Russian Social Science Review, vol. 54, no. 1, January–February 2013, pp. 94–113. © 2013 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. Permissions: www.copyright.com ISSN 1061–1428 (print)/ISSN 1557–7848 (online) M.E. ELIUTINA Marital Relationships in Old Age The data of a sociological survey conducted in the city of Saratov in 2009 reveal a narrow perception of the everyday lives of an elderly married couple on the part of those who are in regular contact with them (relatives, neighbors, and friends). They are most often described in terms of a declining trajectory of health and material security, or performance of generic activities (gardening, tending grandchildren), and only rarely in terms of the emotional relationship between the married partners. In the scientific literature most of the emphasis is placed on young families, which are seen as meriting social priority in today’s so- ciety. The problems of elderly married couples that represent the insiders of social life are left on the periphery of scientific interest. Scientific research tends either to ignore them or to automatically project onto them the standards and resources of life and activity that characterize young families. This approach is due to the fol- lowing factors. The number of elderly families [i.e., marriages] is shrinking, English translation © 2012, 2013 M.E. Sharpe, Inc., from the Russian text © 2010 the author. “Supruzheskie otnosheniia v pozhilom vozraste,” Sotsiolog- icheskie issledovaniia, 2010, no. 11, pp. 83–92. A publication of the Russian Academy of Sciences; the Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences; and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. Translated by Kim Braithwaite. Translation reprinted from Sociological Research, vol. 51, no. 1. Marina Eduardovna Eliutina is a doctor of sociological sciences, a professor, and head of the Department of Sociology at Saratov State Technical University. 94

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    Russian social science Review, vol. 54, no. 1, JanuaryFebruary 2013, pp. 94113. 2013 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. Permissions: www.copyright.comISSN 10611428 (print)/ISSN 15577848 (online)

    M.E. Eliutina

    Marital Relationships in Old Age

    The data of a sociological survey conducted in the city of saratov in 2009 reveal a narrow perception of the everyday lives of an elderly married couple on the part of those who are in regular contact with them (relatives, neighbors, and friends). They are most often described in terms of a declining trajectory of health and material security, or performance of generic activities (gardening, tending grandchildren), and only rarely in terms of the emotional relationship between the married partners.

    In the scientific literature most of the emphasis is placed on young families, which are seen as meriting social priority in todays so-ciety. The problems of elderly married couples that represent the insiders of social life are left on the periphery of scientific interest. Scientific research tends either to ignore them or to automatically project onto them the standards and resources of life and activity that characterize young families. This approach is due to the fol-lowing factors.

    The number of elderly families [i.e., marriages] is shrinking,

    English translation 2012, 2013 M.E. Sharpe, Inc., from the Russian text 2010 the author. Supruzheskie otnosheniia v pozhilom vozraste, sotsiolog-icheskie issledovaniia, 2010, no. 11, pp. 8392. A publication of the Russian Academy of Sciences; the Department of Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences; and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

    Translated by Kim Braithwaite. Translation reprinted from sociological Research, vol. 51, no. 1.

    Marina Eduardovna Eliutina is a doctor of sociological sciences, a professor, and head of the Department of Sociology at Saratov State Technical University.


  • Russian social science Review 95

    linked, first, to higher mortality among men of various ages; in this life situation, a widow is rarely likely to remarry, and second, to a tendency toward an increasing divorce componentonly a limited number of married couples live together later in life, as married.1

    Todays cultural traditions ascribe to an aging person or to an elderly family a problematic, deviant status, conditioned by the perception that their resources have been depleted. The particular character of elderly families does not get the attention it deserves. At the same time, social practices have brought in their wake cer-tain negative social and economic consequences. It has become obvious that elderly families occupy their own special niche. It has become a unique place where fundamental human needs are met, a sphere in which the basic activity and leisure-time com-ponent are accommodated and practices of mutual support are engaged in. The family holds one of the top places in the value structure of representatives of the older generation. Just having someone who is close becomes the predominant value, the ability to live life together with that person and to be engaged in shared activity [1].

