…Haag notes that marriage has undergone a dramatic transformation from the “traditional” partnerships of the nineteenth century, when marriage was “a social institution and an obligation,” to the “romantic” marriages of the twentieth century, when the practice of choosing a partner for reasons of love rather than practicality first became widespread. Now, she argues, we are moving into a “post-romantic age.” People have become far more likely to marry in mid-life, when they already have established careers and friendships; and they are having children much later than their counterparts did 50 years ago. But they continue to organize their marriages around the same assumptions””assumptions that, possibly, no longer work. “The facts, circumstances, and shell of marriage have changed so breathtakingly in the post-liberation era, yet the soul of marriage””its dreams, conscience, ethics, and rules””hasn’t necessarily evolved to keep up,” Haag writes. “Instead we follow viscerally many of the same premises and orthodoxies as our parents, as if marriage is a Procrustean structure to which we must confine ourselves, rather than the other way around.”
The result, Haag argues, is a widespread dissatisfaction with romantic marriage, evident in an epidemic of “low-conflict, low-stress unhappy marriage.” The couples in these marriages are basically cooperative and compatible””they don’t beat each other, abuse drugs or alcohol, or gamble away all their savings””but they are nonetheless plagued by the feeling that their relationship isn’t everything it should be. They haven’t caught up with the times: They’re trying to live out a romantic paradigm in a post-romantic age. Such marriages look stable on the outside, but they’re astonishingly fragile: Haag quotes a study that finds that they account for up to 60 percent of divorces. Unsurprisingly, she includes her own marriage in this group….
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