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Divorce: An American Tradition.

We may be in the midst of a "divorce explosion," and yearn for the past as an idyllic age, but that historical perspective is incorrect. Early American family life also had its share of marital turmoil.

American divorce has a long and venerable history, Glenda Riley writes in her introduction to a book that may change perceptions of the changing role of marriage. Divorce, in one form or another, has always been with us.

The author is divorced and reveals that her own conceptions of the trauma of separation have changed. She now believes that divorce is a remedy for mismatches that are inevitable in a society where choosing a lifetime partner is made under duress: youth, romantic illusions, lack of self-awareness, a tendency to see only the better side of the individual during courtship, sexual attraction, parental and societal pressures, a need for psychological or financial support, a desire to have children, a fear of being alone, and, among other reasons, advancing age.

Divorce, she contends, releases people from a lifetime of living with unsound judgments regarding their potential mates and the spectre of spouse abuse and exploitation of children. The vagaries of couple-matching often create the disastrous partnership of a heterosexual married to a homesexual. It happens to both men and women, with and without established families.

The author does not disparage the value of marriage. She says that no one should abandon the ideal of marriage as a lifetime commitment, but the results of persisting in "making a marriage work" can incur adultery, desertion, and violence.

In 1639, Puritans in Massachusetts granted the first divorce in America to Mrs. James Luxford, on grounds of bigamy. Mr. Luxford did not enjoy the modern luxury of a premarital agreement. He paid a hefty fine, spent several days chained in stocks and was banned to England.

Author Riley claims we are now the divorce capital of the world. One of every two marriages ends in divorce. Single-parent families and blended families have become common.

Ms. Riley predicts that the family will continue to survive and adapt, but divorce will continue to spread. Thus the need persists for a more productive reform that will alleviate the horrors endured by all victims concerned.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1991
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