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

By Kristin Celello | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
STILL WORKING

On August 12, 2007, the cover of the New York Times Magazine asked: “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” The inside cover promised an article in which “a therapist and several troubled couples examine whether a crumbling union can be put back together again.”1 While the story’s exploration of Marie and Clem’s marital problems, as well as of current trends in therapy, was considerably longer and more detailed than the Ladies’ Home Journal feature from which it borrowed its instantly recognizable title, the outcome mimicked those from the last half century of Journal cases. With the help of a kindly (and canny) therapist, Marie—portrayed by the author as the primary cause of the couple’s discord—came to understand the utility of counseling and to readjust her attitude about her professional life and her marriage. The piece concluded with a tempered optimism, suggesting that even if Marie and Clem failed to “irrevocably change” their situation for the better, their shared experiences and memories would ultimately bring them through difficult marital times.2

The project of working at marriage, together with the public’s fascination with what makes marriage work, thus remains alive and well in the early twenty-first century. While there are now fewer households made up of married couples than households formed by

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