A Brief History Of Relationships From The 1970's To Now
Sandra Levy Ceren, Ph.D

In the last century divorce was less accepted and people stayed in ungratifying marriages for security. In the mid to late 1970's, a radical change occurred. Anti- discrimination laws allowed women to pursue careers never before readily available to them. Women no longer needed men for financial security or status. They gained satisfaction from their professional lives.

But, this brought a downside. Now women may be more stressed from work pressures or balancing career and family life.

Gradually, an openness toward sexual expression occurred and with it, a willingness to experiment with more partners. The value of monogamy began to erode bringing open marriage to the fore, but with the increase and awareness of sexually transmitted disease, many couples became more willing to commit to marriage.

Now living together without marriage has become more acceptable, allowing couples a chance to see how they get along together in shared quarters over time.

An increase in unwed mothers has occurred, especially with professional women. Single parent adoption offers an option to those without mates who want a family life. Better birth control is available. Abortion is no longer shunned in many quarters.

The arrival of the computer offers people instant intimacy online. If someone is already mated, these exciting relationships can destroy a primary relationship.

The younger woman/older man relationship still exists, but it is not as common among women satisfied with their own status as was the case thirty years ago.

Most women still prefer men who are strong, and have equal status to them.

There remain women with a strong need to control who prefer men who are passive and dependent. This arrangement may work for some couples.

Men are learning to adjust to assertive women.

Men are becoming more interested in shared parenting and show a willingness to share household tasks. They are accepting an equalization of roles more so than ever before.

Many emotionally healthy couples have come to value cooperation and see marriage as a true partnership. The partner who prefers to do, or does best a particular household task should do it regardless of gender. The woman may enjoy handling the bills and the man may prefer kitchen duties.

Laws regarding spousal abuse have made it no longer tolerated or ignored as much as it had been in the past, but it still exists.

Psychological healthy couples don't jump into marriage. They realize it is better to get to know each other gradually. They are becoming aware of the necessity for respect and understanding of each other, to see each other as individuals with separate needs, to engage in activities with friends, career, recreational activities that do not have to be shared with a mate.

Healthy couples are tolerant of each other. They realize that not everyone feels, thinks or acts the same way, but they do share core values, integrity, fidelity, trust, respect, a willingness to be there for each other for their common good. They engage in a strong partnership, not a fly-by-night-see-you-later arrangement. They do not have doubts about each other.

People are more willing to enter therapy in attempt to save their marriage. They appear more serious about preserving what they have, and making it better. I see fewer serial relationships today than in former years. There appears to be a return of traditional life style with a nice twist: Stay at home Dads. More fathers take an active role in child rearing than ever before.

A grandfather took his toddler grandson to a birthday and was terrified to change the diaper. All the young dads were surprised that he hadn't done it for his children.

There are more second marriages with children from previous marriages. This often presents problems. A blended family where the children are his, hers and theirs is complicated and takes a lot of compassion and understanding and a willingness to make it better.

Second marriages also can present another set of financial considerations with an assortment of bank accounts: his, hers, theirs.

Some things never change: Jealousy among the insecure continues to be the same threat as always. When couples are conflicted, frustrated and need therapy, prescriptions must be tailored for each couple. Basic things they need to work on continue to be communication skills, learning how to listen and putting oneself in the other's shoes.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Ceren is a long time psychologist, Diplomate, American Board of Family Psychology, Fellow, Academy of Family Psychology. A specialist in relationships and premarital counseling she is a former newspaper columnist and the author of two books on premarital counseling, one for professional therapists and one for couples. An avid writer, she is the author of a series of psychological thriller novels featuring a psychologist-sleuth and has also published short stories. Please visit: www.DrSandraLevyCeren.com