Real Life

Modern love: State of the unions

The Weekly exposes what really goes on behind the closed doors of Kiwi couple with our second State of New Zealand Marriage Survey.

By Morgan Johnston
Modern love: State of the unions

Kiwis are still committed to love, but not as much to each other, according to social trends revealed in the second New Zealand Woman’s Weekly State of New Zealand Marriage Survey.

The second survey of 500 people conducted by Colmar Brunton has underlined a shift in the make-up of typical relationships, with New Zealanders increasingly living together rather than marrying. On average, the number of long-term relationships per person is up significantly from two to 2.2.

Seventy-seven percent of people say they are still very much in love with their partner. But the survey also reveals that women are increasingly likely to leave a relationship when infidelity has occurred.

The rate of infidelity remains around a third of the population but couples seem less willing to stay together. In 2011, 30% of couples that experienced infidelity said they broke up as a result but that figure rose 13% in this year’s study to 43%.

Of those who have had an affair, 69% were on-going affairs rather than one-night stands. Over-sixties were more likely to have been affected by infidelity. Women are more likely to initiate sex compared to 2011 and Colmar Brunton says this trend is perhaps linked to the recent Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon.

Both genders expressed a desire for more sex – with the current norm being once a week. The main barrier to more sex was tiredness (38%), but for 13% of women it was because they did not feel sexy, while men are more likely to blame family pressures.

The majority of Kiwi women like to acknowledge Valentine’s Day but not in a big way. Most are happy being taken out to dinner on February 14, although they admit they would also like flowers.

Most women weren’t interested in a showy display of affection from their partner. Only four percent really wanted jewellery but four in 10 people would like more romance in their relationship – almost half those surveyed.

And, by far, the majority of New Zealand couples believe their relationship is like that of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Although 10% crave a sizzling partnership like Fifty Shades of Grey, only three percent report that they have one Twenty three percent say they’re more like Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter, friends not lovers.

Nina & Vanderfon

Wellington administrator Nina Kelly never thought she was the marrying kind – until she met hunky ju-jitsu instructor Vanderfon Piref. Like many of those surveyed in our State of the Marriage research, Nina (34) has had other relationships, but she’s never felt this way before.

“In the past, marriage wasn’t important to me but since meeting him my views have changed,” says Nina, who met Vanderfon (33) through mutual friends. “He ticks all the boxes. I think this one’s a keeper.” And because her relationship with the Brazilian national is so full of love and romance, Nina isn’t fussed if Vanderfon doesn’t acknowledge Valentine’s Day.

“I did point out some Valentine’s Day cards the other day but we’re going to Europe together in July and Vanderfon said, ‘Every day’s going to be Valentine’s Day, so why not wait until then?’ He is quite romantic so I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t get anything. He’s always doing little things, so I don’t need that one particular day. Mind you, a little card would be nice,” she admits.

Our questionnaire asked couples to compare their relationships to famous love stories, and Nina was one of just seven percent who likened hers and Vanderfon’s to the Titanic lovers – full of love and romance. “I feel very much swept off my feet by him, so it’s Titanic,” says Nina, who is prepared for their relationship to change over time.

“I realise it won’t be like this forever but you can still maintain love and passion.” And neither would tolerate an affair. “I wouldn’t be able to trust him again. There would be too many doubts. I would be like a broken glass – too hard to put it back together. I value myself and I know what I’m looking for in a man and I know how I want to be treated, such as being treated with respect.”

Trish & Wade

Wade and Trish Alexander have always sworn that if either of them was tempted to stray, they would be honest about it. “It would be a deal-breaker,” says Trish, who has been married to Wade for almost 31 years. “If that happened we would break up,” Wade adds.

The couple, who have three children but just one living at home, are still in love and like to celebrate Valentine’s Day – even if it’s just a lunch together or sharing a special bottle of wine at home. And Trish (56) is not fussed if she doesn’t get flowers. “If I want flowers I can go and buy them myself, can’t I?” she says.

Like the majority of those surveyed, Wade (55) considers their marriage to be most like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s – because Wade says their personalities complement each other. “I looked at that from our point of view because we’ve done everything together, we’ve been together for so long and we have trust in each other,” Wade says from their home on Auckland’s North Shore.

They admit their libidos have declined since they were newlyweds, and both agree that tiredness seems to be the biggest obstacle in their love life. “It’s still a very fulfilling relationship,” says Trish. They are happy with the split of their household chores – Wade takes care of the work around the garden but he will also go to the supermarket and often cook dinner – something that Trish is grateful for.

