Review: The All-or-Nothing Marriage

All or nothing in marriage: review

The New York Times recently ran an article called, “The All-or-Nothing Marriage” by Eli J. Finkel.  The byline stated, “Couples can be happier now than ever before. But it is rare.”


The article states that many American’s today have higher expectations for their marriages than past generations. Because of this, the average American marriage is weaker than past marriages when it comes to satisfaction and divorce rates. However, marriages are now stronger in gratification and personal well-being. Researchers are realizing that marriage quality is at an unprecedented level if couples are willing to put in the extra time and effort. Basically, most marriages today depend on an “all-or-nothing” approach to succeed.


Back in 1850, marriage was based on survival needs such as providing water, food, shelter, and protection. This is referred to as an “institutional marriage.” After industries began to grow, many couples moved out of rural areas and into cities. Because of this shift, many marriages began focusing more on intimate and sexual needs. This era was considered the “companionate marriage.”


Today, couples have greater needs than ever before. Marriages strive for personal growth, mutual fulfillment, and stronger intimacy. This is called the “self-expressive marriage.” In order to meet these needs, couples must put in a great deal of time and energy to reach the levels of happiness they desire. Unfortunately, the average American couple is not spending enough time on their marriages and is instead focused more on careers, children, finances, and other factors. The stress and work obsessed society we live in tends to cause more divorce than ever before, especially in the lower class which divorces 30% more than the higher classes. The only solutions are to either put more time into the relationship or lower expectations while still maintaining a strong bond.


The conclusion of the article states, “The bad news is that insofar as socioeconomic circumstances or individual choices undermine the investment of time and energy in our relationships, our marriages are likely to fall short of our era’s expectations. The good news is that our marriages can flourish today like never before. They just can’t do it on their own.”

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Mary Kay Cocharo
Marriage & Family Therapist, LMFT
Mary Kay Cocharo, LMFT, “The Couples Therapist”, has been working with couples and families for over 25 years through her private practice in West Los Angeles, California. Her work focuses on helping couples rediscover the joy of being together, deepen communication and resolve conflict.

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