    The family of an elderly person is characterized by particular features with its own configurations and contours. It is no longer a child-centered structure, and the search for personally focused pursuits takes place. What becomes most important in this regard is a special mode of interaction both within and outside the fam-ily, under the conditions of a limited social dynamic and a limited choice among alternative life strategies. The elderly family func-tions on the principle of communicating vessels, which makes it a quite sturdy monolithic entity. For each of its members the family serves as a roof that offers protection against malign chaos (Boris Pasternak). New significant goals are formed, such as autonomy and the adaptation syndrome, and strengthening of the status of intimacy.

    With regard to the structure and functions of the elderly family, starting from the empty nest phase, a number of functions gradu-ally begin to be lost: loss of the socializing function (when the children leave the family) and a reduced transmission of cultural

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    experience and knowledge. A situation takes shape in which the elderly, feeling out of step with the changing conditions of the time, remove themselves from the upbringing of grandchildren, and in this way a closed circle is formed. Old age becomes dis-posable: if the family no longer serves the function of socializa-tion and having children; and if the function of the relaying and transmission of cultural values has declined and is less useful to the state and to society. The fact is, however, that when certain functions are diminished, other functions become stronger. The supportive function of the elderly family gains priority, as married couples provide mutual aid in economic matters and psychologi-cal compensation for all kinds of burdens. Based on its protective function, the family acts as a barrier to any immediate incursion by other social institutions (in particular, the state) into its private life. The mediating function is manifested in that the family of an elderly person often serves as a kind of little bridge between relatives, a connecting link in interpersonal relations, the keeper of the history of the family and its traditions, the family albums and memories of the family homestead. This function is manifested with special salience in the case of mixed extended families, that is, family alliances formed on the basis of remarriages, with a complex structure of kinship relations.

    The ideology of the family is changing in the direction of privacyfrom a strategy of expansion and explicitness in the social space toward greater focus on its own problems within the family. An increased need is sensed for security and stability; more attention is paid to existential problems; introversion predominates (immersion in the world of inner feelings); and less need is felt for active involvement in the external environment.

    Often the mode of existence of elderly families is beset with problems (poverty and intergenerational conflict). In terms of economic indicators, elderly families can be differentiated into two groups. For one group, which is classified among socially vulner-able groups, the main source of income is the state pension, social insurance, benefit payments, and subsidiespractices of survival that are characterized by constant economizing. The other cohort within the older generation enjoys much more wealth, authority,

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    and prestige. According to a study by the Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences, The Low-Income Poor in Rus-sia: Who Are They? What Are Their Lives Like? What Do They Strive For? conducted in MarchApril 2008, with a sample of 1,750, retirees today are the most unprotected group in the Russian population. Half of them are classified as the low-income poor, and another 30 percent are poor. Only 20 percent are classified in the relatively well-off population strata [2]. At present, the incomes of elderly families are about two times smaller than the incomes of young families [3].

    In our study of elderly couples, we base ourselves on two key terms. First, the concept marital relationships refers to the spatial and temporal closeness of a man and a woman as husband and wife, the private nature of their interpersonal relations, and it includes the exchange of both activities and sentiments (G. Homans). The characterization of relations between husband and wife, in terms of content, may vary from order and serenity in the marital relationship, and clashes and conflicts that can have destructive consequences. The regulation of marital relations is designed pri-marily to maintain trust and a feeling of security.

    Second, the term old age of the family includes two senses: a particular stage in the development of family relations; and a particular type of family, in which the spouses are classified as belonging to the gerontological group. In our study we have used both semantic meanings of the term old age of the family. The focus is on the key everyday problems of elderly married couples who have lived together for a substantial amount of time. We were interested specifically in the matrimonial state, the partnership that has the status of an independent institution that plays a vital role in older age, as well as the presence or absence of interpersonal conflicts behind the scenes (Mamardashvili), which always result from hidden, private causes. We also focused our attention on determining the specific character of signifi-cant others social perception of the everyday problems of an elderly married couple. A qualitative survey was conducted for the purpose of diagnosing relations between husband and wife. The collection and analysis of the material was carried out us-

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    ing the double reflection method [4] based on an unstructured, informal interview. We used both a targeted sample (we selected people in advance who represent informationally significant cases about which we had preliminary knowledge) and the snowball method, in which the following question was posed to each informant at the end of the interview: Can you name someone among your associates who regularly interacts with an elderly married couple? We selected a number of informants based on the answers we obtained. The empirical base is represented by twenty-six in-depth interviews with elderly people (age sixty-five and older, living separately from relatives and having lived together for twenty-five years or more) and seventeen interviews with people who interact regularly with elderly married couples (children, relatives, and neighbors). We surveyed inhabitants of the city of Saratov (FebruarySeptember 2009).

