Psychology and the good marriage: Social theory as practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The traditional social science separation of the objective and subjective, of fact and value, is increasingly untenable. Social scientists have concerned themselves with crucial matters that cannot be neatly partitioned into neutral facts and personal investments. The deep concerns among scientists, therapists, and the public about the fragility of marriage is one prominent example. There is a remarkable consensus among professionals and the public that the key to marital stability is maintaining marital satisfaction, which is dependent on good communication. Therefore, researchers study communication and therapists teach couples communication skills as a means to enhance marriage. Although these interventions are presented as simple behavioral skills to be learned and practiced, the author argues that these skills cannot be successfully carried out in the absence of crucial character virtues such as self-restraint, courage, and friendship. Unmasking the reduction of the good in marriage to technical considerations shows that virtue is an unacknowledged but central presupposition of these professionals' efforts. The author concludes by suggesting some promising directions for a richer account of marriage that will allow researchers to address the incoherent and self-defeating understandings and practices that constitute contemporary marriage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)516-541
Number of pages26
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


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