Moving on to Something Else:
The Social Relations of Women During
The literature on the sociology of the family shows that since the 1960s-1970s the hegemony of marriage and of the nuclear family in many Western societies has been challenged. Other forms of conjugal relationships, such as common law relationships or cohabitation, are important in countries such as Canada, Britain, and France. Single-person households, single-parent families, couples without children, and same-gender relationships are also increasingly common. As Segalen (2000) noted, these new forms of domestic relationships are not new in themselves. What is new is the change in the ideological values associated with them, that is, the fact that such relationships are no longer perceived as deviant. What emerges as socially significant, therefore, are the “new” ways of thinking about domestic relationships. New norms of domestic life and intimacy (deSingly, 1996, 2000; Giddens, 1992; Jamieson, 1998) have arisen that relate to love, sexuality, and the balancing of personal autonomy and freedom with life as part of a couple. These new norms are related to changes in women's status. They are also linked to new attitudes regarding women's sexuality, new means of birth control, and changes in divorce legislation. It is important to note here that there is a growing awareness that relationships do not necessarily last forever. As Segalen (2000, p. 131) put it, “aii couple fusionnel se substitut le couple ephemere” (transient couple relationships take the place of permanent ones). In other words, divorce and separation have moved into the realm of the ways in which people think about domestic, family, or intimate relationships. How do people cope with changes in relationships? Do changes in relations coincide with changes of places? How does mobility intervene in a separation process? More importantly, is this a gendered process? These are questions that need to be investigated.