    The survey results revealed a definitely narrow perception of the everyday problems of an elderly married couple on the part of those who have been in constant contact with them for a long time (relatives, neighbors, and friends). From our perspective, this specific perception of the everyday problems of an elderly married couple stems from the dominance of the medically oriented por-trayal disseminated in the mass media, of the image of the elderly person as someone who is dependent and ailing. The semantic axis of the problems mentioned by our informants as characterizing the everyday life of an elderly married couple, includes the following meaningful aspects.

    The emphasis is on the secluded and well-ordered nature of the private life of the elderly family, which is perceived as a kind of Small Town in a Snuffbox [Gorodok v tabakerke; 1838 tale of Vladimir Odoevsky], as a kind of hermetically sealed environment in which there is no dynamic of development and renewal.

    Well, they actually have no special problems, they get up, they have something to eat, they do a few things, they do not have to rush off to work, their life is well ordered, and anyway what would they need at that age? We come to visit on holidays, and sometimes we drop in for a week. (male interviewee born in 1963)

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    The elderly family is seen as an object of assistance, which will need a certain amount of material and personal help either at pres-ent or in the near future.

    Right now our parents are getting along without outside help. But, you know, getting old does not make you stronger, they will need help, they might even need a caregiver, all kinds of situations can come about. (male born in 1968)

    Among the main problems of elderly peoples everyday lives, the two most often named are health and material security. At that age, each one has a whole array of ailments, first one illness worsens and then another does. A lot of money goes to buy medicine, which is getting more costly all the time (female born in 1963).

    Their pensions are meager, I do not know how they manage to cope. I can see that they are thrifty, they do their shopping in the bazaar, where things are a little bit cheaper although not by much, than they are in the stores; they schedule all of their upcoming expenses in advance, they make sure there is enough to pay for their utilities, and they never buy anything like durable long-playing household things. (male born in 1971)

    The informants emphasize that the spouses focus on their everyday domestic problems among which the informants made special mention of these: dacha and garden activities, children and grandchildren:

    In the summer they plant and water things, and in the winter they do things in the home. The rhythm of their life is seasonal. In the winter they can hardly wait for summer to come in order to get out of the city and go to the dacha. They feel better there and associate with their friends. (male born in 1966)

    They tend their grandchildren, feed them, welcome them home from school, and watch over them (female born in 1973).

    A fusion without individuality. In the way they express things the informants, as a rule, combine husband and wife into the verbal constructs them or the old folks, which wipe out any differentiation between the couples roles and presuppose a totally standard formula of behavior whose semantic meaning is expressed

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    in sayings such as the man and wife are alike in all things and old age is not fun.

    The informants answers reflect an unjustifiably narrowed rep-resentation of the everyday problems in the life of an elderly mar-ried couple. The answers are dominated by extensive, quantitative characterizations of the elderly spouses, fixated on the existence of changes of the reductiondeteriorationdecline type, with no focus on any intensive qualitative characterization of their life. The construed social portrait of the elderly family represents it as passive and helpless. Often, the term elderly family itself is not interpreted as an analytical term but as a synonym for some-thing that basically belongs to the past although it still exists in the present. As a result, elderly families are firmly entrenched in peoples everyday consciousness as the outsiders of social life, as homebound hospices living lives that are characteristi-cally relaxed, in which nothing essential or significant takes place. None of the respondents mentioned, even in passing, any interpersonal relations between married couples and problems associated with them. Apparently this area of family life at the present age phase represents a blind spot that is not subject to public expression or characterized by problematic tension. It can-not be ruled out that ignoring the zone of interpersonal interaction may be a kind of defensive reaction to the prospect of growing old together.

    Based on the results of the survey we have singled out two types of interpersonal clashes behind the scenes: those that are current, involving local matters that can be settled peacefully as a rule, and those that are chronic and, sometimes, have a destructive impact. Elderly married couples may experience hidden opposition that can turn into a volatile mixture and result in conflict. It may stem from resentments from long ago relating to infidelity, improper behavior, the conviction that ones partner is not able, or does not want, to live the way everyone else does, in other words, to live up to certain standards. Very often the piling up, the accumulation of various resentments yields a cumulative effect that leads to conflict. It may be manifested in an exchange of harsh words, up

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    to and including a display of outright aggression, complaints, nag-ging, and insults. Adult children, relatives, and close friends may become involved in the tension between the elderly spouses. All of these things are upsetting to many people, adversely affecting their health and ability to work.

