±30% between study areas, ±15% within them, and ±10% between the variables themselves. The findings are discussed and contrasted with those of other similar works and national surveys to provide further support for the interpretation of the data.
The survey questions were closed-ended, multiple-choice with the possibility of choosing one answer and multiple-choice with the possibility of choosing three of five options. The analysis consisted of crossing the sociodemographic variables and the questions applied, to see if these were affected or not by the type of responses obtained in variable two.
The data analysis consisted of two types of double-entry tables and the interpretation of the absolute frequencies of the responses obtained by study area and the relative percentages. With this, we sought to know how many men and women responded to the questionnaire in each geographic zone and that the responses from each zone represented 100%. In the conjugality axis, we worked on couple satisfaction, changes in the couple's relationship during the pandemic, marital conflicts when staying at home, reasons for conflicts and reasons for a possible breakup. On the gender roles axis, changes in domestic activities and changes were analyzed in terms of whether they increased, remained the same, decreased, or did not apply. In the axis of mutual care, the variables of changes and continuities in mutual material, emotional, physical and spiritual health care were analyzed. In all three, the variables were operationalized and crossed with sex, age, marital status and length of cohabitation of the couple.
72% of the sample (n) consisted of women.5 and 57% were married, 20% were single and 16% were unmarried. 41% of those in the sample had children under the age of 18, 19% had children over the age of 18, and 39% did not. Also, 24% had a partner and did not live with him/her during the pandemic and the remaining 76% had a partner and/or spouse and shared the same dwelling with him/her. In other words, it is an eminently female sample that spent the first weeks of confinement with a partner and children.
The survey data show that 76% (n=950) of the respondents had a partner and shared the same household at the time of the survey, 72% (n=950) shared the same household since the onset of the pandemic, and only 9% (n=950) were separated by a partner. The overall results by study area, marital status, and age group suggest a slight tendency toward more traditional arrangements in the zmc that in the amg. In the former, 50% of the unmarried and 39% of the 18-37 age group were the groups that were most separated by the pandemic, versus only 20% and 6% of the 18-37 age group. amg. This, presumably, is explained by their marital status, not living together and having no or fewer children in common. This suggests that the marital cohabitation arrangements of young couples in the zmc[versalitas] were more traditional than those of the same population of the [versalitas]amg.The two groups, which can be inferred to have shared the same roof since before the pandemic (see graph 1).
The pandemic abruptly changed the dynamics of families and couples, so we asked whether their ability to do what they wanted to do had improved, stayed the same, or worsened. The results indicate interesting differences by age group and marital status. 52% (n=950) of the sample felt that their satisfaction remained the same with 54% (n=950) of the married sharing this assessment. In the amg The three age groups considered that their situation had improved, of which 33% of the total corresponded to the group aged 58 years and over, which considered in only 13% of the cases that their situation had worsened. In the zmc The length of time of cohabitation with the partner yielded important data on this same item. 13% of the group with more than 10 years of cohabitation considered that their situation had worsened compared to 50% who said it had improved. This suggests that the older they are, the greater the likelihood of being satisfied with their partner and, therefore, that their intimacy was more likely to be strengthened during the first weeks of the pandemic (see Figure 2).
50% of the population (n=950) surveyed stayed home during the first weeks of the pandemic and 50% reported experiencing conflict and tension with their partner or spouse. In the amgIn the case of those separated, 61% reported not having faced conflicts, making them the group that reported the fewest conflicts. Likewise, the hypothesis posed earlier regarding the greater capacity of older persons to have a more stable life is strengthened by the observation that in the group of respondents with more than 10 years of cohabitation, the group that reported the least number of conflicts was the group that reported the least number of conflicts. zmc 68% did not face tensions and conflicts, while 31% did.
Despite the conflicts, 79% (n=950) of the sample did not think about a possible divorce or separation, and 21% did. The findings within each zone indicate that marital status is key in the analysis of this intention. In the amg 39% of singles considered this possibility, compared to only 14% of married people, which shows that living as a couple and having a formal relationship has positive effects on the stability of the relationship. In the zmc it was the separated men and women who thought of it and, as in the amgmarried men and women were the least likely to consider this possibility (50% vs. 7%). This suggests, contrary to what the social imaginary dictates about singleness, particularly for men, that marriage offers shelter, care and attention both in daily life and in times of crisis to both partners. This finding about the greater sense of well-being among married men and women has been found both in Mexico and in other countries (inegi, 2014, 2015, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and Bericat, 2018).
