1. Dating & Relationships
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in our forum

"The Way We Never Were"

American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


The Way We Never Were
In "The Way We Never Were", Stephanie Coontz examines myths and half-truths about marriage and family in America. She contends that looking back at marriage in a nostalgic way can burden today's married couples and families.

Shedding New Light

There are many misconceptions about marriage as an institution that continually cloud the current discussions about traditional marriages from the past.

Coontz has organized this book around myths and half-truths and sheds new light on parenting, love, gender roles, feminism, sexuality, privacy, and more. This book takes a critical look at how Americans long for a time that never was.

Fascinating Facts

She also includes many fascinating facts about marriage such as:
  • In the nineteenth century, the age of sexual consent in some states was nine or ten.

  • Teenage pregnancy peaked in the often favored 1950s. Families of the 1950s were more diverse and less idyllic than many believe.

  • Pioneer marriages did not last as long as modern day marriages.

  • Over the past 50 years ties between grandparents and grandchildren have become stronger.


The Way We Wish We Were: Defining the Family Crisis

"Leave it to Beaver" and "Ozzie and Harriet": American Families in the 1950s

"My Mother Was a Saint": Individualism, Gender Myths, and the Problem of Love

We always Stood on Our Own Two Feet: Self-reliance and the American Family

Strong Families, the Foundation of a Virtuous Society: The Family and Civic Responsibility

A Man's Home Is His Castle: The Family and Outside Intervention

Bra-Burners and Family Bashers: Feminism, Working Women, Consumerism, and the Family

"First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes Mary with a Baby Carriage": Marriage, Sex, and Reproduction

Toxic Parents, Supermoms, and Absent Fathers: Putting Parenting in Perspective

Pregnant Girls, Wilding Boys, Crack Babies, and the Underclass: The Myth of Black Family Collapse

The Crisis Reconsidered

Epilogue: Inventing a New Tradition

Common Reactions to the Romanticization of Family and Marriage Life

Stephanie Coontz discusses guilt, anger, and a sense of betrayal as the common reactions that people have when they realize that the reality of their lives doesn't match the myths they have been led to believe. The cherished illusions of the so-called "normal", traditional marriage are just that - illusions. But they shouldn't be cherished.

Stopping the Cycle of Guilt and Blame and the Bottom Line

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.