A vibrant marriage has to be more than just problem-free. When a mar-
riage is strong and healthy, it is a powerful vehicle for personal growth.
—“Steps to a More Spiritual Marriage,” Ladies' Home Journal, March 1998
When I asked women what the most important part of a marriage was, no one brought up the leading answer in the past: to be financially supported by a man. Instead, the reasons I heard most often (in order of frequency) were “communication,” “friendship,” “equality,” “honesty,” “partnership,” “compromise,” and “openness.”
“I kind of feel that for a lot of this generation, it's really not a question: 'Is he a good provider?' I always assumed I'd be working at some point; my mother worked,” said Leah, 26, a graduate student at the University of Texas. “But I was looking for someone who was just going to treat me as an equal in a lot of ways: in the kitchen, with housecleaning, with everything. A partnership. That's our marriage.” Today, women's roles in marriage are more equal, and as a result of their greater power in marriage, women today are happier with it. In a 1995 CBS News poll, women were more likely than men (63 to 49 percent) to say that their marriages were better than their parents'. When both genders compared themselves with their parents, 56 percent said their marriages were better, 36 percent were the same, and only 3 percent were worse (Bowman 1999).
Today, even for the most traditional couples, marriage, like the American family, has changed. Just as young women have more choices about their sexual behavior and principles, they also have more freedom to tailor their family according to their own personal preferences. In addition, even though marriage and family are still major life goals of most American women, they are not mandatory as they once were. Because women are