The 50% for the 50% of the zmc lived separated from the beginning of the pandemic, by 21% from the amgand 17% of the amg were separated by it, against 59% of the zmc. Likewise, 83% of couples with more than ten years of cohabitation of the amg and 91% of the zmc did not consider separation, despite the conflicts faced. This suggests, as postulated earlier, that the formality and duration of the bond played an important role in the assessment of a possible breakup with the partner during confinement. Likewise, the unmarried and younger population of the zmc faced greater pressures than that of the amgby living in a smaller proportion with their partner.
Regarding the causes of possible divorce or separation during the pandemic, we found differences between the same sex and by sex in both areas. In the zmc57% of women said that heartbreak would be a possible cause for divorce, compared to 42% of men; while in the amg the percentages were 73% and 26%, respectively. In other words, the population in both areas considered that these elements were key to couple intimacy.
Other results in the same direction show that 100% of the women of the zmc named differences in interests and goals, their partner's violent behavior and lack of communication as the other causes of a possible breakup. In the amg it was found that the values and yearnings for greater democracy in conjugal life, in the sense set forth by Giddens (1993, 1998), encouraged the idea of a possible rupture. This tells us about the centrality of these elements in contemporary conjugal intimacy.
By length of cohabitation, it was found that the duration of the relationship was key in the most positive evaluation of marital stability. In the zmc conflicts originated from intimate partner violence (100% vs. 60% of the amg) and over work issues (100% vs. 66%) among couples with less than ten years of cohabitation. In the group with more than ten years of cohabitation, the main conflicts were over the time the couple spent on the internet (62% of the amg vs. 0% of the zmc), which, disaggregated by sex, represented a conflict for the total number of women of amg and the men of the zmc. This suggests that the time women and men spent in digital activities, whether for leisure, recreation or work purposes, affected communication and the time couples spent together at the time of the survey.
The experience of the covid-19 pandemic has generated new scenarios of coexistence and activities for couples, which, although they had been facing or carrying out some of them in many cases, have undergone changes and rethinking, especially in relation to domestic activities carried out within the households. In this sense, the general data show that the people surveyed expressed that domestic activities increased by 68%, and this was similar in the three age groups, although when making comparisons between the two cities, differences are observed in the percentages of the three generations. In the case of the amg is similar in the three age groups, with percentages around 70% and a little more; while in the zmc the increase was higher in the middle adult group at 60%, and was lower for older adults at 23%. Thus, in the amgThe data show greater homogeneity among the three age groups, whereas in the zmc The opposite is true. So, in the zmcThe increase in domestic activities seems to respond to the life cycle, so that the increase is double for the middle adult group and is lower in the younger and older age groups. Nevertheless, in general, the increase in the three age groups is quite high, which shows the importance of unpaid domestic work for the surveyed population and how it cannot be avoided regardless of age.
However, when considering the sex variable (see Graph 3), the data show that in both cities the increase in these activities has been greater for women in 70%; however, there is a significant number of men who also report performing them in 63%, which is understandable when considering that most of the respondents in our survey reported being or having been in a relationship in which income was shared equally with their partners (37%); this could derive, although not entirely, in increasingly equitable couple relationships in other areas -such as in the sharing of domestic work-, as pointed out by some authors (Aldana-Castro, Burgos-Dávila, & Rocha Sánchez, 2018; Esquila et al., 2015; Rojas, 2010). Likewise, this percentage in males could point to an increase in male co-responsibility in domestic work, which has been so necessary and increasingly evident in the context of pandemic confinement. In this regard, Cordoba and Ibarra (2020) point out that some men have begun to get involved in domestic and childcare work since the confinement, and this has continued for some men who had been doing it before. However, the response remained the same and was higher among men (33%) than among women (25%); this shows that in some cases the performance of domestic activities according to the sexual division has not changed, and these continue to be done mostly by women, as the National Time Use Survey has already pointed out.6 (inegi, 2019).
