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Real-world marriage counseling--to cope with conflicts over family government, household finance, and kinship obligations primarily. Kargman is a Boston-area practitioner and New England TV-presence self-described--pertinently--as a clinical family sociologist and specialist in Family Law. She comes on with a minispiel (""If your marriage is not as happy as it could be. . ."") and she has a gimmick, borrowed from the law: a Listening Contract, whereby partners agree to discuss a problem-subject reasonably, with respect to the idea, the feelings, and the judgment expressed. (I.e., in actuality, what is Susan saying when she tells Jack, ""You didn't pick me up when you said you would""?) The structural support might be of benefit to some; the insight into communication snafus could be helpful to anyone. The meat of the book, however, is another applied, 1980s-specific insight: marriage is at once a political, economic, and kinship system. Kargman isn't ivy-hailed about this (the word ""sociology"" doesn't appear in the text proper, there are no quotes from authorities)--any more than she takes a rose-garden attitude toward marriage. Power conflict may be tolerated, not resolved: ""Many men who come home late habitually, and whose wives habitually nag, learn to accept the 'nagging wife.' Some even say, 'She has a right to nag.'"" Differences over finances can be bridged by mutual accommodation: ""'In a house where money is so important,' said Mrs. Takem, 'I guess I can learn there is more to a gift than whether it is the best use of the money.'"" Among kinship frictions is the question of marital solidarity: when Mrs. M. sounds off, should Mr. M. remain silent, get into a separate conversation, or speak his mind? (Depending on their personalities, the two can work it out--if they talk it over--any of those ways.) Some attention is given also to marital sex and extramarital involvements--and there's a wrap-up list of ""Nine Handles for Managing a Marriage"" that's remindful, like the title, of another current preoccupation. Still, many people do look to guides for concrete steps, codification: what's unusual in Kargman's offering is the holistic concept of marriage and the material substance.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1985
Publisher: Foundation Books (151 Tremont St., PH, Boston, MA 02111)