Marriage and How It Has Changed

Essay by papawegA+, March 2003

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Marriage has gone through profound changes over the last five decades, but we continue to speak about it as though it's the same old familiar pattern. To see how much has changed; I am going to look at the shift from the forties, to the sixties, to today. In 1968, less than a year after the famous Summer of Love, as they used to say out in the country, "The times they were a-changing." The sexual revolution, Viet Nam, drugs--the youth of the day were convinced the world would never be the same again. Yet they didn't think about how such changes would affect marriage. It seemed as if they thought it would be about the same as it had been for their parents, except better because they (like most youth of most times) thought they were better than their gray and jaded parents that represented the "American Gothic" portrayed that day.

No matter how you describe it, it was a powerfully attractive vision. The average age at which Americans got married dropped drastically, to just 19 for women. The number of children soared higher than it had for decades, to a peak of 3.7 children per woman in 1957. The goal back then was domesticity, and both partners worked for it--one to earn the pay, the other to make the home. If a man was a good provider, if he didn't drink or beat his wife, if he was a "good father" to his children, he was a good husband. A good wife had to be a decent cook and housekeeper, take care of the children and provide emotional support to her husband. Polls taken during that time show that more than 90 percent of people could not imagine an unmarried person being happy. When asked what they thought...