Even though women have more options these days, most still wish to marry a Prince Charming-type who will sweep them off their feet, says Susan Shapiro Barash, author of The Nine Phases of Marriage, her 13th book about women’s issues.
During a recent interview, Barash said her research found that 85 percent of women want to be wives. She believes it’s because marriage is the highest form of love and commitment.
Yet with today’s close to 50 percent divorce rate, and women’s proclaimed determination to fend for themselves, “I thought I wouldn’t find as many eager for the experience,” she said.
Barash also found that 80 percent of wives begin their first phase of marriage believing it’s based on romantic love. But as time goes on, and the wives move on to phases two and beyond, 65 percent claimed they wouldn’t marry their husbands if they could do it over again.
Barash’s work follows a woman’s experience as wife over the course of her marriage. She interviewed 200 women of diverse backgrounds; ages ranged from 20s to mid-80s; locations ranged from rural areas to big cities in the United States; and diverse ethnic backgrounds and social strata were represented.
Romantic love is endorsed by our culture, said Barash. People also have a natural longing to be part of a couple or part of something besides just themselves; however, because we live in a patriarchal culture, women of all ages are more invested than men in the romantic fairy tale, she added.
The man figures “he’s going to get a good deal no matter what. He doesn’t need to drink the Kool-Aid.”
Women begin to glamorize their partners while dating and don’t really scrutinize the men they’re dating, said Barash, adding that they disregard troubling practical concerns because of the romantic notion that love heals all ills.
However, women who figure out this trait about themselves, said Barash, can train themselves to start paying more attention to important issues, like how a man handles his finances, his lifestyle preferences, and if he seems inappropriately close to his mother.
Barash also recommends premarital counseling to help couples face thornier issues, but added that this isn’t a slam-dunk solution: “Life is filled with curveballs and unexpected results,” she said, citing the current economic downturn that has caused a number of partners to lose their jobs.
Of course, all marriages have ups and downs, said Barash, but if a wife and husband keep growing together, the tough phases won’t be as tough.
One way to keep growing together is to communicate constantly, she said — although examples used in her book show women finding it tough to speak up.
Barash said, however, that when it comes to asserting their own wants and needs, the Millennial Generation of women born between 1980 and 2000 are doing a much better job than their mothers. At the same time, though, Barash found during research that instead of giving up on the idea of a fairy tale marriage, Millennials figure they’ve learned from their mothers’ mistakes and that on their watch, they’ll get the fairy tale right.