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Rebuilding a Marriage Culture

Why Capturing Young People's Imagination Is Key

When I went to the Czech Republic recently to attend the World Congress of Families, I had a difficult time determining whether I was in 1990s Prague or 1960s Liverpool.

On the morning I arrived, I picked up an international newspaper and noticed that one of the main stories concerned an upcoming auction of Beatles memorabilia. Then, when I checked into my hotel room, I found that the TV had been set to the music channel which was playing "Eleanor Rigby" when I turned it on.

Later, when I started looking into some special things that I could do in Prague, I found a guidebook that encouraged tourists to see the John Lennon mural. And, then, when I called the Marionette Theatre to inquire about upcoming performances, I was told that one of the featured productions was, "Yellow Submarine."

Under ordinary circumstances, I probably wouldn't have paid a great deal of attention to these relics of Beatlemania. But one of my main responsibilities at the World Congress was to deliver a speech outlining several objectives for rebuilding a culture that affirms and supports marriage.


'True Love Waits' doesn't just
seize the moral high ground, but
the romantic high ground as well.


And I am convinced that our first and arguably most important objective in rebuilding a marriage culture is to do something the Beatles clearly did very well -- and that is to capture the imagination of young people.

Now, I suppose that any movement seeking to influence cultural change could give emphasis to reaching young people. Indeed, most do. For example, I never cease to be amazed at the degree to which environmentalists target young people with their message.

But I believe capturing the imagination of young people is of far greater importance to the cause of strengthening marriage than it is to other causes. For every day young people all over the world make decisions about love and marriage and sexuality. And the trajectories of their personal lives -- and the trajectories of the cultures in which they live -- are greatly affected by these decisions.

This generally isn't the case with other causes. While it might be nice for people to begin recycling at an early age, it is not terribly critical to their personal well-being -- or to the well-being of the larger society -- that they do so.

Indeed, someone can start recycling at age 50 or 60 without having to worry about the effects of personal baggage accumulated from years and years of poor personal waste disposal management.

But long before they reach age 50 or 60, most people make decisions -- for good or ill -- about love and marriage and sexuality. And these decisions matter. They matter a great deal. In fact, if it were possible to convince most young people to make wise decisions in these areas, then so many of the domestic problems we see in America would begin to take care of themselves.

Signs of Hope

I not only think it is possible to convince young people to make wise decisions in these areas, but I believe the cultural climate for capturing the imagination of the emerging generation is actually improving in several important ways.

In the United States, for example, we are seeing a growing number of young people who are openly challenging the central tenets of the sexual revolution. Convinced that free love wasn't exactly free and that safe sex isn't entirely safe, they are organizing campaigns like "True Love Waits" in which young people sign pledge cards vowing to save sex until marriage.

What is most interesting (and in some ways most encouraging) about these campaigns is that they are largely youth-driven. For example, "True Love Waits" was initiated by a group of young people who, after seeing the kind of heartache sex before marriage can cause, became convinced that there must be a better way, that there must be a higher love, that there must be great wisdom in saving sex for the ultimate male-female relationship: marriage.

Part of the appeal of these youth-driven campaigns is that they speak to the longings of the human heart, to the hopes and dreams and aspirations of young people. In other words, they don't just seek to seize the moral high ground, but they seek to claim the romantic high ground as well.

This, admittedly, isn't terribly difficult to do in our day and age. In a recent FRC poll conducted by the Voter/Consumer Research firm, 61 percent of American adults say they believe male-female relations in America today are "less romantic" than they were 40 years ago. And young Americans are especially likely to perceive a decline in romance. For every twentysomething who believes male-female relations today are "more romantic" than 40 years ago, there are four who think the exact opposite.


The ultimate expression of love,
affection, and intimacy between
a man and a woman is found in
the Marriage Bed.


The decline in romance parallels the decline in marriage. That may seem strange given that most people perceive the falling-in-love stage of a relationship to be the most romantic. But it is important to recognize that part of what makes this stage so exciting is the hope or expectation that this new-found love will endure -- that it will blossom into a lifelong commitment in which two people share a common identity.

In her provocative movie, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Barbra Streisand plays a somewhat frumpy college professor who falls in love with an attractive single guy who has found that typical male-female sexual relationships are hollow and void of meaning. Believing sex to be a hindrance to true intimacy, this never-married man convinces Streisand's character to become his platonic soulmate for life.