However, when looking by city, it was found that women in the amg reported a higher percentage increase in these activities in 75% as compared to women in the zmcwho had 50%. While this might indicate that the women in the zmc The women in this zone obtained higher percentages in the options remained the same (34% vs. 23% for the women in the amg) and not applicable (14% vs. 0% of the women of the amg), which may indicate that some female respondents from the zmc They also found that some of them were already performing more domestic activities and therefore did not identify a significant change in their increase, or that some of them were performing these activities to a lesser extent directly and that these activities were most likely delegated to other women in the family or to a domestic worker. However, whatever the scenario, these situations do not free them from having to monitor that such activities are carried out.
This is even better understood by looking at the differences in the percentages of domestic activities according to marital status, which overall show that these activities increased for all persons, regardless of marital status. However, this increase is even greater for married people (72%) and is lower for separated people (45%), which shows more traditional arrangements among people who have a legal partner and a decrease in this situation among people who have had a breakup of a non-legal partner or are not yet divorced.
In cities, on the other hand, it is worth noting that in the amg divorced women, with 82%, obtained the highest percentage increase in domestic activities and, in contrast, a lower increase was found in separated women (44%). And in the zmcIn terms of marital status, married people (55%) reported the highest increase, while single people reported the lowest (20%). Thus, the marital status variable (see Figure 4), even with its differences between the two cities, reported a greater increase in people who have a partner and those with a dissolution of the relationship through legal/religious ties or death, in contrast with separated and single people, which could suggest that in people who are united or who were united without legal or religious ties there is a more equal distribution of domestic activities, as some authors also refer (Rodriguez, 2008; Gonzalez and Jurado-Guerrero, 2009; Ajjojo, 2009); González and Jurado-Guerrero, 2009; Ajenjo and García, 2014) and as mentioned above.
With regard to the relationship time variable (see graph 5), the data in the amg show a similar trend in the increase in household activities for both those in relationships of more than 10 years (76%) and couples in relationships of less than 10 years (69%). However, this trend is not the same in the zmcIn the latter, there is a greater difference between the percentages of the two groups; thus, for those who have been in a relationship for less than 10 years, the percentage increase in domestic activities was 50% (vs. 36% for those who have been in a couple for more than 10 years). These differences in the percentages in each city point to the fact that in the amg There are more equitable conditions in the performance of domestic activities in both types of couples, regardless of the length of their relationship, unlike the zmc According to the data, couples who have been in the relationship for fewer years show that at the beginning of the relationship they have been guided by a distribution of domestic activities in accordance with traditional gender roles, a situation that changes as the years of the relationship increase, which could also speak of a positioning that tends towards a more equitable distribution of these activities as couples stabilize over time and face the daily needs that lead them to make adjustments in this area.
The axis of mutual care in couple relationships in times of pandemic was addressed in its different dimensions: material (economic resources), emotional, health and spiritual. Regarding care related to economic and material resources given to the couple, taking into account the sex of the respondents, the results show that there is a clear difference in opinions. For women, both in the amg as in the zmcIn the case of women, there are high percentages of not being providers for their partners and of having remained the same, regardless of occupation. Whereas, for men, the opinions are concentrated in the option of remaining the same, with them being the main providers. This second tendency is shared by married people, both men and women, regardless of place of residence, since the most common response is that the situation of providing resources to their partner remains the same (see Graph 6). The data show a traditional economic provider style attributed mainly to the male; according to Tronto (1993), this sustains a "privileged irresponsibility" on the part of men, which focuses on (economic) care and not on what Fraga (2018) calls direct care.
Regarding the care referred to the emotional accompaniment given to the partner, the findings show, when crossing by age groups, that this type of care increased in the total of the groups and above 45% for the amg. In the case of the zmc The 18-37 age group is most notable, reporting that this type of care increased by 56%. These findings point to the ways in which confinement has affected the intimate, relational and emotional world of couples. Young couples are especially sensitive to these forms of solidarity that go beyond the realm of material, instrumental and economic reciprocities. However, granting this type of support is rooted in the sphere of family relationships and can lead them to exhaustion, as several publications warn when addressing the forms of social organization of care in the Latin American region (cepal2020a; 2020c; Batthyány, 2020).
