Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States

By Kristin Celello | Go to book overview

5
SUPER MARITAL SEX
AND THE SECOND SHIFT
NEW WORK FOR WIVES
IN THE 1980S AND 1990S

In August 1987 Newsweek published a cover story titled “How to Stay Married.” The cover featured a cartoon of a smiling, white, heterosexual couple, happily swinging in a wedding band engraved with the word “forever.” The accompanying caption proclaimed: “The Divorce Rate Drops as Couples Try Harder to Stay Together.” The article’s lead quote further emphasized this point, declaring, “The age of the disposable marriage is over. Instead of divorcing when times get tough, couples are working hard at keeping their unions intact. And they are finding that the rewards of matrimony are often worth the effort.”1

Two years later, the dark comedy The War of the Roses reached a similar conclusion, although it emanated a decidedly less sanguine tone.2 Danny DeVito (who also directed the film) costarred as Gavin D’Amato, an attorney who narrates the sad tale of his friends Oliver and Barbara Rose (Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner) to a young husband who is contemplating divorce. On the surface, Oliver and Barbara have lived the American dream: they fell in love after bid-

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