    It is perfectly clear that trying to find the kind of all-purpose power that would make relations between married partners sturdy, strong, and eternal is like trying to find the special ticking power in a mechanical clock (H. Bergson). For this reason, as criteria for our characterization, in terms of content, of the interpersonal rela-tions between an elderly married couple, we looked at the indica-tors of marital integration: living together, running a household together, keeping a joint household budget, the ways of assigning household obligations, ways of resolving interpersonal conflicts, and the degree of involvement in interpersonal relations. We singled out the following types of elderly married couples in terms of the rating/category of relations between the partners.

    The Little Orchestra of Hope [a song by Bulat Okudzhava]they think alike and have the same feelings, the husband or the wife is the significant other with whom one can share what is most precious and important, someone who listens attentively and will offer useful advice, someone who helps the other to enjoy spiritual comfort. As a rule, there is no obvious imbalance of power: most of the decisions are made by both partners; for the most part, the allocation of powers is linked to how each one feels, and his or her ability to engage in various activities. The relations are flexible, there are no notable fluctuations of sympathies and antipathies; such a family is tolerant of conflict; the existence of established conventions between the married partners, and successful patterns of the habits of life, substantially reduces the likelihood that con-flicts will arise, or it makes their resolution as easy as possible. The married partners actions, when there are conflicts, which, for the most part, are of a local character, are not oriented toward destructive analysis but toward restorative synthesis that reinforces the foundations of life.

    The symbiotic nature of the married couple becomes stronger

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    and stronger: elderly married partners are observed to be similar in terms of not only life strategy but also habits and everyday prac-tices; and shared filters are formed that make it possible to choose a given interpretation of external events. First, these filters represent limiting factors of perception and are linked to neurophysiologi-cal abilities associated with age. Second, they are linked to social and genetic factors such as traditions, prescriptions, and language systems. Third, they are linked with individual characteristics that also become adjusted in the direction of greater uniformity. Often, married couples even begin to look alike physically: Everyone tells us that we even look alike. We have learned how to be silent together. I know what he is thinking about or what he will say (female born in 1932).

    The symbiosis, we believe, is linked, first, with the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the individuals life space. In their examination of the life space on the plane of age, researchers have noted a number of patterns: during the period of his acme, the individual strives to expand the sphere of his life and activity, at times rising to the global level. Little children and older people, if the latter are no longer involved in social activity (civic or pro-fessional), have a considerably smaller amount of life space [5]. Second, the symbiosis is due to a kind of natural selection that the married partners have experienced over the lengthy period of their life together. Many sociopsychological phenomena were not characteristic of the married partners from the very beginning, but formed as the result of compensation for corresponding intraper-sonal feelings, by the experience of personal relations.

    Before, when we were just starting out in life together, we quarreled a lot, we said mean things to each other, we tried to prove we were in the right, we felt insulted. But now, we do not even have conflicts, and if we do happen to have a spat, we put it aside right away. How? I go into the kitchen to have a little drink of vodka, and all of a sudden the spat is over. (male born in 1934)

    Elderly peoples heightened level of bonding also performs a defensive function. Both married partners experience similar mental states; they are characterized by a high level of empathetic

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    feelings, which significantly helps them to find the strategies needed to get out of a crisis situation. When he goes away, I do not know what to do with myself, I am kind of anxious; when he comes back it is like a burden off my shoulders, and I can find something useful to do (female born in 1940). She is my guardian angel, she takes care of me. This is why I cannot afford to get sick, I see how it upsets her and she does not know what to do (male born in 1929).

    As a rule, the reduction in the spectrum of family social roles coincides with making them more concrete. In these elderly families we find differentiated roles, for the most part not linked to gender but to the physical abilities of the married partners, and their in-clinations. Each of us has particular duties. But, in the long run, everything depends on our wishes and how we feel (female born in 1938). In the course of the interviews a recurring refrain was the idea of the importance of mutual efforts and sacrifices, working to improve ourselves, the inner critic and regulator, finding areas of agreement, meticulous conduct of our life together, and taking account of the interests of the other half for the purpose of building the family cathedral. Married life has to be created like a work of art (male born in 1936).