But Streisand's character understands -- and spends the entire movie trying to convince her devoted companion -- that the ultimate expression of love, affection, and intimacy between a man and a woman is found in the Marriage Bed. It is there, within the protection of a lifelong marital commitment, that a man and a woman can experience not just the joining of their two bodies, but the union of their two souls. It is there -- and only there -- that their hearts can fully experience the Edenesque thrill of being "naked and not ashamed." Of being "known" completely and of "knowing" another fully, without fear of rejection.

That the human heart longs for this sort of union is something Streisand's character understands better than those in our day who go around touting "safe sex." As Michael Foley of Boston University observes, "We have witnessed a concerted effort to sterilize our erotic attachments, to sap them of their danger but also of their vigor. The flat, unerotic words we now use confirm this. Instead of 'lover' and 'beloved,' we now have 'significant other' and 'partner' (a term which lends to the affairs of the heart all the excitement of filling out a tax form)."

And lest one think that only women like Streisand's character desire romantic love and transcendent intimacy, consider the results of a recent Men's Health magazine survey which found that many men wish they had known at the time of their first sexual encounter just how profound the emotional side of lovemaking is.

Or listen to the words of Sheryl Crow's recent Grammy Award-winning song in which a young woman says to her boyfriend, "If it makes you happy/It can't be that bad/If it makes you happy/Then why the hell are you so sad?" Apparently, many young men recognize (or discover through experience) that it takes far more than just physical gratification to be sexually fulfilled.

Sadly, most sex education programs give little attention to the longings of the human heart. And, as a result, most have a difficult time convincing young people to deny themselves any sexual pleasure.

I recently spoke at a teen pregnancy prevention conference at which one speaker after another lamented the fact that many young men and women today are resisting the "safe sex" message and frequently engaging in "unprotected sex." According to these leaders, resistance to condom usage is particularly strong among young men.


Many young men recognize (or
discover through experience) that
it takes far more than just physical
gratification to be sexually fulfilled.


When it came my turn to speak, I told the audience what I thought was obvious to most people. "For most men, unprotected sex isn't the problem -- it's the goal," I said. "And, personally, I think we ought to be making it easier for them to reach their goal, provided they do so within the context of a marital relationship."

Regrettably, most of the teen pregnancy prevention crowd didn't care too much for my message that day. Indeed, most resisted the idea of explicitly linking erotic love to marriage.

This is rather ironic given that a number of recent studies show that monogamous married couples are the most sexually satisfied people in America. And while most married couples do not experience consummate intimacy the first time they consummate their love and commitment, sex therapist Mary Ann Mayo says the couples most apt to succeed in marriage are those who bring the least amount of sexual baggage into the relationship.

Given how rarely information of this kind is presented to young people, it is a wonder that any of them save sex for marriage. Yet, a new government study shows that the percentage of sexually experienced teens has declined in recent years -- and many of those who have had sexual intercourse are now interested in practicing pre-marital sexual abstinence.

For example, a 1994 Roper Starch study found that 62 percent of sexually experienced high school girls (and 54 percent of all sexually experienced teens) say they "should have waited" to have sex. Similarly, when an Emory University survey asked 1,000 sexually experienced teen girls what they would like to learn to reduce teen pregnancy, approximately 85 percent said, "How to say no without hurting the other person's feelings."

Yearning for Stability

Not only is there reason to be encouraged by the growing number of young people in our country who are signing "True Love Waits" cards, but there is also reason to be encouraged by the fact that many of today's young people appreciate the importance of marital stability in a way that some of their parents don't. For example, a number of recent surveys show that young adults under the age of 30 are significantly more anti-divorce than folks in the Baby Boom generation.

Sadly, some of this youthful appreciation for family stability has been gained the hard way -- by seeing (and often experiencing firsthand) the pain family breakup can cause children. I am reminded of the tragic story of Kurt Cobain, the 1990s rock music icon who has often been called the "John Lennon of Generation X." Cobain was so deeply affected by his parents' divorce when he was 8 years old that many years later he held a gun to his head and told his wife, "I'd rather die than divorce."

Some time later, he did just that. He ended his troubled life and his mercurial marriage with a bullet to the head.

Cobain's story serves to illustrate the fact that while the pain associated with broken families can cause young people to yearn for family stability, it can also lead them down self-destructive paths. This is certainly reflected in Cobain's often-nihilistic music -- and in the lyrics to many other songs popular with Generation X listeners.


