Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules

Pamela Haag, Author
Pamela Haag. Harper, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-171928-8
Reviewed on: 05/23/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-06-207955-8
Paperback - 327 pages - 978-0-06-171929-5
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After second-wave feminism won many important battles, the movement resigned itself essentially to nonexistence. Now Haag (Consent: Sexual Rights and the Transformation of American Liberalism) reveals what she feels is the stark truth of the modern marriage: the ground gained by feminism is a loss for women—and marriage. In the so-called "Post-Romantic" age we are in, married men and women occupy a relationship category more similar to friend or partner than lover. The needs of children dominate (to the point that Haag suggests that they are the true "spouses"). Both partners may work; alternately, liberated men (who Haag comically calls "Tom Sawyers") may stay home or take supplementary wage-earner roles, enabled to discover their true callings (a la Revolutionary Road's Frank Wheeler), and watch their wives bring home the bacon (and fry it up in a pan). Affairs are often tolerated; indeed, they're presented as part-problem/part-solution. Haag gets to the bottom of the existential dilemma, focusing on what she calls the low-conflict/semi-happy marriage, likely to end in divorce (60% by her estimates). Throughout her initial analysis she is spot-on, but when discussing the desirability and viability of open marriages, her sharp, erudite style drifts. But her gained range from heartbreakingly tragic to fascinatingly awkward; Haag has her capable finger on the pulse of the American marriage. (June)
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