    Such a family is based on a multilevel, interconnected matrix that binds the past and the present together and prepares the way to overcome the present and move forward. It truly represents the art of existence of people who are close to each other, who, based on reflexive and willed practices, establish for themselves the rules of behavior; and they also strive to transform themselves in a situation where they live side by side. The married partners are attuned to each other, they become extraordinarily attentive and are able to detect signals of the others physical and spiritual state, often expressed without even being conscious of it. This type of family represents the results of gradually growing together, a copy of the mutual efforts that have been made by each of the married partners during all of the preceding stages of the familys development.

    The conflict harmony type with the characteristics that are

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    intrinsic to the type: Life together includes relatively peaceful as well as stormy days and also clashes that are not very stormy. Predominating local clashes do not change the life of the elderly family in terms of meaningful content. Small clashes are fully commensurate with the normal mode of interaction. There is no conflict urgency. The conflict field can be defused by means of rectifiers of any interactions that go awry; these rectifiers include the following. Humor and self-deprecation are points of feeling that, in everyday life, make it possible to relieve tension and defuse a situation. I call our family a ship of fools, of course I am joking. I myself love to have a laugh, and my wife always backs me up. If there is no humor, everything goes numb, and any silly exchange of harsh words can turn into a conflict (male born in 1943). Hobbies, collecting, simple home amusements: in this case, the selective collecting of artifacts focuses only on the things significant to the individual, so that the hobby has a positive emotional charge and can be a mechanism that absorbs the shock of negative emotions.

    For more than twenty years now my husband has been collecting postal greeting cards, and his collection fills twelve albums. Whenever we start letting it all hang out and cannot reach an understanding, he gets out his albums. For him, everything else in the world ceases to exist, he puts up a wall and disappears behind it. (female born in 1937)

    There are special strategies for rewarming relations: prepare a favorite dish, remember something pleasant, have the grand-children come over, forgive, do not let a fault be a misfortune. These mechanisms can lead to the softening or, more accurately, the dispersal of any clashes and open the way to constructive patterns of behavior between husband and wife. Nonetheless, in these families, while there are firmly established gender roles, their boundaries are not fixed, and this makes it possible to free the intellectual space of the married partners relations from prejudices and archetypes of patriarchal thinking (such as the man as the producer of sense and the woman as the vessel of sense).

    Permafrost: The married partners are neither friends nor

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    enemies, neither close nor alien. Indifference takes the place of mutual understanding or hostility. The family in this case is only a pretty cover that hides systems that have become separate. The characterization of the relations between married partners in terms of content includes the following aspects: dissociation and distance, atomization in the family, so that each one is on his or her own, and as a rule they have individual budgets; pragmatic differentiation of the functions, such that he goes to the store while she does the laundry; decomposition of the other, in that the husband or wife is perceived not as a whole personality but as a kind of combination of functional segments.

    To designate the causes that have led to the freezing of rela-tions between husband and wife we can use the metaphor of the butterfly effect (Ray Bradbury, A Sound of Thunder). This metaphor perfectly illustrates the fact that in married life small causes often bring about substantial changes in interpersonal relations and give them a particular profile.

    We are alien to each other even though we have been living under the same roof for forty years now. We have two children and three grandchildren. Life has gone on, and we have just continued keeping to ourselves, in our own closed circle. The reason? I myself am unable to answer that question. Maybe sometime in the past I offended her somehow, but when and how? It is impossible to say for sure. Some-times, you know, one carelessly uttered phrase is enough to make a person turn chilly for life. (male born in 1935)

    I cannot say just when our married life broke down. But something important is missing in our lives. And now it is too late to change anything (male born in 1932).