Women's emotional accompaniment of their partners in the amg maintains close proportions of those who consider that there was an increase related to this care; regardless of their marital status, this increase is considerable: it starts at 43% in married and divorced persons and rises to 52% in single persons. On the other hand, there is a variation when they express that the circumstances remained the same, decreased or they did not perform this care. On the other hand, women in the zmc show higher proportions of increased caregiving among those who are divorced and single, 65% and 50% respectively.
In the case of men, both in the amg as in the zmc There is greater diversity in the proportions of those who express that there has been an increase in emotional support for their partner. In general, the most constant responses are the increase and permanence of the circumstances of emotional support for the partner. The following stand out for the amg divorced (71%) and unmarried (60%). In the case of the zmcthe highest percentage is among single people with 67%. The data show the relevance of inquiring about affective care (Fraga, 2018; Zelizer, 2009) that in studies has not been sufficiently worked, and that in the face of a contingency such as the one faced by society as a whole, acquires special relevance. Both women and men have strengthened their emotional accompaniment to their partners, and this may be closely linked to the moral dimension of care (Tronto, 1993).
When we inquired about the emotional care received from the partner and taking into account sex, marital status and geographic area, we again observed a general increase in both areas. Although the percentages are close, it is possible to note the presence of emotional support from the women's point of view, not only among married women, but also among divorced and single women (in the case of the amg) and those that are divorced and separated (for the zmc). A similar behavior in the data can be observed from the perception of men. The findings point to the relevance of care in the key of emotions (Franco, 2015) and its increasing presence in times of confinement in the different types of couple arrangement. The information leads us to suggest that bonds are sensitive/empathic, in terms of subjective appreciation, to calls for support and emotional reception in the face of unprecedented times such as those experienced in the covid-19 pandemic (see Figure 7).
Regarding health care provided to partners, there was an increase of about 20% by both married women and men to their partners. The highest percentage of unmarried men and women report not providing this type of care (see Figure 6). The findings are related to co-residence for this form of health care exchanges. This finding confirms what has been pointed out regarding the possible greater stability of married women and men who lived in confinement under the same roof. It is also interesting to compare these data with the aforementioned data on care in the provision of material/economic resources. As noted by Zelizer (2009), health care relationships are linked to economic relationships within families, and although the provision of economic resources remained the same with male predominance as a sender, the provision of health support shows a slight increase for both sexes. The results are similar in the case of health care received.
Regarding the spiritual care given to the partner, the greatest increase was observed in separated women (50%) of the zmcand in the case of men, divorced (57%) and unmarried (49%) of the amg and bachelors (44%) of the zmc. Slightly higher percentages are present in couple arrangements alternative to marriage. The findings point to the relevance of the study of couple relationships beyond formalized ties and also pay attention to the ways in which this type of exchange is offered in the face of unprecedented contexts of existence, due to the situation of contingency by covid-19.
When taking into account age groups, it is important to highlight the zmcThe spiritual support given in the 58 and older age group is almost 30 percentage points higher than in the same group of the 58 and older age group. amg (46% and 17% respectively; see graph 8). These findings are related to a spiritual practice with a higher presence in the zmc which is characterized by a more conservative culture with respect to the amg.
In relation to reciprocity of care between partners, on a scale of 1 to 10 and taking into account all the variables: sex, marital status, age groups, length of relationship, occupation, income, schooling, whether or not they have children, the average tends to be 7.5, which leads us to consider that there is a sufficiently good assessment on this point. It also warns of the need to approach equity in caregiving from qualitative approaches that bring us closer to the multiple narratives that women and men elaborate and from there to deepen analytically according to each of the types of caregiving.
Equity in care within the couple cannot be addressed without taking into account the overload of care that women have had in their homes and that various sources point out as a constant in the context of the pandemic in the Latin American region, as already discussed in this same text in the previous sections. Co-responsibility in care both in the micro space of couple and family relationships and in the macro space involving the State, the market, families and communities, is a central aspect for the configuration of a new social pact and the respect for rights related to care (cepal2020a; 2020c).
