In this book, Jane Lewis tackles one of the most fraught and contested issues of our time: the contemporary meanings of marriage. The separation of marriage and sex, she argues, has now been followed by the separation of marriage and parenthood. But that is only part of a great transition in intimate life. Against the cultural pessimists, she clearly shows that while traditional marriage may be in decline, strong relationships of various types are thriving. Against the optimists she demonstrates that while a new norm of partnership equality, both within and outside marriage, is emerging, there is still a long way to go before full equality between men and women is achieved. But her strongest evidence is the most hopeful. Far from individual selfishness corrupting any sense of mutual responsibility, most people seek to balance individuality and commitment, governed by a search for fairness, respect for privacy and above all concern for the welfare of children.
This is an important book that clarifies the policy choices we face: either to seek to restore a past that has irretrievably disappeared, or to go with the grain of change, to understand its complexities, and to welcome the creativity of vast numbers of people in working towards honest and open forms of commitment and mutual responsibility.