Medium 9781855750463

Rethinking Marriage

Views: 1228
Ratings: (0)

'This book brings together a group of specialists who attempt to describe the process of interaction between the inner and personal and the outer and social. They illustrate what is happening to current marriage, particularly in its daily intimate experience. They do not attmpt to offer expert solutions. They describe practice as they see it.'This book is a valuable study to help the clarification of the complex world of contemporary marriage, particularly as it stresses the dynamic aspects of the marital relationship which are the key to its present aspirations. It is a study which informs both the expert and the lay reader, helping to make sense of the necessary diverse realities which make up marriage today.'- from the Foreword by Jack Dominian.

List price: $26.99

Your Price: $21.59

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

8 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

1. Rethinking marriage

ePub

Christopher Clulow

There are times in most marriages when a crisis, and sometimes an absence of crisis, forces the partners into a reappraisal of their relationship. Predictable passages—setting up home, starting a family, children leaving home, ailing parents—and unexpected events—a sudden illness, an affair, relocation at work, redundancy—can destabilize the balance of married life and demand changes. They interact with the long-standing psychological traits of individuals and their partnerships to bind some couples together while blowing others apart. This interaction between external events and inner-world realities results in varied outcomes, confirming Anthony Powell’s dictum that “it is not what happens to people that is significant, but what they think happens to them” (Powell, 1971). Couples maybe so disturbed by their interpretation of events that one or both partners come to believe they have a marital problem for which they need help. Or, perhaps, the problem they have is, indeed, “marital”, for it is presented in the context of the couple and not as a request for individual help, or help with a child, or assistance in managing other vicissitudes of life that can affect marriage.

 

2. Learning from divorce

ePub

Martin Richards

Introduction

All is not well in the state of marriage—or, at least, that seems to be a widespread view. There is much discussion of our “high” divorce rate, the rise of cohabitation, and the number of children born outside marriage, which now approaches a third of all births. It is suggested that marriage is not providing the satisfaction and support it once did. Society seems to have lost its way—that, at least, is the claim. The causes of these changes are usually perceived as a shift in marital behaviour and attitudes and not, for example, as the result of changing economic and social pressures on couples. So it is more likely that the so-called “sexual revolution” of the 1960s will be cited as a cause rather than the present economic recession, with its accompanying housing crisis and high rates of unemployment.

In this chapter I want to stand aside a little from these current debates and draw on the work of social scientists, including historians, to see how far these perspectives may illuminate the current debate. But before doing this, it is worth commenting on what is seen as “the problem”.

 

3. Public perceptions: private experiences

ePub

Penny Mansfield

The title of this chapter mirrors a typical contrast: public set against private. There are other means of expressing it—for example: outer world-inner world, social-psychological. All too often when marriage is discussed it is the point and counterpoint that are stressed. Therapist and sociologist stand on either side of marriage, one inside, one outside, each tending to view the other’s perspective predominantly as a backdrop to their own observations.

However, a growing number of sociologists and therapists working in the field of marriage and family relationships yearn for a greater dialogue, each recognizing the value of widening their observations—that private lives have public significance, and, correlatively, that social trends have individual consequences (Collard & Mansfield, 1991). Marriage is, then, “a bridge between public and private worlds” (Clulow & Mattinson, 1989). Indeed, the family can be regarded as the unique nexus of the individual and society, combining and reflecting both the structural and the personal at one and the same time.

 

4. Theological images of marriage

ePub

Michael Sadgrove

It is perhaps not usual to find a theological paper in company such as this. But as the poet quoted at the outset of Maggie Scarfs book, Intimate Partners, puts it, “[in] every house of marriage there’s room for an interpreter” (Scarf, 1987, p. 7). A theologian is an interpreter of the stories people tell. He or she interprets those stories from the particular vantage point of belonging to a faith-community. Theologians can collaborate with interpreters from other disciplines in helping to draw the contemporary “map” of marriage. Perhaps it is the particular contribution of theology to draw attention to the “why” questions alongside the “how”: if marriages are to work, it is important to ask why marriage exists, what it is for. That is the aim of this chapter.

It is worth making three points at the outset. (1) A very significant number of marriage ceremonies in Britain still take place in church, over half of them in the Church of England. No doubt, there are many reasons for getting married in church, not all of them consciously religious. But many couples would seem, in some way, still to want to place their marriages in the religious sphere, where language about God will be used to give meaning to marriage in general, and to their own marriages in particular. And that is to find ourselves already in the arena of theology. (2) Whether we like it or not, our western understanding of marriage has been almost entirely shaped by Christian theology. That legacy is still with us, even if the evidence is that it is breaking down. Since many of the couples who come for marital counselling or therapy will, consciously or unconsciously, have inherited this cultural understanding of marriage, it is important for professionals in other disciplines to know what in fact it is, even if it is only to challenge or reject it. (3) I want to allay any fear that when a theologian starts talking about marriage, what he or she is really interested in is divorce. It is true that some kinds of theology seem obsessed with questions of marital discipline and what the Church should do about it. But that is not the primary concern of this chapter.

