MARRIAGE SHOCK: The Emotional Transformation of Women into Wives by Dalma Heyn

MARRIAGE SHOCK: The Emotional Transformation of Women into Wives

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A fervent but unconvincing argument that marriage as we know it is bad for women. A logical extension of Heyn's The Erotic Silence of the American Wife (1992), which looked at female adultery, this work is also based largely on anecdotal evidence. A longtime editor and writer for women's magazines (McCall's, Mademoiselle, Self), Heyn draws on a nonscientific sampling of letters and survey responses from readers of McCall's and New Woman as well as interviews with these and other mostly middle-class women. Her thesis is that when they marry, women give up most of what they enjoy about themselves in favor of a more conventional and proper version of themselves. The dutiful and good wife they aspire to be, she claims, is a middle-class invention first described fully in conduct books of the 18th and 19th centuries. Marriage shock, says Heyn, marks the moment of experiencing this split between what the woman is and what culture tells her she should be. That married women have a higher rate of depression than single women or married men is no accident, the author contends, nor is the fact that today most divorces are initiated by women. Excerpts from her interviews with various married women illustrate what Heyn sees as the suppression of desire and the absence of an honest relationship in marriage. Deception, guilt, and unhappiness seem to be the earmarks of modern marriage. Heyn's answer to this crisis? Revolutionize marriage. Overthrow those old-fashioned ideas about what a wife is supposed to be. Imagine marriage based on a new standard of sexual conduct in which women's desires are acknowledged as real. Think of pleasure, not self-improvement, of sexuality, not self-sacrifice. The kind of ""expert"" analysis of relationships that abounds in women's magazines, this all sounds as though it was conceived at least a generation ago.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Villard