The couples most apt to succeed in
marriage are those who bring the least
amount of sexual baggage into the
relationship.


For example, Sheryl Crow's debut album contains a best-selling song in which a young woman offers this plea to her live-in boyfriend: "Lie to me/I promise I'll believe/Lie to me/But please don't leave." Apparently, the woman in this song is so desperate for stability in her home life that she is willing to tolerate all sorts of mistreatment so long as she isn't abandoned.

It should be noted, of course, that the wounded women of Generation X are not the first to seek domestic stability at any cost. Indeed, Crow's lyrics are reminiscent of those found in country music singer Crystal Gayle's 1970s hit song, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue."

Nevertheless, some important changes in youthful attitudes about love and marriage have occurred over the last several decades. Consider, for example, the issue of cohabitation.

In the 1960s and 1970s, most cohabiting couples in America could be described fairly as "anti-marriage." That is, they were deliberately seeking an alternative to traditional marriage, an institution they viewed as "repressive" or "irrelevant."


Far from increasing the likelihood
of marital success, cohabitation is
actually linked to significantly
higher divorce rates.


Today, however, many cohabiting couples have a different outlook. Rather than being "anti-marriage," I think it is more accurate to say that many (though certainly not all) of these young couples are primarily "anti-divorce." That is, they are so fearful of marital breakup that they are looking to cohabitation as a "trial marriage" that will protect them from entering into a marriage that is likely to end in divorce.

Yet, far from increasing the likelihood of marital success, cohabitation is actually linked to significantly higher divorce rates. For example, a 1991 study published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family found that 40 percent of cohabiting unions disintegrate before marriage, and that cohabiting couples who eventually marry have a 50 percent higher rate of divorce than couples who do not live together prior to getting married.

Leon Kass of the University of Chicago is not surprised by such findings. In a recent essay on the end of courtship, Kass says that when cohabiting couples marry, they start off disadvantaged because their "new" life together hardly seems new. "The formal rite of passage that is the wedding ceremony is, however welcome and joyous, also something of a mockery," Kass writes. "Everyone, not only the youngest child present, wonders, if only in embarrassed silence, 'Why is this night different from all other nights?'"

Not only do cohabiting relationships fail to deliver on their promise of improving the chances of long-term marital success, but they also fail to offer much in the way of short-term happiness. For example, a recent study by Jan Stets at Washington State University shows that cohabiting women are more than twice as likely to be the victims of domestic violence than married women. And a study by the National Institute for Mental Health shows that cohabiting women have rates of depression that are three times higher than married women and more than twice as high as other unmarried women.

At a certain level, I think most young people recognize that cohabitation is a cubic zirconium lifestyle. It may look good at a glance. But it doesn't exactly inspire awe up close. Indeed, a recent Details magazine survey of college students found that only 3 percent perceive marriage to be "an outmoded institution" -- a sign that few young people today are looking for cohabitation to replace marriage.

While most young people in America believe in the ideal of lifelong marriage, many are quite skeptical about whether they can actually attain it. Indeed, many young people -- especially those who have never seen a successful marriage lived out in front of them -- fear that enduring love may be a fantasy, a fairy tale.

Perhaps this explains why so few "silly love songs" are heard today on radio stations popular with America's youth. This is, of course, a major change from 30 years ago today when Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. Back then, love songs weren't just sung by leading female artists (like Diana Ross) or by male singers with a mostly female audience (like Bobby Sherman), but by male artists with a sizeable young male following (like the Beatles).

But much of the music targeted specifically to today's youth -- particularly today's young men -- is Wounded Hearts Club Band music. It is at times despairing. At times angry. But perhaps most of all, it is often cynical. Indeed, when it turns its attention to the relations between men and women, it typically knows not the schoolboy innocence of "I Want to Hold Your Hand," or the simple affection of "Michelle," or even the can-do optimism of "We Can Work It Out."


Cohabitation is a cubic zirconium
lifestyle. It may look good at a
glance. But it doesn't exactly inspire
awe up close.


There are, of course, some notable exceptions. For example, The Wallflowers (an alternative rock group featuring Bob Dylan's son, Jakob) had a recent hit single, "One Headlight," which spoke confidently of "Me and Cinderella/We can put it all together/We can drive it home/With one headlight." But even here, the song's lyrics concede that "nothing lasts forever." And, in many ways, a couple trying to navigate dark streets at night with only one headlight is an apt metaphor for the kind of challenges facing many young people from broken homes trying to find lasting love in the 1990s.

