Marriage Then and Now
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Marriage Then and Now

See how marriage therapists advise dealing with these difficulties.

Through the Years

From looking back on the last 50 years of Can This Marriage Be Saved? columns, it's clear that while the specifics of the story change from month to month, the underlying issues that can shake the foundation of a marriage -- be it in 1953 or 2003 -- remain fundamentally the same. Still, the temper of the times has affected the way marriage has evolved over the last five decades. Here's a quick look back:

The '50s
I Love Lucy
Old-Fashioned Love:
"I Love Lucy"s'
two comedic couples.

Back in the love-honor-and-obey 50s, spouses largely shared the same view of marriage. Most wives stayed at home; their husbands were the undisputed breadwinners -- and the fact that they controlled the purse-strings meant that they wielded most of the decision-making power in the family, too.

The '60s and '70s

The '60s

As unprecedented numbers of women moved into the work force, men and women struggled to comprehend the social upheavals set in motion by the women's movement.

The '70s

"The Brady Bunch":
The classic blended family.

In the 70s, traditional wedding ceremonies gave way to barefoot brides on windswept beaches, and the emergence of the sexual revolution proclaimed a different cultural mantra. So-called "open marriage" with its myriad sexual partners was in, staying in a relationship that needed work was decidedly not.

The '80s and '90s

Modern Marriage:
Who can't relate to Ray
and Debra from
"Everybody Loves Raymond?"

Through these two decades, the column continued to deal with issues long in the shadows -- alcoholism and physical and sexual abuse -- as well as those increasingly in the headlines -- the growing use of psychotropic medications and new forms of counseling, such as group and solution-oriented, brief therapy.

Facts and Stats of the Last 50 Years

  • When the column began in the early 1950s the chance that a wedding would lead to divorce was less than 20 percent. Now it is around 50 percent!
  • As late as 1970, 80 percent of married women in the United States agreed that "it is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family." By 1991, a mere 27 percent agreed! A similar shift occurred in men's attitudes.
  • Only one-quarter of Americans live in the traditional families that Can This Marriage Be Saved? first described.
  • The proportion of households headed by married couples fell from 77 percent in 1050 to 55 percent in 1993.

From the new book Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage by Margery D. Rosen and the Editors of Ladies' Home Journal. Published by Workman Publishing Co.

To purchase a copy of the new book Seven Secrets of a Happy Marriage, visit