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All the Happy Families by Psychotherapy
Published by McGraw-Hill, NY in 1985
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


"Will the family survive - yes - will the particular form of family I value survive - probably no." With this introduction Paul Bohannen takes us on a guided factory tour of the Divorce Industry (a term he coined). In the history of marriage he points out that weddings were only held in churches after 1300 A.D. and only after the Council of Trent (c. 1550) was marriage considered a sacrament and thereby indissoluble. Martin Luther in his classic and classy reframe claimed that Christ's words on divorce was in the capacity of a political leader, not God - that He meant it as a recommendation not a divine law. (Now political leaders would like their recommendations to be treated as divine law.)

Bohannen's summary of his review of interviews of divorced people is this: "We got to know each other" was what those in good marriages and bad marriages had to say about their experiences. He points out that no outside cultural norm tells married couples how they are doing. With the progressive shrinking of the number of members in a household, even the personal norms of the live-in mother-in-law are missing and thus there is a complete loss of feedback from outside agents.

His book takes us on a chapter-by-chapter climb through the following family tree on page 168:

Diagram drawn from page 168 of 'All the Happy Families'

He writes clear prose, is witty and insightful, and never stultifies his point with statistics. Good fast reading for those of us who've bought the factory and excellent guidelines for new hands at the factory - which is where my copy of this book is going next.

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