Marriage, the Family, and Personal Fulfillment

By David A. Schulz; Stanley F. Rodgers | Go to book overview

"average" to "very happily married." To the extent that satisfaction with marriage is a part of our normal expectation, those who report that they are not satisfied with their marriage could be said not to be living up to the expectations we place on marriage. Thus a probably conservative "guesstimate" would say that perhaps about 30 to 35 percent of our marriages can be said to be meeting in practice both the structural and the qualitative expectations associated with our beliefs about what marriage should be. Although it is not unusual for behavior to fall short of the norms expected, in the case of marriage it seems that the behavior of almost two-thirds of us falls far short of our ideals.

These findings may help to explain why some people are directly challenging the ideals. The number of persons who are intentionally experimenting with alternative kinds of partnerships is at present probably quite small, but as dissatisfaction with traditional marriage increases and the social pressures likely to create stress for the traditionally married couple continue to mount, the number who intentionally try another life style will probably increase. At least this is what seems reasonable to expect given the information available to us in the middle of the 1970s. This experimentation need not be seen as indicative of a "crisis," although it undoubtedly will create some problems for persons who cannot adjust either their own behavior or their expectations of others. It is a basic assumption of this book that such experimentation can--and we hope will--bring about some viable creative alternatives to marriage as we have traditionally tended to define it. If these alternatives can create loving intimate partnerships in which partners can develop their potentials and fulfill their needs for intimacy, then they should be acceptable regardless of the extent to which they depart from conventional marriage.


SUMMARY

We cannot love others if we do not love ourselves and we are not able to love ourselves unless we have been loved. In much condensed form, these seem to be the lessons of love we have discovered from our experience of loving. Americans expect marriage to fulfill much more of the personal needs of the partners for love and acceptance than most societies of the world have typically expected. When we talk about marriage as a self-actualizing partnership, we are expecting even more. Without doubt marriage, in its traditional form, cannot meet these expectations for everyone, given the tremendous needs we bring to it and the enormous stress social forces place upon it. As a result, while more and more of us are getting married than ever before in our history, we are also getting out of marriage at an increasing rate. Many of us seem to be experimenting with modifications of traditional marriage and some few of us are intentionally experimenting with alternative kinds of partnerships and quite different life styles. Rather than see these changes in norms and behavior as

-12-

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