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You 2.0: When Did Marriage Become So Hard?

Social psychologist Eli Finkel says the way to improve marriage may be to expect less of it.
Social psychologist Eli Finkel says the way to improve marriage may be to expect less of it.

Marriage is hard. In fact, there's evidence it's getting even harder. Eli Finkel, a social psychologist at Northwestern University, argues that's because our expectations of marriage have increased dramatically in recent decades. "[A] marriage that would have been acceptable to us in the 1950s is a disappointment to us today because of those high expectations," he says.

The flip side of that disappointment, of course, is a marriage that's pretty amazing. Those of us who can meet the high expectations of modern marriage, Finkel says, may find "a level of marital fulfillment that was out of reach until pretty recently."

This week we talk with Finkel and with historian Stephanie Coontz about the evolution of marriage and where we are today. We'll also ask Finkel, author of The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work ,for some tangible ways we can improve our love lives — including by asking lessof our partners.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, Thomas Lu, Laura Kwerel, and Adhiti Bandlamudi. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.