To Have and To Hold

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Below is a list of Outer Banks wedding planning and coordination services we provide:. Contact Us. She was no longer seen as a worker who produces goods to be traded in the marketplace; she sustained the family in a moral sense. The Bible says a virtuous woman is one who works all the time. Women were to be modest, quiet, weak, and in need of teaching. Men were to provide for them and teach them.

Men learned to confuse showing off with love, and women learned to confuse intimidation with infatuation. These new ideals became the basis of years of romance novels and are still screwing us up today. One quality that helps a marriage work is when partners respect each other and are each grateful for what the other brings to the relationship. Relationships run on an economy of gratitude. A belief in the goodwill of the other person is critical. Leviton: How did women respond to being characterized as retiring, pure, moral, chaste beings?

Coontz: They often tried to turn it into a different source of pride and power. One thing they did was emphasize their moral strength. Men were interested only in the world of bank notes and commerce, they believed, whereas women championed morality. Women became important members of the temperance movement, the Salvation Army, and efforts to protect factory workers. For many women this change in attitudes represented a step up. If they were middle-class, they could now be exempted from hard labor and become educated.

That in turn created higher aspirations, which eventually led to the feminist movement. Many of the same advantages were not available to poor women, however. Leviton: If women were to be protected, did this cut down on domestic violence? Domestic violence did become more shameful for men, but it still went on. Leviton: There was also an important change to courtship. How did that come about? Particularly among the American middle class, this was a well-developed institution. The girl or her parents had to issue an invitation for a man to come calling.

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It was considered bad etiquette for a man to invite himself, just as fifty years later it became bad form for a woman to ask for a date. Calling was how people policed this dangerous new idea that men and women should be allowed to make their own choices about marriage: the meetings would be monitored in the family home, and the parents would be sure no dashing rake was invited.

Dating started to replace calling in the s.

To Have and to Hold

This was a big transition. With dating, the man had to spend money on the woman, which led to the question of how the woman paid him back. One way was sexual favors, but another was to hang on his every word and ask the kind of questions that would make him feel good about himself. This is when women began to think: How can I please him? Look at the anxiety men have in tribal societies about what kind of gifts to give and how to maintain trading relationships and negotiate obligations.

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But it gets deformed under some systems. In the early twentieth century dating created a new kind of pressure on women not to obey men as in the old days but to anticipate their needs. How has the idea of illegitimacy changed over the centuries? In peasant cultures nobody thought twice about it.

In fact, showing you were fertile before marriage was probably an advantage. But with this new middle-class morality, it became dangerous for an unmarried woman to sleep with someone. Today women often get pregnant and later go on to marry, but not back then. Children born out of wedlock did not have access to any inheritance. As late as in the U. In the U. Before the American Revolution, something like a third of all brides were pregnant. That stopped.

Women got the message that messing around would ruin lives. Leviton: Which brings us back to how romantic love was based on the assumption of an essential difference between men and women. Coontz: The idea that men and women were completely different, and you could not have access to the skills and resources of the other sex unless you wed, put pressure on couples to get married and stay married. But there was now a tremendous strangeness in marriage, a strangeness we have eroticized so much it still serves as the basis for bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey.

These books portray women as attracted to powerful men who frighten them. I find this dismaying because it stands in the way of the type of egalitarian relationships that most people now find satisfying in the long run. Wives were not supposed to want sex anymore. When the first sexual-advice book for men came out, men said how glad they were for it, because otherwise they would never have attempted to give their wives pleasure for fear of treating them like mistresses. Sigmund Freud came along and redefined hysteria as a mental condition arising from past traumatic experiences, but he reinforced the repressive stereotypes that said a woman could be sexually healthy only if she was passive and wanted to be entered.

For a woman to want to have a career was a danger sign. Women were encouraged to renounce all ambition beyond the home and the sexual satisfaction of their husbands. And female psychiatrists were often the strongest advocates of this. The bestseller Modern Woman: The Lost Sex accused career women of symbolically castrating their husbands. This is what women faced in the s.

It was pretty awful. Leviton: Some people see the s as a golden era for the American middle-class family and something we need to get back to. Coontz: There was a lot of pressure on men and women to marry and start families then. A survey from found that four out of five Americans believed that anyone who preferred to remain single was either sick, neurotic, or immoral. Same-sex friendship was also declining because of a fear of homosexuality and lesbianism. Affection between women, and especially between men, which had formerly enjoyed widespread acceptance, suddenly became a sign of perversion.

The Freudians set out to break that connection. Men were told to bond to the nuclear family: leave your mother, stop hanging out with your friends, and find a wife. Coontz: Yes, it makes marriage a pressure cooker. Women were told they would be happy and fulfilled only if they gave themselves completely to strong and confident men. Leviton: During World War II women entered the workforce in large numbers, but in they were encouraged to go back home and have babies. How did they take this? And there were plenty of carrots luring them to settle down: cheap housing, help with education, and so on.