The Importance of Telling Stories

How, then, do we convince young people that the deeper longings of their heart can be fulfilled? That it is still possible to achieve the romantic ideal of transcendent intimacy within the context of a lifelong marriage?

I cannot pretend to have all the answers to this question, but I do believe that one of the most important ways to help reverse the retreat from lifelong marriage is for Americans to tell inspiring, hardbitten love stories that celebrate enduring commitment.

There is a common misconception that couples who have successful marriages do not face any of the conflicts and struggles that other couples face. They do not go through rough times or encounter serious relational turbulence.

The truth is, every marriage faces trials and hardships and breakdowns in communication. Yes, some couples manage to limit conflict better than others, but every marriage faces difficulties.

For example, Ruth Bell Graham was once asked by a reporter if, in all her years of marriage to Billy Graham, she had ever considered divorce. "No," Mrs. Graham replied, "but I have considered murder."

If every marriage faces challenges, why is it that some survive and others do not? According to John Gottman of the University of Washington at Seattle, couples that succeed work hard at resolving conflict. In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Gottman argues that many of the theories about why some couples divorce -- money problems, in-law tensions, sexual dysfunctions, emotional incompatibility, etc. -- fail to explain why other equally dissatisfied couples confronting these very same issues do not split up. The real issue, Gottman contends, is not money or sex or compatibility. The real issue, instead, is whether couples are willing and able to work through difficulties that arise in their marriage.

Research by social scientists Nick Stinnett and John DeFrain shows that one of the seven characteristics commonly found in strong, healthy families is the ability to deal effectively with conflict and crisis. Like Gottman, Stinnett and DeFrain find that couples who have to work through difficult problems often perceive that the experience strengthens their marital commitment.

This is important, because most public discussion about divorce revolves around whether divorce would be better than a marriage in which spouses are fighting all the time. This framework assumes that a marriage gone sour can never be made sweet again.

Yet, the experience of many married couples contradicts this. Indeed, David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values argues that a broad spectrum of marriages exists in America today. At one end are a small percentage that are almost effortlessly blissful; at the other, a small percentage that are headed for almost certain failure. Between these two extremes, Blankenhorn says, are the overwhelming majority of marriages -- unions that can, with grit and perseverance, not only endure, but prosper.


This framework falsely assumes that
a marriage gone sour can never be
made sweet again.


Telling marital success stories is something journalists, novelists, artists, public speakers, filmmakers, poets, preachers, television producers, and -- perhaps especially -- songwriters need to do. And while young people can certainly benefit from learning about the triumphs of married couples they do not know, special attention needs to be given to encouraging storytelling on a more personal level.

Indeed, many of the most successful marriage enrichment programs cited by Mike McManus in his book, Marriage Savers, link mature married couples with younger couples. These "mentoring" relationships provide an opportunity for young people to learn important principles and strategies for achieving marital success from the personal stories told by older, more experienced couples.

In addition, these mentoring relationships serve to enmesh younger couples in a wider network of social support, a factor which is believed to be extremely important to marital success. Indeed, research by University of Texas sociologist Norval Glenn shows that residential mobility (or, more precisely, the absence of social rootedness) is highly correlated with divorce. And part of the reason why frequent church attenders have lower divorce rates is because their church participation not only exposes them to teaching and instruction on marital success, but also because the church body lends social support and accountability to the couple.

The role of churches in reversing the retreat from marriage is potentially huge -- and not at all unwelcome by today's young people. In fact, when a recent Gallup youth survey asked what modern questions religion can answer, more young people (65 percent) cited "problems of marriage and divorce" than any other option. Interestingly, support for church involvement in addressing marital problems was particularly strong (70 percent) among young men.


The role of churches in reversing the
retreat from marriage is potentially
huge -- and not at all unwelcome by
today's young people.


While it is no panacea for all of the problems surrounding love and marriage and sexuality, telling inspiring stories of hardbitten marital success can help to show young people that enduring love still exists. And it can serve to keep appeals made to the longings of the human heart grounded in reality. For there is little to be gained by a syrupy romanticism that seems straight out of Hallmarkardia. But there is much to be gained by an honest, sober romanticism that acknowledges that building a happy home is one of the most frustrating, one of the most difficult -- yet one of the most rewarding -- endeavors in all of life.

***

-- by William R. Mattox, Jr. This article, and the adjoining sidebars, are adapted from the speech Mattox gave at the World Congress of Families on March 20, 1997.



