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Chapter One The Modernization of Friendship and Marriage
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Domesticity: The Sentimental and Private Family

It was the sentiments of domesticity that echoed among the households of the middle classes. As family life became a hallowed repository of private experience and a refuge from the cold, harsh public experience, domestic sentiment celebrated the family's new special comforts.[58]

Edward Shorter, one of the first to sift the chronology and causes of changes in marital sentiment, distinguishes between the sentimental complexes of romance and domesticity. Romance is the sentiment of courtship; domesticity, of marriage. Shorter describes domesticity as "the family's awareness of itself as a precious emotional unit that must be protected with privacy and isolation from outside intrusion." He proposes that the emotional intensification of family life that developed first among the middle classes took form around the mother-infant relationship. This matricentric domesticity then extended its boundaries to include husbands, as households withdrew into privacy and intimacy.[59]

Shorter's logic falters when he explains how husbands entered the sentimental culture of domesticity. Rather than develop his logic of matricentric domesticity, Shorter ignores his own profound doubts about the durability of romance and insists that empathy and equality develop in the intimacy of marriage contracted on romantic love. Empathy, "effective sex," and emotional exchange will equalize sex roles even as the sexual division of labor widens. Voilô, romantic companionate marriage.[60]

Shorter's descriptions of the family in France articulate with nineteenth-century changes in American life that were idealized in the matricentric "cult of domesticity." American domesticity does seem to have intensified family intimacy as the family became a venerated realm of privacy. But even though domestic doctrine asserted the moral equality of wives and husbands, it also cemented gender inequalities in social power and segregated male and female work and sensibility. When Shorter looks to romance


for the constituents of domestic companionship, he overlooks the barriers to empathy and mutuality these inequalities represented. Writers like Shorter fail to distinguish among qualities of attachment, engagement, and companionability. Yet a larger problem plagues discussions like Shorter's—they attempt to conceptualize a significant change in marital sentiment with notions of symmetry, empathy, and mutuality. What if these new emotional exchanges involved men and women giving and taking different sentiments and values? Why assume marital sentiments were symmetrical or mutual?

I think it would be useful to analyze nineteenth-century sources to determine if men did more often celebrate nurturance and take consolation in refuge from the cruel world; if women did express emotionalized dependence and attachment and celebrate sympathy, tenderness, and protection. If so, we could describe the new marital sentiment as new sets of sentiment, or gender-differentiated individualism, in which autonomous men came home for community and tending and women found emotional self-expression and recognition in interdependent relationship. Men sought a new psychological investment in the one relationship that promised to comfort and compensate them. Women, now entrusted to conserve noncommercial values, found security in greater recognition of their worth and tender gratitude for their new self-conscious role.

Historians of sentiment will probably continue to infer a nineteenth-century elaboration of companionship in marriage. They are likely to agree, nonetheless, that standard interpretations mistake the rise of a newly sentimentalized—but still psychologically and sentimentally differentiated—marital relationship for one built on empathy, mutuality, and equality or symmetry of exchange. The bases for these mutual exchanges were generally missing from marriages, even though social developments favored their inclusion in an avant-garde marital ideal.

Twentieth-century social changes such as women's increasing education and participation in the public sphere shifted tensions between ideals and realities of marriage. These tensions had been muted when preindustrial and then separate-spheres norms of gender difference, deference, and subordination remained dominant. Sentimentalized friendship, which I discuss next, also muted


this tension. Twentieth-century realities, however, eroded both patriarchal values and nineteenth-century gender ideals and created new bases for marital companionship. As the divorce rate began its climb in the late nineteenth century, it showed new paths to love and self-development as well as marriage's structural insecurity. As divorce increased, marital companionship accelerated; women correspondingly enlarged the conjugal ideal of emotional interdependence—increasing the role of communication, empathy, mutuality, and sexuality—as the source of marital solidarity.[61] Like nineteenth-century novelists, sociologists responded to this same impulse, heralding a new "exaltation of sympathies" and greater "mental interstimulation and response" in varying prescriptions for companionship. Some emphasized romance; some, clear-headed partnership. Some stressed complementarity; others urged a healthy struggle for communication.[62]

The companionate conjugal ideal always evolved several steps ahead of marital realities. Six decades of empirical research on marriage document women's greater dissatisfaction with many companionate elements of marriage, as well as a consensus among husbands and wives on women's greater self-sacrificing marital "adjustment."[63] During the mid-1920s, when the Lynds found Middletown exceedingly couple-oriented, they also found "little spontaneous community of interests" within couples of all classes. Answering Robert and Helen Lynd's question about what one would do with an extra hour in one's day, no woman of any class wished to spend it with her husband (although some did mention children or friends).[64] By the end of the 1950s, sociologist William Kephart, among others, hopefully postulated a unifying dynamic of "complementarity," since men's and women's interests still appeared too divergent to hope for companionship in marriage. And Lillian Rubin marked the progress of communication and struggle—the prescribed marital agenda of the 1960s and 1970s— as she characterized couples of the 1980s she interviewed as "intimate strangers."[65] It appears that twentieth-century marriages still encounter the limits of companionship.

To summarize, companionate marriage evolved first as an ideal and then slowly, unevenly, and incompletely as a reality. The literature on the development of companionate marriage has tended to imply a mutualism and symmetry in marital sentiment that in-


accurately represents the history of marriage. My speculations on the history of family sentiment may now illuminate what has happened to friendship and community.

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