My mother told me she had really liked her wartime job but realized it was time for her to have a child. In fact, by the sixties, many women realized that being restricted to homemaking was making them miserable. Leviton: In your book you refer to one mid-fifties study in which women said they were content with their stay-at-home roles but wanted a different life for their daughters. So they felt guilty when they wanted more for themselves. But they could still envision better lives for their daughters, with more education and opportunities.

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Leviton: How were men feeling about marriage in the fifties? Coontz: Yes, they knew life was better. Plenty of men could support a family on a starting salary and depend on it to rise every year. Leviton: And yet there was an undercurrent of discontent, the suggestion that the breadwinner role was sort of hollow. Coontz: Yes, particularly in the middle class.

Even if the tasks in factories were repetitive, the wages were good, and workers were less likely to be killed or hospitalized in an industrial accident. Those showing discontent were in the types of white-collar jobs that women would soon enter. Men had to learn how to get along with other people in the office workplace and be agreeable to bosses. Some men resented this hierarchy, and it made them want to have more power at home.

Other men wanted to be free of the pressure to conform. Many fantasized about not having to be breadwinners. Keep in mind, this period also gave us the Beat Generation, which glorified a bohemian lifestyle. But most men were not willing to live like the Beats: they wanted someone to cook their meals. Leviton: The first issue of Playboy was published in and represented a kind of protest against puritanism. Its publisher, Hugh Hefner, thought men and women should enjoy sex and not get too attached to each other.

Coontz: Playboy offered a kind of false advocacy for female power. Leviton: One thing that has changed about marriage since the s is how long people live. Life expectancy has gone way up. Leviton: What sorts of qualities should men and women look for in partners if they want their marriage to work? Coontz: I am always leery of giving general advice, because individuals have different temperaments, priorities, and values.

To Have and To Hold

What is a great quality in a partner for one person might not be for another. But I can talk about how the predictors of marital success have changed over the decades. In the s the best predictor of a long marriage was how much each partner adhered to conventional gender roles. Today I think you have to know your partner as an individual, not as a gender stereotype, and you have to like him or her in a much more fundamental way. When you do argue, or when your partner gets angry, look for the soft emotion under the hard one and talk to that. Leviton: Are there any key signs that a long-term relationship is in trouble?

But family researchers are also becoming concerned about low-conflict relationships that just run out of steam because the partners have been too involved in work or parenting to renew and strengthen their ties. This may be a key factor in the rising divorce rate of people over fifty — not fighting so much as leading parallel lives without much interaction. Leviton: Does not having friendships outside of the marriage cause problems?

Coontz: It can. That can spell trouble. Sometimes you need other perspectives. Both men and women also cite excessive drinking or drug use, financial irresponsibility, too much fighting, and infidelity. Whether an affair signals the end of a relationship, however, depends on the reason for the affair, the way it is resolved, and the dynamic between the couple. Many couples are able to move beyond such events, painful though they may be. When a marriage is really working today, it improves your health and wealth, but a bad marriage is actually a health risk, and people who marry and divorce are less happy and often worse off financially than those who never marry.

Some people may seek divorce too fast, but others wait too long. Well-intentioned attempts to slow down the process can backfire, leading to prolonged conflict or contempt that is destructive to children and spouses. When unhappy people stay together, bad behaviors such as infidelity and abuse can escalate, making an amicable parting of ways even harder.

Leviton: If women were paid the same as men for the same job and had the same opportunities in the workplace that men have, do you think fewer women would get married? When women first started struggling for equality, it disrupted the social order. But in countries that have gender equality in combination with male participation in child care — because employment policies make it possible for couples to take equal responsibility — we are seeing lower divorce rates for women who work outside the home compared to homemakers.

So people concerned about declining fertility rates in Western democracies might want to stop telling women to give up their careers and start telling men to help out. Leviton: And we need policies like paid parental leave that provide real support for married couples.

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  6. Coontz: Absolutely. Our efforts are going in the wrong direction. To say it costs too much money is penny-wise, pound-foolish. Leviton: You have done a lot of myth-busting in your books, but your work is clearly not done. Yeah, right. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. That sequence is a description of what successful people are able to do, not a recipe for becoming a successful person.

    Leviton: Do families receive less government support now than they used to? Coontz: It depends what kind of support you are talking about. There were no supports for working parents prior to the Family and Medical Leave Act of So we have more than we used to. Unfortunately that act is now inadequate, because 60 percent of children grow up in homes in which all adults are in the labor force. The U. Leviton: Are you optimistic that civil rights and gender equality will continue to expand?

    Coontz: In some ways I am. The problem is that some now want to deny the extent to which discrimination still exists in society. Self-induced abortions are going up in places like Texas. We know that women who are denied abortions are much more likely to become depressed and be victims of domestic violence than comparable women who are able to get them. Leviton: Is there a year in our history you would want to return us to? They all existed at the same time.