Both have been the household’s main breadwinner at various times, and their relationship has evolved over the years with communication improving between them. “I used to give him the silent treatment. Now if something bothers me I talk about it,” Trish explains. And Wade says he has no complaints. “I wouldn’t trade her for anything,” he says, giving Trish an affectionate hug.

Greg & Karuna

Auckland couple Greg Pride and Karuna Devi are so romantic that they chose Valentine’s Day to tie the knot. Greg, a computer programmer and Karuna, a sales assistant, had their hearts set on marrying on the most romantic day of the year, but couldn’t find a celebrant available, so they’ve settled for February 24 instead.

Now they’ll be making a big effort to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day together. The couple, who live in Papakura, enjoy a passionate relationship since they met through a friend who put them in touch via Skype. “We spent three to four hours every night chatting on Skype. Then Karuna came to New Zealand and it has been going well since then,” he says.

Sometimes work pressures will interfere with their sex lives, so they make the most of the time they have together. “I think you can keep the excitement, but it depends on what is happening in your life,” Greg points out. They were both ready for a long-term partner when they met and neither wanted an extended engagement.

Karuna (29), who is from Fiji, says people in love don’t delay marrying back home – long engagements are more of a European custom. And Greg (37) believes that marriage does help to cement a strong relationship. “It’s not only formalising your relationship in the eyes of the court, it’s also your family and sitting down with them and saying, ‘We are married.’”

Greg thinks his relationship with Karuna is most like that of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge because, like them, theirs is a loving, fulfilling relationship. While faithfulness is something they both expect from each other, it is possible this couple would stay together if one of them strayed.

“It would be something we would have to discuss hard afterwards – the reasons why,” says Greg, who was given some valuable marriage advice from his mother: “You’ll know after 10 years whether you’re right for each other or not.”

Jacqueline Ireland

Colmar Brunton CEO
An equal partnership could be the secret to love and happiness in long-term relationships. Relationships where men and women share instigating sex show a high level of success in the 2013 State of New Zealand Marriage survey.

Colmar Brunton’s Jacqueline Ireland says there is a growing trend for both partners to take responsibility for sex, especially among young couples. “We see this generation of women becoming much more con dent and much stronger in terms of what they want. And that is a good thing for relationships. The key to happiness, lasting love and great sex is both partners playing an equal part in instigating sex. When this happens, we see love and lust skyrocket,” she says. But if a relationship is not working, and someone has cheated, then women aren’t afraid to leave.

“Under-30 females won’t put up with anything,” says Jacqueline. “They’ll just walk – the older ones will probably try to hang on because they may think their options are limited. “Only four in 10 women would work through it compared with one in two men and that’s something that we see elsewhere. Because they’re not so reliant on their partners financially, they’re not afraid to go at it alone – why would you put up with that?” Jacqueline asks.

“The biggest change from last year is that women are becoming more confident in not putting up with things they don’t like. Infidelity is one of those things. “If it means they have to leave to find what they really need or want, they seem to be more prepared to do it.”

However, men seem less concerned about fidelity. “Those 30 to 49 are much less likely to say that fidelity is really important, while the older guys (50 to 65) are more likely to have had affairs,” she explains.

Jacqueline says it’s no surprise that most people consider the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to have the ideal marriage. “Lots of women want that prince and princess fairy tale. It goes all the way back to Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. They’re perfect in some ways – they’re young, they’re attractive and seem to be really nice genuine people as well.”

Which of the following best describes your current relationships?


The sexy book Fifty Shades of Grey may have been embraced and passionately read by many Kiwi women, but only a small percentage of them would actually prefer an exciting love life like that. Just 10% of those surveyed would ideally like to be living the Fifty Shades of Grey romance and by far the majority of those who did were men under the age of 49 years old.

But perhaps the book has made an impact on women’s sex lives in the past year, with a higher percentage of women prepared to initiate action in the bedroom compared to our last survey. Those wanting to brave the Titanic love story were more likely to be women under the age of 30 and 23% considered their partners to be more like friends than lovers, like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, but only five percent considered that this was the ideal kind of relationship to have.

And two percent said their marriage was like Coronation Street’s Ken and Deirdre Barlow – they can’t stand each other. On the whole, men are less satisfied then women, but middle-aged men are becoming more satisfied with their sex life.

NOTE: Some survey totals add up to more than 100 percent because respondents chose more than one option.

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