    Conflict families are characterized by a progressive reduc-tion of interpersonal relations to the level of simple patterns of stimulus and response, which is manifested in the form of negative phenomena: aggressiveness, vindictiveness, and total criticism by the married partners. In such families the clashes are caused not so much by antagonistic reactions to the changes that are occurring but by the married partners themselves who are constantly getting at each other. States of uncertainty and sus-

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    picion in this case become chronic and turn the relations between husband and wife into a vale of suffering. Often, a wide circle of significant others will get involved in the conflict between the married partners. Children, other relatives, and close friends find themselves having to take the side of one of the married partners and become the enemy of the other one. Moreover, the provocative factor may be a completely random occurrence such as a word uttered in passing, a look, or a gesture. In this case we are not talking so much about local conflicts but about chronic conflicts, the causes of which the respondents often formulated as a general expression such as they just didnt get along. But hidden behind each they just didnt get along is a special cause that is not transparent or overt, is often hidden to the respondent himself, and can be extracted by interpret-ing the interview data that were obtained. We have singled out the following causes.

    Unrealized goals or plans of development can be set when one of the married partners compares himself or herself and his or her life with some model or standard and, at the same time, is conscious of missed opportunities. The feelings that are linked to some episode in life that can no longer be made right, impose an imperative on behavior and emotional states, where often a situation arises in which life becomes unbearable. As a result, the individuals no longer have any grounds for positive assessments of themselves or their lives. Sometimes zombie situations are quite plausible but are in reality only a simulation of something that is actually dead. A cognitive leap into an unrealized opportunity occurs, which is manifested in the expression what if . . . There is an inner con-viction that some alternative would have been better than the way things have turned out in the present.

    It happened that two men asked for my hand in marriage at the same time. I liked both of them. I thought about it and thought about it, and, unfortunately, I made the wrong choice. To this day I still suffer, we are like a cat and a dog living together, we swear at each other every day, and it is always over some silly thing. And if I had only married Sergei instead, I would now be in heaven. Why am I so sure? Because a friend of my girlhood got him. And she has been living without a care in the world ever since. (female born in 1938)

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    Spousal resentment of heuristic significance in any analysis of interpersonal clashes, in our opinion, is the theory of resentment developed by Max Scheler [6], who defined it as psychic dyna-mite, as slow acting poison of the soul. In the authors opinion, resentment is a negative feeling conditioned by an extreme tension between impulses of retribution, hatred, envy, and their manifesta-tions, on the one hand, and powerlessness, on the other hand, which is a feeling manifested in the sphere of interpersonal relations in the form of negative phenomena: aggressiveness, vindictiveness, and total criticism. According to Scheler, relations between married partners are largely affected by typical situations of resentment that, owing to their formative character are, so to speak, loaded with a certain dose of the danger of falling into resentment, regardless of the individual characters of the people involved in them. In our own study, we have singled out situations of resentment that are linked to the following factors.

    First, are those that are linked to resentful envy with respect to components in the sphere of interpersonal relations that have a high value: the wealth, beauty, intelligence, successful career, social prestige, and prized character traits of one of the married partners with respect to the other.

    My husband was always conceited. To be sure, you cannot get very far by conceit alone. But conceitedness, multiplied by good looks and charm, have made it possible for him to have a brilliant career in structures of ruling authority. But power acts as a kind of potion that goes to ones head, calms ones fears, and plays tricks on a persons vision, and he begins to think that he is much more wonderful than he is in reality. I call that a super-superiority complex. But now I have the same rights as he does, and I do not want to be his maid and have to fetch, serve, and obey his lordly orders. (female born in 1943)

    Second, those linked to marital infidelities: The theme of marital infidelities is sounded loud and clear. I always knew he was be-ing unfaithful to me, but I did not think it was very important, or, perhaps, I did not really want to believe it. But now I feel very of-fended and hurt. I am unable to forgive and forget (female born in 1939). Often the husbands or the wifes genuine feelings become

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    a central and constant problem of doubts, and in these relations the doubts may destroy their everyday lives. In certain cases such doubts have real foundations.

    Third, the resentment is linked to a situation of forced compe-tition with a mother-in-law (on either side), initiated by what is thought of as her blind love for her offspring.

    When we got married we lived with his parentshis kind and mod-est papa, and his mama (not a bad woman in general) who doted on her son. She only paid attention to her little boy. She treated me as some kind of good-for-nothing appendage to him, someone who was always getting in the way and never did anything right. That was how it went all the time, I always played second fiddle, she might not even consult me or share anything with me, she would simply ignore me. (female born in 1938)

    Such a situation often leads to the formation of interpersonal relations between husbands and wives that are characterized by an explicitly pronounced asymmetry of control and supervision reminiscent of relations between a willful child and a protective parent.

