More Perfect Unions

More Perfect Unions

by Rebecca L. Davis

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Overview

More Perfect Unions by Rebecca L. Davis

The American fixation with marriage, so prevalent in today’s debates over marriage for same-sex couples, owes much of its intensity to a small group of reformers who introduced Americans to marriage counseling in the 1930s. Today, millions of couples seek help to save their marriages each year. Over the intervening decades, marriage counseling has powerfully promoted the idea that successful marriages are essential to both individuals’ and the nation’s well-being. Rebecca Davis reveals how couples and counselors transformed the ideal of the perfect marriage as they debated sexuality, childcare, mobility, wage earning, and autonomy, exposing both the fissures and aspirations of American society. From the economic dislocations of the Great Depression to more recent debates over government-funded “Healthy Marriage” programs, counselors have responded to the shifting needs and goals of American couples. Tensions among personal fulfillment, career aims, religious identity, and socioeconomic status have coursed through the history of marriage and explain why the stakes in the institution are so fraught for the couples involved and for the communities to which they belong. Americans care deeply about marriages—their own and other people’s—because they have made enormous investments of time, money, and emotion to improve their own relationships and because they believe that their personal decisions about whom to marry or whether to divorce extend far beyond themselves. This intriguing book tells the uniquely American story of a culture gripped with the hope that, with enough effort and the right guidance, more perfect marital unions are within our reach.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674056251
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 07/31/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
File size: 544 KB

About the Author

Rebecca L. Davis is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Delaware.

Table of Contents

Contents Prologue: The Pursuit of Marital Happiness 1. Shaken Foundations 2. Searching for Economic and Sexual Security 3. Counseling Prosperity 4. Quantifying Compatibility 5. Sacred Partnerships 6. Marriage under Fire 7. The State of Marriage Epilogue: Twenty-First-Century Battlegrounds Abbreviations and Archival Collections Notes Acknowledgments Index

What People are Saying About This

Elaine Tyler May

In this original and beautifully- written history of marriage counseling, Rebecca Davis demonstrates that the American obsession with marriage says as much about the quest for the perfect nation as it does about the desire for marital bliss. More Perfect Unions is essential reading for anyone interested in changing ideas of marriage, intimacy, gender, race, sexuality, and American identity itself.
Elaine Tyler May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era

Nancy F. Cott

Marital conflict is centuries old, but as Davis shows in this eye-opening history, marriage counseling is a twentieth-century innovation. Her deft and lively analysis explains how an ideal of marital perfection has made Americans the most marrying kind in the Western world today.
Nancy F. Cott, Harvard University

Stephanie Coontz

Davis details the convoluted origins, contradictory beliefs, and unanticipated consequences of America's marriage counseling and marriage promotion movements, both secular and religious, over the past 100 years. This excellent resource deals sensitively with the gender, racial, and sexual biases of its sources.
Stephanie Coontz, author, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

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