ET CETERA, ET CETERA


Reforming D-I-V-O-R-C-E

When it comes to divorce, many Americans are a lot like country music singer Tammy Wynette. They have an easier time spelling "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" than actually talking about it.

Indeed, in the three decades since Wynette's song topped the country charts, the number of divorces in America has more than doubled, the volume of research showing negative consequences for children has grown significantly, and the link between fatherless families and a host of serious social problems has become increasingly apparent.

Yet, few public meetings today are devoted to the topic of divorce. Few news reports focus on the subject. And few national leaders utter the "d" word from their bully pulpits.

In fact, several years ago when Dan Quayle returned to the San Francisco club where he had given his 1992 "Murphy Brown" speech, the former vice president went out of his way to make clear that when he speaks of the problems surrounding fatherless families, he's "not referring to households where the father has died, or even where he is separated by divorce."

Quayle's troublesome sidestep raises a good question -- do we want public officials to talk about divorce? Given the fact that America's divorce problem is rooted more in culture than in law, do we really want lawmakers to wade into this area?

I think we do. A 1995 University of Oklahoma study shows that no-fault divorce statutes have contributed to increases in divorce rates. While larger cultural forces certainly have played a more significant role in the divorce revolution of the last 30 years, the University of Oklahoma research shows that permissive divorce statutes contribute to higher divorce rates, while more restrictive statutes discourage couples from hastily turning to divorce.

Here, then, are two modest proposals for reforming divorce law:

1. Promote Justice for "No-Fault" Spouses. Under current law in most states, one spouse can obtain a divorce unilaterally. While "mutual consent" is required for the marital union to be consummated, one spouse can end the marriage without the other's consent -- even if the spouse wanting out has no evidence of "fault" on the part of the other spouse.

To remedy this problem, legislators in Michigan have proposed to offer greater protection to the spouse interested in preserving the marriage. Under this proposal, "no-fault" divorces would be granted in cases where both spouses want to end the marriage. But in cases where the couple does not agree, the law would view their marital commitment as binding -- much as it views business contracts as binding unless one party violates the agreement.


Permissive divorce statutes
contribute to higher divorce
rates.


Given the government's role in providing justice, this is a modest and appropriate attempt to ensure that people who have met their legal commitments are not taken advantage of in divorce and custody proceedings.

Another option along these same lines would be to alter existing divorce law to make the filing for a divorce without grounds a "breach of contract" which entitles the spouse left behind to the custody of the children and a disproportionate share of the couples' property. In essence, this would permit the spouse interested in leaving to go, but in doing so, he or she would forfeit certain custody and property rights unless the spouse left behind is shown to be at fault.

2. End "Divorce-on-Demand" by Lengthening Waiting Periods. Several years ago, William Galston and Elaine Kamarck of the Progressive Policy Institute called for "braking mechanisms" that slow down the divorce process to give every opportunity for a reconciliation to occur. Given that the average waiting period for a divorce in the U.S. is less than one year, it is hard to argue against at least some extension of current waiting periods.

Longer waiting periods would no doubt foster reconciliation in some cases, as couples have an opportunity to cool off and try to work things out. Since research shows that many divorcees, looking back, often perceive that they gave up on their marriage too soon, longer waiting periods seem to make a great deal of sense.



A CLOSER LOOK


Laws Tilted Against Jilted Dads Hurt Kids

Twenty-five years after America developed a soft spot for the two divorced men that comprised Neil Simon's "Odd Couple," the worst thing anyone can be today is a divorced man. A member of the First Husbands Club. A certified deadbeat dad.

It's easy to understand why deadbeat dads have become Public Enemy #1. Who can respect a man who abandons his family? Who trades in his faithful wife of many years for a younger "trophy wife"? Who fails to make regular visits and child support payments?

But the problem is that some divorced men aren't behaving badly. They are trying to do right by their kids. They are trying to make the most of a situation they never really wanted.

To be sure, men who get pushed out of their marriages are the exception, not the rule. But lest we paint all divorced men with the broad brush used to tar deadbeats, it is time to acknowledge that dumped-on divorced fathers don't just exist in Hollywood films like Mrs. Doubtfire and Kramer v. Kramer. They live in your town and mine.

The reason we need to acknowledge that men sometimes get shafted in divorce proceedings is because children need involved fathers just as they need nurturing mothers. And child custody policies tilted against jilted fathers can have the effect of hindering strong father-child ties.

