Once it was simple. You got married, had kids, worked the land, and stayed
married whether you could stand each other or not. The concept of "a happy
marriage" was no more
relevant than the idea of "a pretty tractor."
"That has changed over time as marriage has become more
independent," says Steven Nock, a professor of sociology who studies
marriage at the University of Virginia and author of Marriage in Men's
Lives. "Couples don't need each other for quite as many things as they
once did. If you're running a farm with someone, it doesn't matter if you're
pissed at her or not. You need her labor as much as she needs yours. The couple
is more or less equally dependent on each other."
By Tom Chiarella
How to change the way the world sees you, one thank-you note
at a time.
I don't really care when people say thanks. Open a door. Thanks. Hand
someone a stapler. Thanks. Push a button on an elevator. Thanks. That's just
chatter. Meaningless interaction. Broadly speaking, hearing thanks
five dozen times a day might be seen as an anthropological indicator of some
sort of social ordering, like cryptic head tilts between sparrows on the lip of
a gutter. It's often...
Chances are, though, if you are reading this, you are not running a farm
with your mate. And if you are, you are probably doing it out of choice, not
necessity. As a recent Washington Post story pointed out, "As
marriage with children becomes the exception rather than the norm, social
scientists say it is also becoming the self-selected province of the
college-educated and the affluent." Marriage in America is becoming more
like a luxury car ―― in other words a BMW, not a Harvester.
This doesn't necessarily mean modern marriages are happy marriages.
According to the latest U.S. Census data, the overall divorce rate has declined
as couples get married later in life, often after living together. But the
divorce rate for first marriages is still about 47%.
Having a happy marriage today means thinking of reasons to be
"From my perspective, the hardest thing is issues of commitment and
trust," says Nock, who has followed couples over time and conducted
interviews with 6,000 married men since 1979. What does commitment mean to the
modern husband? "I'm going to behave myself because I'm committed to this
relationship," is how Nock describes it. Because people have left the farm,
and because women have achieved financial parity, married people need new
reasons to stay together.