The pandemic imposed on the sample surveyed a strong pressure that abruptly and intensely transformed various aspects of their intimacy. Not only did it modify their individual routines, but also their family and social routines. In the midst of all this, three findings stand out in the area of conjugality: the greater stability and sense of well-being of married men and women, the greater impact of the pandemic among the unmarried and younger population, particularly the zmc (2020) - as Rodriguez and Rodriguez (2020) also found - and that lack of communication, lack of love, lack of common interests and objectives were the possible reasons for divorce or rupture with the couple. Regarding the former, married men and women in both study areas were the group that showed the greatest stability and intention to remain together, regardless of the source of the conflict. This finding coincides with what was found by the inegi (2014, 2015, 2015, 2016 and 2017) in Mexico and by Bericát (2018) in Spain on the higher sense of well-being of married people. Regarding the latter, the data showed that the unmarried and younger population of the zmc weaved more conventional partner relationships than those of the amgIn the first case, we found that men and women were more likely to be intimate with each other than women, and that this was visible in the impact that the pandemic had on central aspects of their intimacy, such as whether or not they could live together under the same roof, which therefore facilitated or did not facilitate the expression of other types of intimacy. Regarding the third, it was very interesting to find that, despite the differences in the percentages that men and women gave to the reasons for possible divorce or separation, communication with the partner, sharing interests and objectives, and carrying out activities together occupied a key place in their evaluations of the conflicts they experienced during confinement. That is, the pandemic confronted them with individual habits and practices that clashed with the couple's needs for time and attention.
On the one hand, there is a distribution of domestic work in the home between women and men that attempts to be increasingly more equitable and, on the other hand, it has been reinforced by the emerging and unavoidable needs originated by the pandemic itself, and with this, a significant overload of domestic and care activities has been generated for women. These adjustments are experienced in a context that causes uncertainties and daily demands for unprecedented activities and behaviors, and in the case of people who have children, the overload of domestic and care work is combined, on many occasions, with distance work, as well as with the support and monitoring of education from home for young children. Thus, these adjustment processes are faced in both cities, although it stands out that the distribution of household activities is mostly permeated by traditional gender roles in the zmc that in the amgThis also shows differences in the glimpses of change in the reflection and experience that men and women have about equality in the couple relationship in these metropolitan areas.
Likewise, mutual care in couple relationships in times of confinement has been little studied and requires special attention. Studies on caregiving warn about the processes of feminization and precariousness of caregiving and delve into the care of children, people with disabilities and the elderly. However, the care given and received between the members of the couple, as well as the equity of the burdens, are not known in sufficient depth, and even less so in the current context of the pandemic. Couple care in the dimension of providing or receiving material and economic resources marks the reproduction of traditional gender roles, in which men are the main economic providers, and when direct care is addressed, related to emotional, health and spiritual accompaniment, there is a blurring of traditional gender roles and there is a participation of both, with female predominance, in the care given and received.
The covid-19 pandemic highlights the exacerbation of care tasks within families, especially for women, including the care of their partners, as well as the urgent need to move towards co-responsibility in care both at the family and couple (micro) levels and in equitable relations between the State, the market, families, civil society organizations and communities. This pandemic needs to be seen and analyzed as a profound wake-up call to contemporary societies, especially in Mexico and in the urban environment, about the real possibilities and non-negotiable circumstances of a familization of care that requires moving towards its collectivization.
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Rocio Enriquez Rosas D. in Social Sciences from the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, ciesas-West. Professor and researcher at the Department of Sociocultural Studies of the itesoGuadalajara, Mexico. National researcher level ii.
Ana Josefina Cuevas Hernández D. in Sociology from the University of Essex. Professor and researcher at the Faculty of Letters and Communication of the University of Colima. National researcher at the i.
Ana Gabriel Castillo Sánchez D. in Social Sciences from the University of Colima. Member of Cognos+ Multidisciplinary Center for Research and Evaluation of Public Policy A. C. Candidate for national researcher.