How to Make the Most of This Column
This column is as unique and modern as the marriages
we hope to help. Rather than outline a specific success
formula for every marriage to follow, we recognize
the premise that each marriage is unique—there
is no longer an average American family. While all
marriages are different, many do face similar problems
and difficulties. In the following weeks you will
find a collection of real life scenarios found in
the modern marriage—which we are calling “The
Issue.” These scenarios have been reviewed by
thousands of couples worldwide. Those who have faced
something similar in their marriages have offered
their insights as to how they got through the situation
and found their own equilibrium. These insights are
presented with their first names only. In most cases
the names given are their real names, however, some
have asked that their personal identity be protected.
Additionally, therapists and other experts have given
their professional advice on each presenting problem
based on their professional experience and what they
have seen work with others in similar situations.
To make their contributions easier to identify, the
“experts” will be identified by the use
of their last name along with their counsel.
As a person with the burden for the modern marriage,
a writer and a noted Personality expert, I am bringing
the problems, the peer insight and the professional
advice together, and adding the input on the Personality
complications. While his fingers seldom touched the
keyboard, my husband, Chuck Noon, a licensed marriage
and family therapist in two states has added his opinion—mostly
through our dinner conversation.
Where direct quotes are used from either the peers
or the “professional” contributors, their
comments are placed in italics to make it easier for
you to identify their insights.
The combined advice is under the heading of “The
In the weeks to come, this column will present a
prescription for some of the problems that those of
us who do not fit the Ozzie-and-Harriett model face.
Rather than trying to fit your marriage into a mold,
you will learn to find the specific equilibrium that
is right for the characteristics that are on your
The Modern Marriage: One Size
Does Not Fit All
By Marita Littauer with Chuck
Noon, MA, LPCC
-- My marriage has some specific characteristics that make
it different from many of my friends. Yet, it also has traits
that I find are like so many other marriages today. My marriage,
and probably yours, in no way resembles what was modeled in my
youth as the ideal marriage. When I was growing up, television
showed us that all marriages fit a certain mold: first marriage
for both spouses. Husband goes off to work everyday and is the
sole breadwinner. His job is secure and he works for the same
company all his life. He is the leader, the disciplinarian (remember,
“Wait ‘til your father gets home”) and the decision-maker
in the family. Wife stays home and takes care of the children
and her husband. She is sweet, gracious, and agreeable to whatever
her husband suggests. I call this family the “Ozzie-and-Harriett
model” named for the perfect television family of the sixties.
My friend Kim says, “I remember watching my parents’
‘Ozzie-and-Harriet’ marriage, and while I respected
them, I did not want to follow in my mother’s footsteps!
There are still some of these families around—just not in
Those of us who do not fit the Ozzie-and-Harriett model have
what I call a “modern marriage.” It might include
a marriage where both spouses work and are income producing. They
may work outside the home or have a home-based business, but they
both produce income—perhaps the woman makes more than her
husband does or he works for her. It might include a marriage
where it is a second or third marriage for one or both spouses.
There may be ex-spouse problems or stepchildren that factor into
the marriage. It might include a marriage where the couple has
chosen to be childless. Due to career changes or a need to care
for an aging parent, spouses may have to live a commuter marriage
for a period of time. Since the traditional family album includes
a docile and submissive wife and a strong, spiritual leader for
the husband, the modern marriage could be something as subtle
as the wife having the stronger personality. Because each marriage
is unique, these are just a sampling of the situations that may
be found within the modern marriage.
Being an author, I am exposed to many, many books. Books are
my world. As I review Christian books on marriage, I find that
the vast majority of them assume that marriages are still the
Ozzie-and-Harriett model. As I look at my marriage and those of
my friends, I find that this model is rare in most of today’s
world. Recent research shows that the percentage of American households
made up of married couples with children dropped from 45 percent
in the early 1970’s to just 26 percent in 1998. For many
of us, the principles and ideals outlined in the many excellent
books available on marriage do not apply to our situations. One
I read had a list of things a woman could do to show her husband
that she loves him and visa versa. Item number 95 says to send
him cards at his place of work and item number 96 suggests that
she stuff his suitcase with love notes when he travels. Yet, his
list doesn’t suggest the same. What if she is the one who
travels, as in my case?
If, like me, you have read some of these books and felt frustrated
because they seem so out of touch with the reality of your household,
this column is for you. Since there are many wonderful books out
there that address the basics of a traditional marriage, I have
chosen to address those of us who feel left out—the more
than 50% of us who do not have the Ozzie-and-Harriett model. Here
we will look at a wide cross section of unique marriage situations—those
problems that many of our parents didn’t have to face—and
help you find the equilibrium that is right for your particular
set of circumstances.
I have what I call a modern marriage, but because of what had
been modeled for me as a child, when I entered into it I had traditional
expectations. The two did not meet. I had to make adjustments
in my expectations in what I thought my marriage would be. But,
there was no guide for me as to how to make my modern marriage
work. Many of us base our views of what a marriage should be on
an unrealistic image. When counseling couples, my husband Chuck
asks them to paint a word picture of their childhood model of
marriage. He asks them to use an analogy of a television show,
a fairy tale or storybook that reflects their view of marriage.
The response is often something like Father Knows Best,
Ozzie-and-Harriet, Leave it to Beaver or Cinderella.
Next he asks them, “Is that what you expect from your current
marriage? Is that what you want from your marriage today?”
After a pause in which the lights go on, the couple usually realizes
that they have unconsciously had a “happily-ever-after”
expectation of their real life marriage, resulting in fighting
and disagreements. Once the couple is able to acknowledge that
their expectations are unrealistic—and often not even really
what they want today, they can accept where they are and build
As you read the scenarios in the following weeks, you will see
that you are not alone. You will see that other couples have problems
too. But, most importantly, you will see that when you care enough
to apply the principle of Love Extravagantly—loving as Christ
did; not to get but to give, most of the problems you face can
If this is the first installment of this column you have
read, we encourage you to click here
to read previous articles.
Littauer is the author of 13 books and is President of CLASServices
Inc. She can be reached through www.classervices.com.
Chuck Noon is a licensed professional counselor specializing
in marriage. Chuck is married to Marita Littauer. For more
information visit: www.chucknoon.com
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