    All our lives my husband has been like a second child of mine. I have to take care of everythingjob, home, the health of household mem-bers, the schooling and upbringing of our son, rest and recreation. His mama left all of these cares to me as a legacy. And now everything is still the same, unchanged, with the exception of our son, who lives abroad. (female born in 1939)

    Factors of an intimate nature are linked to sexual dispositions that do not coincide. Our survey found that sex is an out-of-bounds topic for elderly people. To talk about such things, in their opinion is not fitting for people of our age. Discussions of the topic were accompanied by significant verbal side-stepping and euphemism that proved to be more grounds for lack of clarity than for a subject to be examined. It is kept hidden in the depth of ones soul as a secret about these relations, and anyone who talks a lot about it clearly suffers from a complex or has something wrong with him, although there may actually be problems (female born in 1938). The men were much more likely to confine themselves just to the

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    respectable version: there are no problems at all, this topic is discussed only by someone who has problems, and we do not have any (male born in 1945).

    Personal characteristics of behavior, enthusiasms and interests are relegated to the background and/or compensated for by other things during the earlier stages and manifested in greater relief at the later stage of life together: he hardly ever helps around the house, he picks up all kinds of junk and brings it into the house, he is just a loafer, goes around to see people and meet with his friends, all she cares about are the grandchildren, that is all she talks about, hes aggressive, he does not want quiet, he seeks new sensations.

    One important element consists of the models of relations between married partners that were learned in the early stages of socialization. These models represent an inseparable element of background understanding (the concept of background under-standing, or background, has been borrowed by the social sciences from the terminology of gestalt psychology, and it signifies an unintentional predisposition of perception, evaluation, and action that is determined by the sociocultural context). Models learned from childhood become cognitive guides of life.

    In his family line all the males are tough, they have no emotions. In our first yearswe were living with his familyI loved him with all my heart, only he did not accept my love. That is how things went, he always cut off all my strivings to have warmer relations. With no carrot only the stick was left. (female born in 1939)

    In the answers given by our respondents we can trace the mecha-nism by which the negatively connoted existential coordinates of life (personal misery, alienation, and disruption of the forms of existence) are passed down from parents to children, with an ef-fect that possibly grows stronger. A child who is being raised in a home that lacks interpersonal relations of genuine interest and warmth, grows up having absolutely no understanding of love, tenderness, closeness, and human warmth, and he passes this onto his own offspring. A child who grows up in a family where harsh treatment of the children has been an everyday practice is more

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    likely in the future to include aggression in his own repertoire of behavioral models.

    In the case in question, the married partners are in a state of cat-egorical denial of the views, position, and preferences that proceed from the other; they live and act on the reverse side of the kind of order that correlates with mutual understanding and mutual support, and this destroys relations of sympathy and concern. It has recently been easy to find materials on the Internet about aggressiveness and abuse in elderly married couples; these are reflected in differ-ent manifestations of physical, mental, including emotional and verbal aggression, and financial abuse. Accepting abuse as a way of resolving interpersonal conflicts leads to suffering and trauma, pain, the violation of a persons rights, and a diminished quality of life. It may be asserted, however, that at present the mass media and the scientific literature in this country give no objective and reliable information about the scale of this social evil. Let us also note that gender relations in such a family reproduce the same pat-tern of inequality and the functionalist assignment of roles as in the rest of normal society. Our survey revealed that despite constant conflict situations, in the overwhelming majority of cases elderly married partners continue to live together. A number of explana-tions for this are possible.

    There is stereotyping linked to narrowed perceptions about the repertoire of possible actions. There is a kind of socially approved algorithm in place, namely, that it is necessary to continue living together, there is no other alternative. In the public consciousness, divorce in old age is looked down upon. Divorce is considered indecent and inappropriate, which indirectly confirms the low status of the elderly, who are denied the right of choice when it comes to family and marriage. A person that age has to fit into the image prescribed by public opinion, and this greatly limits his or her freedom. The only socially approved way of elderly peoples social positioning involves their having to retain their marital status.

    I have known this married couple since I was a child, they are friends of my parents. Not everything in their life runs smoothly. But so what?

