Is the Romantic Marriage Dead?

June 11, 2011 8:32 PM

Book Cover of Pamela Haag's Marriage ConfidentalAuthor Pamela Haag’s new book Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, & Rebel Couples argues that modern marriage is based on “low-stress and low-conflict unions” devoid of romantic love.

She believes that the 20th century ushered in the age of romantic marriage, with expectations of love and intimacy, while 21st century marriages are based on convenience rather than romance. lists the five types of marriage, none of them very pleasant, that Haag defines in her book:

The Semihappy Marriage
Safe, but without joy. This is marriage as a business partnership – efficient, but far from loving. Neither partner feels certain that they deserve more, so they don’t leave, but they’re not staying together out of love.

The Parenting Marriage
Despite the lack of any love or even warmth between them, a couple stays together for the sake of their children.

The Workhorse Wife
A woman works her fingers to the bone so that her husband can pursue his dreams of artistic fulfillment.

Ed McMahon Syndrome
Rather than risking conflict, one partner acts as Ed McMahon to the other partner’s Johnny Carson – responding with a “you are correct, sir!” whether or not they agree.

The Semi-Married
A couple who are divorced, or wish they were, but continue to live together out of necessity or inertia.

So What Else is New?

These five types of marriage certainly ring true – we probably all know, have heard about, or have even been someone in a relationship that conforms to one or more of these patterns.

The question is: has anything changed? I don’t think so.

Human beings have been putting up with loveless marriage for as long as the institution has existed. And although the romantic ideal was introduced to marriage in the 19th and 20th centuries, the reality for most people has never been days of wine and roses.

Marriage is for life. Life, taken as a whole, tends not to be romantic: it encompasses everything, from the heart-pounding moment when one partner proposes to the other to hung-over mornings washing one another’s underwear.

It’s true that some couples stay together out of grim determination or convenience – but that’s not a uniquely 21st century phenomenon. And it’s also true that many married couples actually enjoy and love one another.

Marriage is What You Make It

Pamela Haag’s list of miserable modern marriages might not be a new phenomenon, but it does serve as a useful tool for self-diagnosis. Can you see anything in your own relationship that reminds you of one or more of Haag’s semihappy marriages?

Chances are if you’re in a relationship at all, there are some less-than-perfect aspects of it. But rather than succumbing to the idea that modern marriage is loveless and bleak, try to do what happy couples have always done: communicate honestly and remember why you got together in the first place.

I suspect that even in the cold future of 2011, most relationships started from a place of love. I refuse to accept that romance is dead – but like anything else alive, it needs to be nurtured and cared for in order to flourish.


3 Responses to Is the Romantic Marriage Dead?

  1. Get Your Ex Back on July 07, 2011 at 3:11 PM

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  2. surplus and cheap on July 11, 2011 at 8:30 PM

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  3. Sid Paxton on July 20, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Good program but its suspicious to mention Bush twice yet not one democrat for their extensive involvement in the Fannie / Freddie housing crisis.