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The Evolution of Marriage—and Divorce with Stephanie Coontz

Over the last 40 years, marriage has evolved from an institution based on strict gender roles and specialization to a connection based on friendship and shared interests. Our expectations of marriage have shifted as well, the standards for intimacy rising along with the need to negotiate shared responsibilities. So, how can couples best navigate these new rules? And how does this transition impact societal attitudes toward divorce?

Stephanie Coontz is an author and educator in the field of marriage and gender relationships. She teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College and serves as Director of the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF). Stephanie has written seven books and published dozens of articles in scholarly journals and popular media, including The New York Times and the Journal of Marriage and Family, among many other publications. She has been honored with The Families & Work Institute’s Work-Life Legacy Award and CCF’s Visionary Leadership Award.

Today, Stephanie joins Katherine to discuss how marriage has evolved over time, explaining the shift from strict gender roles to a bond based on friendship. She describes how couples who share responsibilities of breadwinning, childcare and housework report higher levels of satisfaction and addresses the ways in which old attitudes undermine modern marriages. Stephanie also speaks to the importance of negotiation, gratitude and respect for each other’s bids for connection. Listen in to understand how the feminist movement disrupted the institution of marriage and learn how our rising standards have changed the factors that make a marriage last.


How marriage has evolved from specialization to sharing

The way old attitudes undermine modern marriages

How sharing responsibilities leads to higher satisfaction

How to consider what’s attracting you to your partner

The role of bids for connection as a predictor of stability

Why modern marriage requires much more negotiation

How the feminist movement served as a disruptor

How our expectations for intimacy have shifted

The destructive nature of holding onto traditional views

The idea of gatekeeping in household/childcare duties

Why the way we fight with our partners is important

Stephanie’s insight around the economy of gratitude

Why attitudes toward divorce do NOT predict behavior


Stephanie’s Website

Council on Contemporary Families


Philip & Carolyn Cowan’s Research

Dr. John Gottman


The Center for Understanding Conflict

Miller Law Group

Katherine on LinkedIn

The New Yorker’s Guide to Collaborative Divorce by Katherine Miller

Email katherine@westchesterfamilylaw.com

Call (914) 738-7765