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    That is not a reason to get divorced, something should have been changed earlier. It should not even be talked about now. Imagine get-ting divorced in old age. It would be odd, everyone would think they are senile. (female born in 1964)

    There is catastrophism, the intensification of fears. A feeling of not being protected, of insecurity, a fatal threat. In feelings of catastrophism the characteristics of the gender-based life and activ-ity of an elderly married couple are manifested. First, the death of one of the partners is an extreme situation that requires consider-able effort to emerge from. At the same time, the gender-based trajectories by which to escape from the situation of the death of a spouse differ considerably. A man who is sixty years old has many more opportunities to remarry than does a woman who is fifty years old. According to the results of sociological surveys, men who have become widowed at a late age very rarely remain single. Either they die soon after the death of their wife or they find themselves a female friend and assistant. Second, it is also necessary to take into account the presence of a crisis situation, a crisis of old age that is linked to retirement, to a change in the repertoire of roles, a shift of aspirations from social status to life experience and moral qualities. At the same time, the personality becomes more anxious. Moreover, male and female crises are of different natures. For a woman, the main difficulty concerns her looks, a loss of attractiveness, a transition to ordinary workday life without male attention. For a man the biggest difficulty is in how to deal with the responsibility that comes with mature age.

    There is the presence of universal indulgencechildren and grandchildren, the degree of incorporation in the family environ-ment, and the unwillingness to part with possessions.

    It is sad to lose what you have gained with so much hard workan apartment, a dacha, a car, and so on. If you get divorced you will have to divide up all of your possessions in some way, and now you can no longer afford to buy anything. Plus, both your children and grandchil-dren will judge you. (male born in 1944)

    The results break down the stereotyped perceptions of elderly married couples as families that no longer experience any internal

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    dynamic or intrigues of interpersonal relations, whose members are just living out their days. Our study has brought to light a whole panorama of very vital, touching, and at times even tragic inter-personal relations between married partners. The value of married life, marital support in the late stages of paths in life, has a special significance and a specific character. Married life is one of the key values in late age, one of the most basic agents of sociopsycho-logical support and help. We have also found that marital support positively influences processes of rehabilitation of various groups of elderly people who are ailing, processes by which those who are recuperating become adapted, and that improve their ability to cope with situations of stress. Undoubtedly, the presence of a broad spectrum of individual differences in relations between married partners at the gerontological state of their life necessitates more detailed sociopsychological support for elderly families, includ-ing, among other things, the development and implementation of a training program that is existentially oriented in order to create the necessary conditions for improving relations within the family.

    Note1. Recently, in Russia, as, incidentally, in many other countries, there has

    been a dramatic rise in the number of elderly married couples who have decided to dissolve their marriage officially. One cause of divorce in marriages that have existed for a long time under the conditions of Russia is the economic factor. It has been found that elderly people get divorced in order to apply for a subsidy to pay for their housing. See www.chrab.chel.su/archive/03 06 08/2/A127559.DOC.html; www.kadis.ru/daily/index/html?id=48547; http://pressa.irk.ru/num-ber1/2006/42/007001.html; http://kp.ru/daily/24088/319959/; and www.kuzrab .ru/publics/index.php?ID=8528.

    References1. Eliutina, M.E. Strategii vyzhivaniia pozhiloi semi. In integrirovannaia

    starost: praktiki sotsialnogo uchastiia. Koll. monografiia, ed. M.E. Eliu-tina, P. Tein, P.P. Velikii, et al., pp. 17585. Saratov: Nauka, 2007.

    2. Maloobespechennye v Rossii: Kto oni? Kak zhivut? K chemu stremiatsia? Moscow: Institut sotsiologii RAN, 2008.

    3. Shakhmatova, N.V. Sotsiologiia pokolenii. In Pokolencheskaia organi-zatsiia sovremennogo rossiiskogo obshchestva, ed. A.D. Krakhmaleva, p. 31. Saratov, 2000.

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    4. Shteinberg, I.E., and E.M. Kovalev. Kachestvennye metody v polevykh sotsiologicheskikh issledovaniiakh. Moscow: Logos, 1999.

    5. Sokhan, L., and I. Kameneva. Zhiznennoe prostranstvo i zhiznennyi mir lichnosti. sotsiologiia: teoriia, metody, marketing, 2002, no. 1, pp. 190201.

    6. Sheler, M. [Scheler]. Resentiment v strukture moralei. Trans. from German by A.N. Malinkin. St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1999.

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