 

5. Fidelity as a moral achievement

ePub

Warren Colman

It is a curious fact that while attitudes towards pre-marital sex and divorce have become far more liberal over the past fifty years or so, attitudes towards extra-marital sex have, if anything, hardened. While most people now accept that marriage will not be the only sexual relationship they have in their lives, and even that the marital relationship itself may not last for ever, around 90% still appear to believe that marriage, at least while it lasts, should be sexually exclusive. One may have more than one partner, but not more than one at a time. Strictures against infidelity may therefore be considered as the last bastion of the monogamous ideal.

Yet it is an even more curious fact that these attitudes are not at all matched by behaviour. The taboo against infidelity is one more honoured in the breach than the observance. It is, of course, notoriously difficult to acquire reliable statistics on a matter of this sort, not least when it is still the subject of considerable moral disapproval. Nevertheless, research evidence indicates that a reasonable, and probably conservative, guess would be that some infidelity takes place in around half of all married couples (Lawson, 1988). This is certainly the case amongst those couples coming to the Tavistock Institute of Marital Studies, where an affair is by far the most common presenting problem, often being the precipitating factor that leads couples who have been unhappy for some time to seek help (Clulow, 1984),

 

6. Sexuality and the couple

ePub

Paul Brown

Uncovering sexuality

It was on Monday mornings at 9 o’clock, nearly twenty-five years ago, that I ran my first clinic on the treatment of sexual difficulties. A car-worker from the then thriving industrial tracks of Coventry, having difficulties with his erectile capabilities, was the typical patient. His wife would probably be in a part-time job, also looking after three children, and he would be on a weekly shift pattern that every second week had him coming home after ten in the evening and every third week away all night. Treatment was often as much about re-ordering patterns of life and priorities as making diagnostic discoveries.

Nevertheless, it may be worth recalling, half an adult lifetime on, how revolutionary were the ideas and practices about the treatment of sexual difficulties that had just become available at that time. Masters and Johnson’s work (1970) had just been published in the United Kingdom. For the first time in the history of clinical endeavour there was both a theoretical basis for the treatment of sexual disorders, firmly grounded in the observations of the psychophysiological laboratory, and a reasonably well described method of proceeding. No matter that there wasn’t a terribly good match between some of the observations, some of the theory, and some of the treatment procedures that resulted. Until experience had been gained and some time had passed, it looked like a wonderfully integrated package. Coming as it did at the end of that extraordinary decade, the 1960s, clinicians had some of the power with which to approach and, indeed, radically affect for the better the sexual distress that many couples suffered.

 

7. Women, men, and intimacy

ePub

Susie

Orbach

Gender relations in context

The last two decades have been such a tumultuous time for marriage and partnerships, particularly those between women and men, that it is now possible for an analysis of male-female relationships to be framed within the social sphere with reference to both the meaning of gender and the constraints imposed upon it.

With gender on the agenda, we, as people involved in intimate relationships, can now critique rather than reflexively act out sets of behaviours that coalesce around the category of gender. That is to say, we can assess the effect of sex-role stereotyping on our understanding of what it means to be a woman, of what it means to be a man, of what it means to raise children, and so on. It makes it possible for us to see with new eyes and speak with a different voice about the politics of intimacy.

The men and women who present themselves for couple therapy today and those who see them have been raised in similar and particular ways, with similar and particular sets of expectations and similar and particular sets of desires from their partnerships. They/we have accumulated these ways of being through personal experiences within families of origin; through observations made about the partnerships of others— including the behaviours of men and women; through Hollywood; through Barbara Cartland, Norman Mailer, and their up- and down-market equivalents; and through the ideology of relationship that impregnates our cultural fabric.

 

8. “Good-enough” marriage

ePub

Christopher Clulow

The chapters in this book have highlighted the multidimensional nature of marriage, mapping out terrains of personal and social histories in an attempt to take stock of this institution-cum-relationship. The ground has by no means been fully covered. Other chapters might have attended to marriage as a legal contract, an economic unit, or an anthropological phenomenon. Perhaps it is significant that the common thread running through this book is the concept of marriage as a personal relationship. There are problems with this emphasis, especially when the personal is disconnected from its social context, but there are also opportunities stemming from it.

Eileen Bertin indicated the scope for personal and social learning that marriage affords in the Prologue, an aspect to which I referred in chapter one when reviewing what functions marriage might have in contemporary society. Martin Richards and Penny Mansfield highlighted opportunities for reconstructing marriage, personally and socially, in the struggle to reconcile belief systems and experience. Michael Sadgrove referred to the redemptive possibilities in marriage, by which he meant not a passive surrender to something greater than oneself but active engagement in a task resembling that described by Warren Colman, writing from a psychological perspective, as “moral work”. Paul Brown called for a positive affirmation of sexuality in its fullest sense, a statement of intent that might be enshrined in public declaration or statute. Susie Orbach addressed the developmental implications of men and women achieving what she has described as “emotional literacy” in their relationships. These are just some of the ways in which the work of marriage has been thought about in this book. But the question remains, why is marriage necessary?

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Chapters

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000020852
Isbn
9781780499253
File size
319 KB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata