Husbands and Wives

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The “me generation” thinking of the 1960’s and 1970’s gave rise to the “Other-Directed marriage--a union in which each partner secretly holds the other responsible for happiness and fulfillment.” Ironically, the authors note, the expression of needs in a marriage has too often become “the prelude to blame and disappointment.” The idea that our mates are responsible for our happiness in a relationship has put traditional marriage under a state of siege, and caused divorce rates to skyrocket.

In order to avoid this fate, we must recognize and let go of marital myths and our unconscious expectations of our partner, according to psychologists Kinder and Cowan. Each of us has to become “Self-Directed,” that is, we must take responsibility for our own fulfillment. In doing so, we release our partners from blame and criticism, leaving them free to respond to us in more positive ways. When we accept our partners as they are and concentrate on changing ourselves, we change our relationships. This method empowers the dissatisfied partner, who often feels victimized.

Kinder and Cowan describe the reasons for and effects of extramarital affairs. They give guidelines to couples for solving modern dilemmas with work, money, and family. They describe healthy ways for a couple to fight, and suggest that a husband and wife endeavor to become true friends. They also devote a chapter to advice on how couples can reawaken their dormant sexual desire. HUSBANDS AND WIVES is a well-written, sensible, and comforting book that will be useful to anyone wishing to put a bit of spark back into a long-term relationship.