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THE GOOD MARRIAGE by Judith S. Wallerstein


How and Why Love Lasts

by Judith S. Wallerstein & Sandra Blakeslee

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-89919-969-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

 Yet another entrant in the anecdotal, pop-psych literature on marriage and divorce, this one from the coauthors of Second Chances (1989). Psychologist/marriage counselor Wallerstein and science/medical writer Blakeslee announce sententiously that Americans ``share a profound sense of discomfort with the present state of marriage and the family, even wondering sometimes if marriage as an institution can survive.'' They go on to analyze the life habits of 50 mostly white, comfortably middle-class, well- educated couples in the San Francisco Bay Area--a group that Wallerstein admits is narrow but which she claims is socially trend-setting. The couples neatly cleave into four fuzzy categories of marriage: romantic, rescue, companionate, and traditional. When interviewed, the couples had all been married for more than nine years, had one or more children, regarded their marriage as happy, and were willing to be interviewed separately and together. Other of Wallerstein's previous studies, making use of similarly small, homogenous samples, have rightly come under attack by her peers (Newsweek, February 6, 1989) for their built-in statistical invalidity, but she has not taken their criticisms to heart. Her conclusions generally boil down to the expected: that in good marriages each partner must respect the other and let the other be his or her own person. The book is studded with such startlingly bald truisms in the place of meaningful analysis. Only occasionally do the authors hit on a useful point, as when they observe that all successful marriages, rather than being conflict-free, make allowance for ``the expression of difference, conflict, and anger'' and that an adolescent in the household is a blasting cap that can blow apart the stoutest marital fortress. One in two marriages now ends in divorce in this country, a sadly telling statistic. Regrettably, it also seems as if one in two psychology doctorates ends in a generally superficial book.