Much is heard about the crises affecting marriage and family life in America today. This book provides a perspective on the process of change that is taking place. It examines marriage and family life and tries to assess the costs, benefits, and risks that seem to be associated with various styles of partnerships. Marriage is seen in the context of its possibilities for offering personal fulfillment to each of the partners. It is compared with other nonmarital styles of partnerships without the assumption that our traditional understanding of what is involved in marriage will (or should) satisfy everyone.
In our time marriage is becoming more of a personal contract in which we hold increasingly high expectations for personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Perhaps no other people have expected so much of marriage as a means of contributing to personal growth and fulfillment as we do. We do so in a time in which all intimate partnerships are being subjected to intense stress and strain in an antipersonal society that does not provide great rewards for the skills of intimacy.
One of the exciting things that is happening to our traditional understanding of the marriage partnership is that we are discovering that it can be more flexible than we were inclined to believe just a few years ago. Roles can be made more adaptable to individual needs, and couples can have a great deal more personal freedom to develop close friendships outside of marriage than we were inclined to think proper or possible not so long ago. Children need not "complete" a marriage, nor for that matter, need marriage complete a man's or a woman's life.
A result is the vast burgeoning of different styles of partnerships, each providing a somewhat different response to our needs for intimacy. Just what do they have to offer us? Is their promise worth their apparent risks? This book considers these questions not in terms of a theoretical model of how marriage and the family function (or should function) as social institutions, but rather in terms of how differing life styles affect the individual person and are likely to add to, or detract from, his or her chances of personal fulfillment. This assessment is made on the basis of clinical experience, case studies, personal accounts, and