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In the past twenty-five years, Americans have gained considerable freedom in their personal lives. Relationships are now more flexible, and self-development has become a primary goal for both men and women. Most scholars have criticized this trend to greater freedom, arguing that it undermines family bonds and promotes selfishness and extreme independence. Francesca Cancian is more optimistic. In this book she compares these newer images of close relationships with "traditional" forms of marriage, in which love is seen as the responsibility of women, while self-development is regarded as a male concern. She shows that many American couples succeed in combining self-development with commitment. For them, interdependence, not independence, is their ideal, and love and self-development do not conflict, but reinforce each other. Changes in images of love are documented, in part, by examining case studies, popular magazines of 1900 to 1979 and selected articles in them on how to have a happy marriage. In sum, the author concludes that images of love in America have shifted from polarized gender roles toward more flexible roles and interdependence, thus fostering both love and self-development.
In Love in America Francesca M. Cancian concludes that images of love in America have shifted from polarized gender roles, toward more flexible roles and interdependence, thus fostering both love and self-development. 4 tables. 5 diagrams.
List of figures and tables; Acknowledgments; Introduction; 1. Love vs. self-development; Part I. The History of Love: 2. The feminization of love in the nineteenth century; 3. From role to self: the emergence of androgynous love in the twentieth century; 4. The history of love: theories and debates; Part II. Feminized Love and Its Costs: 5. Feminine and masculine love; 6. Illness and split gender roles; 7. Martial conflict over intimacy; Part III. Androgynous Love: 8. Self-development through androgynous love; 9. Androgynous love in marriage; 10. Friends and relatives; Conclusion; 11. Current trends and future possibilities; Appendices; Notes; References; Index.