Wade Horn of the National Fatherhood Initiative believes state governments should guard against such problems by requiring divorcing couples to develop a "joint parenting plan" for how they will divide responsibilities post-divorce. Horn says requiring couples to develop such a plan can serve to demilitarize the divorce process and to shift attention away from spousal grievances and towards parental responsibilities.


The oldest 'joint parenting
plan' ever conceived is
still the best.


In addition, Horn says "joint parenting plans" increase the likelihood that divorced dads won't become deadbeats. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 90 percent of men with joint custody pay child support, 79 percent of men with "access" or "visitation rights" pay child support, but only 45 percent of those who have no legally recognized access to their children make child support payments. Clearly, the strength of father-child ties is a key factor influencing child support compliance.

But the most intriguing argument Horn makes is this -- requiring joint parenting plans as a prerequisite for divorce might cause some couples to rethink their decision to break up.

Several post-divorce surveys have found that, looking back, many divorcees believe they pursued their divorce too hastily. In fact, some say they failed to appreciate just how much interaction and negotiation is required between divorced spouses seeking to coordinate the rearing of their children.

No law, of course, can change the human heart. But new laws which require "joint parenting plans" before a divorce is granted may serve to encourage more couples in troubled marriages to seek out programs which help spouses work through difficulties and rediscover the love that initially brought them together.

While that is obviously easier said than done, it is important to recognize that the oldest "joint parenting plan" ever conceived is still the best. It's called lifelong marriage.



A FINAL NOTE


The 'B' Side to Divorce

If the folks in Hollywood are interested in another poignant morality play about the pain of divorce, they should give a listen to the "b" side to The Ballad of John and Yoko.

The "b" side to most every divorce is the children's side. It rarely gets heard because it lacks the titillating quality of the who-did-what-to-whom refrain that is played over and over in adult divorce tales like The First Wives Club and The War of the Roses.

But a recent auction in London serves as a reminder that divorce often touches more than just the two adults involved. It deeply affects children as well.

Perhaps this is why the anonymous bidder who purchased Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics to "Hey Jude" at that London auction was later revealed to be Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son from his first marriage. That Julian Lennon would have a special interest in this song is understandable. "Hey, Jude" is not only the Beatles' all-time greatest hit, but it is a song that was written by McCartney for Julian to comfort him during the breakup of his parents' marriage. In fact, the song was originally entitled, "Hey, Jules."

David Larson of the National Institute for Healthcare Research knows something about the pain often associated with growing up in a single-parent home. Over the years, Larson has confronted study after study showing that, when compared to children in intact married-couple families, children of divorce have significantly higher rates of academic and behavioral problems, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, early sexual activity, suicide, and depression.


Requiring couples to review
research on divorce may give
some pause.


Moreover, Larson has compiled an inch-thick report of more than 300 studies showing that divorced adults have significantly higher rates of alcoholism, suicide, depression, throat cancer, stomach cancer, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Larson believes this research needs to get wider attention -- especially from people contemplating divorce. Just as doctors are often required to give an advance warning to patients about the possible risks of surgery or the harmful side effects of medication, Larson believes family mediators and court officials should be required to review research findings on the negative consequences of divorce with couples contemplating divorce.

Larson recognizes that requiring people to review research findings will not magically eliminate most divorce. But he thinks it may give some couples pause. He thinks it may cause some couples acting hastily to get help from a counselor or to enroll in a program designed to help couples rediscover the love that originally brought them together.

That may sound like a pipe dream. But many actual divorces lack the infidelity, backbiting, and open conflict typically found in "Divorce, Hollywood Style." As University of Michigan psychologist Joseph Adelson recently noted, "Some marriages die a quiet death, preceeded by boredom, silent contempt, or sheer inanition."

For such troubled marriages, perhaps our legal system should be asking couples to give a listen to the "b" side of divorce. Admittedly, this research isn't pleasing to the ear. But giving it greater attention may offer couples in troubled marriages reason to "take a sad song and make it better."


Family Policy is published six times a year by the Family Research Council. Annual subscriptions are available for $15. Contact: Family Research Council, 801 G Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001. Phone: 202-393-2100.President: Gary L. Bauer; Editor: William R. Mattox, Jr.; Editorial and Production Support: Rosanne Dupras; Distribution: Kevin Gilliam, Steve McIntyre. Volume 10, Number 3. Copyright May, 1997 by the Family Research Council. All rights reserved. FP97EMS.


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