MACLEAN'S/CBC NEWS POLL

Finding comfort in the home

BARBARA WICKENS December 25 1995
MACLEAN'S/CBC NEWS POLL

Finding comfort in the home

BARBARA WICKENS December 25 1995

Finding comfort in the home

MACLEAN'S/CBC NEWS POLL

In tough times, Canadians profess to have better love lives—but less sex

Will you still need me Will you still feed me When I'm 64? —John Lennon/Paul McCartney

The Beatles' cheery little 1967 ditty goes to the heart of what many people wonder in earnest—will love last? And in a year infused with so much gloom and doom, it is encouraging to discover that Canadians are feeling generally upbeat about that most private of private endeavors, their love lives. Bucking conventional wisdom that tough economic times tear couples apart, a majority of Canadians with a partner or spouse say that their special someone is getting more special all the time. According to the Maclean’s/CBC News poll, 55 per cent have “grown more in love” over the past year. Allan Gregg, chairman of Torontobased The Strategic Counsel Inc., which conducted the poll, says he is not surprised by the apparent contradiction with the overall negativism that the poll found on other topics. “It’s a kind of defence mechanism,” he says. “People are saying, ‘Things aren’t great out there, but I can still be a good person.’ ”

In that case, Canadians’ defence mechanisms are working overtime. Three-quarters of those surveyed say they have a partner or spouse. And of those, the highest numbers (62 per cent) professing growing affection for their partners are in Saskatchewan. At the other end of the scale, fewer than half of the respondents in Quebec said they were more in love. But there, at least the status quo is maintained, with 51 per cent indicating that their “relationship hasn’t changed.”

Only six per cent of Canadians said the past year had in fact left them “more distant” from their partners. But while their hearts beat stronger, the rhythm of Canadians’ sex lives seems to be slowing. Over the years, the annual Maclean’s year-end poll has tracked a decline in the numbers who describe themselves as sexually active, from a high of 74 per cent in 1984 to 59 per cent this year.

Age and regional differences are significant factors when it comes to Canadians’ sex lives. As in many previous Maclean’s polls, Newfoundlanders topped the charts, with 18 per cent calling themselves very sexually active, compared with a national norm of 10 per cent On a national basis, sexual activity peaked among those aged 25 to 34, with 71 per cent in that group claiming to have active sex lives. By age 55 to 64, the percentage had dropped to 42 per cent; at 65 and over, it was down to 22 per cent But for most people, sex alone is not the key to general happiness. According to marital and family therapist Rose Marie Jaco, who teaches social work at the University of Western Ontario in London, surveys consistently show a good marriage or relationship to be the most important factor determining quality of life. “That’s ahead of children, a good job, good health,” says Jaco.

“Human beings were designed to go in pairs.”

Still, it appears to be easier to have a strong relationship at some stages of the life cycle than others. The poll found, for instance, that 76 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 said that they had grown more in love, the highest percentage of all the age groups.

That, Jaco notes, corresponds with the time when young adults in North American society traditionally look for a partner and set up housekeeping. Satisfaction with marriage tends to decline at two stages: when a couple’s children are young and demanding, and when they are rebellious teenagers. “When there is a lot of inner turmoil in the family, it is easy to blame the partner,” says Jaco.

The poll reflects those stages: the numbers professing to be more in love decline with age. Nevertheless, even among those aged 65 and over, 34 per cent still claim to be fonder of their partners than they were a year ago. Says Jaco: “If a couple have been able to weather all the storms, and finally have some time to do some pleasant activities together, they can enter into a very happy time in their lives.” For them, the response to the Beatles’ question is a definite Yes.

SEXUAL SLIPPAGE

How would you describe your sex life?

TILL DEATH US DO PART

In the last year, how have you felt about your partner or spouse? Grown more in love ... 55% No change .........38% Grown more distant ... 6% • • • • The "grown more in love" respondents, by age:

BARBARA WICKENS