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Marriage, fulfillment, divorce?

Don Browning's research on marriage reported in the August/01 "Investigations" contains a major inconsistency, due, I believe, to his attempt to be politically correct (having been a professor for 40 years I know about the pressure to be politically correct). He correctly points out that the change from the breadwinner-homemaker model of marriage began with the women's revolution and the subsequent sexual and psychological revolutions. The purpose of marriage became "personal fulfillment" and if a partner felt she was not being "fulfilled" it was all right to dissolve it.

Fine, but he goes on to suggest that the solution is an egalitarian marriage in which husband and wife participate equally in paid work, childcare, and domestic duties. As we know, this puts a strain on both working parents and often leaves children home alone after school. In addition, both parents work in order to have luxury homes and vehicles. (Yes, I know, some work because they have to because a single income is not enough.) The question I have is, How is this fulfillment?

I've been married for 47 years under the breadwinner-homemaker model, and I am sure that it is taking responsibility for one's choices rather than "fulfillment" that holds a marriage together, especially if children are involved. All marriages involve stresses, strains, and conflicts that need to be overcome and if "fulfillment" is the purpose of a marriage, it will fall apart. There may be some marriages where people make a huge mistake when they marry because they do not really know what their partner is like, but these really horrible marriages are a small percent of the total; otherwise love is indeed blind.

Dennis J. Palumbo, AM'58, AM'59, PhD'60
Tempe, Arizona

I want to thank you for your fine article in the August/01 issue ("Investigations") on the Religion, Culture, and Family (RCF) project. Overall, it struck a very good balance.

One major issue and a few small errors should be noted, however. It is not accurate to say that our message from the start is "marriage is good, divorce is not." We never say that marriage should trump all other values. Cokie Roberts, the narrator of our documentary Marriage: Is It Just a Piece of Paper?, says twice in the first part that divorce is sometimes the best answer. From Culture Wars to Common Ground, the summary value of the RCF project, acknowledges that alcoholism, violence, drugs, and other factors are justifiable reasons for divorce. At most, we say that on the whole, marriage is good and divorce is now proving to have more negative consequences than we first thought. You do mention, several paragraphs later, that the RCF project is not "against the single vocation or families that have split.:" That is correct. Now, for some smaller details that also need correction. My first graduate degree was a B.D., or Bachelor of Divinity Degree, now a Master of Divinity Degree. No-fault divorce did not appear in California in 1989. It occurred when Reagan was governor, probably in the early 1970s. He left the presidency in 1988. The 100 plus contributors to the project were not all "theologians." Some were, but there were many social scientists, historians, and legal scholars as well. These are small details. We are happy that you covered the project.

Don S. Browning, AM'62, PhD'64

  OCTOBER 2001

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